Feeling oppressed by the latest in a series of colds - after 6 years without one, I've had 4 in the past year as well as a proper dose of flu - I found myself recalling the colds of childhood. Nowadays, children have their own dedicated medicine - Calpol in varying strengths, for instance - but in the late '40s and '50s there didn't seem to be any such thing. This morning I was suddenly taken back to the taste of Disprin crushed in a teaspoonful of raspberry jam, and the bottle of pink liquid - may have been called Mystol - that was dripped into my nose from a glass dropper to relieve congestion. And I remembered the miserable long nights when I would waken with a raging thirst and try to eke out the tumbler of water that had been left beside my bed - why, in God's name, did I not get up and replenish it? Was I too small to reach the sink?
At that time my parents' bedroom seemed miles from where I slept in the maid's room off the kitchen. The distance must've worried them too, for when I was seriously ill (as when I had whooping cough, for instance) my long-suffering father would sleep in the kitchen on the camp bed he'd brought back from the Western Desert; later I can remember changing beds with one or other of my parents - who never enjoyed sleeping in a double bed - so that someone could keep an eye on me. This was a great treat, as my own bed had a horsehair mattress of fairly unyielding discomfort, and I found their beds miraculously comfortable. Less yielding was the stone hot water bottle that my father liked - you could break a toe on it, or send it crashing through the floor to the flat below if you tried to kick it out of the bed. (I think that was probably an exaggeration, but it convinced me)
Another thing about Being Ill in those days was the fact that I seemed to spend interminable hours - days, even - in bed. You didn't get up until you were better in these days; I suppose the house was cold and there was no telly to seduce you, but it was a feature of recovery that when I did emerge into the family again my legs would be as wobbly as those of a new-born colt. I read hundreds of books - I clearly remember reading Edward Whymper's Scrambles amongst the Alps when I was eight, having run out of anything more suited to my own age group. Perhaps my progress in English was directly linked to all these shivery days in bed.
All this reminiscing is making me feel worse, but I have one last memory of a symptom which to this day tells me I'm under the weather: when I was ill, the toothpaste never tasted right. Does that ring any bells out there?