Had a touch of a cold last week, nothing too serious but a ‘Man Cold’ nonetheless. And so, I took to the bed or rather I took to NOT leaving the bed! I was in no condition to go down stairs, slump in the armchair, drink mugs of hot tea and watch Dr. Phil and re-runs of Cheers on the telly. One needs to be careful at my age (I have the free Travel Pass after all) and avoid taking any unnecessary risks. Though I may make some unnecessary journeys thanks to the free travel.
And so, as I lay there I got to thinking about those childhood days when sickness struck and I was confined to bed. And you know what? It was a treat. A real treat. Sounds a bit strange to say the least but being sick as a kid had its benefits. First off, you were off school. For a day, two, three, didn’t matter, you were off. Deadly! And for me, who had a tyrant of a Christian Brother for two long years in Primary School (but I’m not going there) two hours, let alone two days, off was a treat.
And then came the pampering. From my mother. For those few days spent in my sick bed I was spoiled. Being the youngest of five I was always told I was spoiled but that’s a contentious issue and something my siblings and I debate to this day at our regular family get-togethers (an issue, by the way, that I vehemently deny) Be that as it may when sickness struck I was definitely spoiled, spoiled as an only child can be because I was now the only child in the house, the others sweating it out in school while I sweated it out in bed thanks to regular doses of Disprin and hot drinks – hot milk with butter or honey, if we had it, and the dreaded egg-flip (a whipped raw egg in hot milk, the thought of which makes me cringe to this day) And then the comfort food: bowls of oxtail soup, beans on toast, an egg in a cup (a boiled egg, mashed up, and mixed with butter with a sprinkling of salt and pepper – very tasty) Then some tapioca (frog spawn we called it) or semolina or rice pudding with a big dollop of strawberry jam. All followed by cups of hot tea accompanied by a Kimberley or Mikado biscuit. And maybe a mug of cocoa at bedtime. Bliss. Sheer bliss.
No bacon and the vile, green cabbage. No leathery, chewy slices of beef. Lord no. It was comfort food and comfort food only: fingers of toast, fish fingers, scrambled eggs, as my mother believed in the old saying: ‘starve a fever, feed a cold.’ The fever in this case being the ubiquitous flu. There’s no way our mother would leave us in bed, and out of school, with a simple head cold. And there’s no way you could, or would, dare feign the flu with our mother. No sir. The thermometer was immediately whipped out, slipped under your arm (our family was quite shocked to discover that people actually put thermometers under their tongues, not very hygienic my mother thought, even if the doctor did it) and if you didn’t have a temperature you were out the door and off to school.
Come tea-time my father wold arrive home with a big bottle of red lemonade, some Taytos and a comic – the Beano or Dandy perhaps or my favourite The Topper. As I recovered and deemed well enough to leave the bed I was allowed down stairs for my tea - another little, treasured ritual: the fire would be lighting and I got to sit in my father’s armchair (the best seat in the house) There being no television in our home, in Ireland even, we listened to The Foley Family on Radio Eireann or, if my big sisters had their way, Radio Luxemburg. And all the while I was as snug as a bug in a rug – comfy and warm under a blanket (to avoid drafts and the possibility of a ‘relapse’) For those few short days I was ‘The Little Prince’, I was the ‘King of the Castle’. And you know something - it was all worth getting sick for.