This week’s entry was intended to be a countdown of my favourite albums from the 1990s, following on from the ‘80s list I revealed a couple of weeks ago, but I have been ill since Sunday evening and, as I write this on Thursday, I am still unable to concentrate on anything more taxing than getting out of bed in the morning.
It isn’t very often that I get ill, and it is even more unusual that I am so ill I cannot go into work, so my absence from the office on Monday was something of a rarity. In fact, it is approaching three years since I last took a day off through illness, as the last one was my birthday in February 2013. I know this, partly because you don’t tend to forget being ill on your birthday, but mostly because I managed to reverse my less-than-a-week-old Ford Kuga into a bollard, whilst trying to take some work I had managed to do at home into the office.
Anyway, the points is, I don’t take time off work lightly, however much I would often like to. I grade my illnesses in a similar way to how meteorologists rate hurricanes, and unless it’s a Category 7 sickness, I’m still going to work:
1 – Feeling a bit blue
2 – Bit of a sniff
3 – Bit of a sniff and a headache
4 – Queasy and lethargic
5 – Full cold
6 – Full cold and loss of appetite
7 – Aching, shivering/sweating, stomach ache, and not able to face having a brew
8 – Sickness and/or diarrhoea
9 – Unstoppable sickness and diarrhoea, black outs etc.
10 – Darling, tell the kids I love them…
As it happens, this was a classic Category 7 at the start of the week, so I reluctantly made that call on Monday morning (the one where, even though you genuinely feel like shit, you still try to make your voice sound worse, just so your boss knows how poorly you are). For the remainder of the day, I managed very little to eat or drink, and achieved nothing beyond watching Storage Hunters and a few Top Gear repeats under the protection of my favourite Star Wars blankie.
I was back in work on Tuesday, but perhaps returned a day too soon, as I felt terrible again by lunch time (when I ate nothing), and even worse by the time I left work. To compound my misery, my neck had also seized up during the afternoon, and this made driving home rather uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous, since I could not look right. In the end, I had no choice other than to negotiate roundabouts and junctions using only ‘the force’. It was ok though, as I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home.
Wednesday (yesterday as I write this) was a little better, but I had to leave the office a few times to get some fresh air as I felt run down, queasy, and light-headed. I did, however, manage to eat a proper evening meal when I got home, and wasn’t immediately faced with stomach cramps as I had been the day before. I was on the road to recovery, and I downgraded the illness to a Category 4.
Then, just as all seemed to be going well, Thursday morning happened.
It started well enough I suppose, in that I managed to make it out of bed without immediately adopting the foetal position, walk the dog without incident (albeit a little slower than normal), and help my wife get Isaac changed and ready for nursery.
Our usual morning routine is that my wife takes Isaac to nursery on her way to work, and then I do the school run with Ollie before heading to the office. So far, things were going according to plan.
So, at 7.40am, my wife closed the door behind her, leaving Ollie and I almost exactly one hour before we needed to leave the house ourselves – plenty of time.
What follows, is genuinely an account of the next hour of my life….
07:40 (60 minutes remaining)
I really didn’t want breakfast, as the thought of food was still making my stomach churn, but I knew I should try to eat something, so I forced down a small bowl of cereal while Ollie went back to his room to use the toilet.
07:45 (55 minutes remaining)
Despite his scrawny ‘Dobby The House Elf’ stature, Ollie can shovel a colossal amount of breakfast cereal into his vacuous gob at lightning speed, and will immediately start demanding a second helping before the last mouthful is swallowed. I therefore piled his bowl to the very top, in the hope that this would buy me enough time to have a shower before he would go searching for a refill.
07:50 (50 minutes remaining)
Having slowly encouraged my still weak and aching legs to transport me as far as the shower, (pausing briefly to consider the logistics of installing a stair lift in the house), I tried to get the water as hot as I could stand it, to ease the pain in my head and neck. This worked very well for a few minutes until, without warning, the shower head collapsed from the bracket and struck me on the back of my head.
08:00 (40 minutes remaining)
Having finished my shower, I had just started shaving when I heard Ollie crying from the lounge. Hurrying to him in just a towel, it transpired that he had begun watching a Harry Potter film on the portable DVD player, and in trying to skip back a scene he had accidentally gone to the main menu. He reacted to this like someone had punched him squarely in the face which, ironically, was very nearly what happened next.
08:05 (35 minutes remaining)
Time to get dressed. For the sake of everyone reading this I won’t go into detail, but I was in the process of putting on boxers, when I realised there was a gap in our bedroom curtains. Now, although we are three floors up, so any passers-by in the street wouldn’t be able to see me, I was suddenly very conscious of the neighbours opposite catching a glimpse of my naked glory.
Of course, I should have just hurried up, but in my illness-fuddled mind, I decided the best solution would be to turn around (since it is infinitely less embarrassing for your neighbours to see you naked from the back than the front – even though I prefer to avoid both eventualities if at all possible).
What I hadn’t counted on, was how difficult it is to turn around in a narrow space when your underwear is at shin level. Inevitably (I now realise this all too late), I immediately began to stumble, and what followed was a kind of solo sack-race across the bedroom as I tried to catch my balance.
I came to an abrupt halt when I arrived at, struck, and fell into Isaac’s travel cot on the other side of the room, ending up with my face in his pillow and my bare arse in the air.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I tried a little of both.
08:10 (30 minutes remaining)
Having removed myself from the travel cot, I rectified the boxers-malfunction and added socks and trousers to the items of clothing I was now successfully wearing. Look at me, getting myself dressed like a big boy. All I needed to do now was put my shirt and tie on, and I would be good to go.
Except I couldn’t find where my wife had left my shirt.
You see, my wife does all the ironing, but this is nothing to do with laziness or misogyny on my part, and is purely down to the simple fact that I am terrible at it. My mum tried to teach me to iron before I went to University, and my wife has been trying ever since, but both will tell you I have some kind of mental block that will see me ironing for hours without making the slightest bit of progress. They have since given up trying.
So, I dashed to the lounge to see whether she had left my shirt there the night before. But it wasn’t there either, and I realised that she had forgotten to do one for me. Shit.
I could in no way blame her for this, as it’s my fault I can’t iron, and she gets so little sleep anyway that it really wasn’t her fault, but this didn’t stop blind panic setting in. I even contemplated going into work in ‘civilian’ clothing and trying to blag an excuse.
No, there was nothing else for it. I would have to iron.
08:15 (25 minutes remaining)
Why do they make irons so damn complicated? It took me ages to get the stupid contraption to even turn on, and then I sat there for ages without it getting even remotely warm, let alone hot. It would have been quicker to drive to a shop and buy a brand new shirt.
08:20 (20 minutes remaining)
Still ironing, I went through a mental checklist of things I needed to do before Ollie could go to school. I had already written the reading he had done the night before in his school planner, his uniform was ready once he had finished eating (we have learned not to get him dressed until he is at least 5 metres from the nearest food or drink), and I reminded myself to go and get him a (healthy) snack from the kitchen for playtime.
08:25 (15 minutes remaining)
No shirt should have taken this long, but I decided it would have to do. I would simply have to sit against the radiator in my office for a bit when I got in, to try and smooth it out at the back. Either that, or keep my suit jacket on all day.
I started shouting at Ollie to get dressed.
08:30 (10 minutes remaining)
Five minutes later, Ollie had achieved a state of undress rather similar to my travel cot experience, in that he had only succeeded in dropping his pyjama onesie to his ankles. Noticing the time and starting to get anxious, I demanded he turn the DVD off, and focus instead on getting dressed.
08:35 (5 minutes remaining)
I returned from the kitchen, having sorted the breakfast dishes and Ollie’s break time snack, to find that he now had underwear, socks and trousers on. I put on his polo shirt and jumper, tucked everything in as best I could, and sent him downstairs to start getting his coat and shoes on.
08:36 (4 minutes remaining)
In my rush to follow Ollie downstairs, I stood on a plug. More crying.
08:37 (3 minutes remaining)
I realised I needed to feed the dog, which meant opening a new bag of dog food, but I couldn’t find any scissors. I frantically searched for some, acutely aware that Ollie had made no progress with either the coat or his shoes.
08:38 (2 minutes remaining)
Bag opened, and dog bowl filled, I remembered that we feed the dog in the evening, not the morning, the same as we have done for the last ELEVEN SODDING YEARS.
I forced shoes onto Ollie’s feet, then onto the correct feet, before pushing him towards the downstairs bathroom to brush his teeth.
08:39 (1 minute remaining)
Following the quickest teeth brushing in history (don’t tell our dentist), Ollie decided he would inexplicably stand there open mouthed, resulting in frothy toothpaste falling out of his gob onto the front of his last remaining school jumper.
We fell out of the house, both looking (and in my case feeling) like we had been involved in a bar fight.
I upgraded back to Category 6.