I always thought ‘Man Flu’ was a myth perpetuated by weakling males who couldn’t cope with a simple head cold. But last week I was well and truly battered by the full force of its head on collision.
The sore throat started earlier on in the day but by eight O’clock that evening it felt like someone was passing a white hot poker through my ear and into my throat every time I swallowed. It was the sort of pain that made your eyes water and left your body drained of energy. But unfortunately every time I went to sleep I was woken by its searing presence, which again left me drained and drifting into sleep until the white hot heat of awareness hit me once again--- and so this very vicious circle continued on into the night.
As I lay prostrate and in ‘man pain’, I started to think about all the remedies for coughs, colds and more importantly ‘Man Flu’, or, as I was convinced by this point, for ‘Asian Man Flu’ or even ‘Bird Man Flu’.
But my favourite remedy by far is one of my own inventions and it required a bottle of Jameson’s Whiskey. (As most of my best remedies do) So I set off up town and got myself a large bottle of Whiskey (they only had large—not that I looked too hard for anything smaller). Once I got back home I poured myself a reasonable portion of the potion and took a large sip, letting it trickle its way down the back of my throat which, I hoped, would have the desired effect of burning the infection away whilst cleansing the infected area with alcohol. It never normally fails and within two or three mouthfuls the infection is either gone or drunk in charge of an epiglottis.
Like I say, normally that is what happens. This time, just as the burning liquid was approaching its target area, a splinter group broke away from the main trickle and went down the wrong way, forcing me to choke and setting off a coughing fit that left me spent and doubled up in the corner of the kitchen and a throat red raw by all the unnecessary hacking; the tumbler of whiskey went rolling off under the table.
As I lay there, full consciousness only a few breaths away, my head started to ache. This was followed by a chesty cough and topped off by a runny nose.
Normally you have three to four of the main symptoms of throat, shivers and aching, runny nose and cough for a day or two each, leaving the illness to run its course over a week. But for some reason they’d all booked the same flights and had arrived together with their luggage of misery. So as I started to bob my head in sympathy with the pounding throb from my head, my nose started to run like an athlete on steroids in that itchy, tickly way that it does.
Now there are many obvious and intrinsic differences between a man and a woman. But the most obvious one to me is in the tissue department. Women have about their homes--- in many boxes--- soft and gentle balsam soaked tissues, tissues that are gentle and caring to a distressed nostril. Men, on the other hand, have course, harsh and sandpapery kitchen rolls--- ones that usually carry the ‘Morrison’s budget’ brand on them and are made from six parts glass and four parts iron filings.
But this is never normally a problem--- until, that is, your nose decides to have a brat attack all over your face and you need to keep constantly wiping it. And after around twenty or so vigorous mopping ups, the man’s nose begins to take on the look and quality of an unplanned length of rough wood.
So I got up wearily from my position of defeat, grabbed a dishcloth, filled it with ice cubes and attached it to the top of my head to aid the thumping and to cool down my temperature. Then I rammed two large wads of tissue up each nostril, grabbed another tumbler and walked into the front room with the bottle of whiskey and my sorrows for company. I plonked myself down on the sofa, clicked on the TV, poured a rather large glass of neat whiskey and attempted the last of my remedies---to get blind drunk.
I had filled the glass (maybe a little too much in hindsight) and was putting the TV remote control down onto the floor and was about to take a large swig of whiskey, when, in a moment of breathtaking clarity that brought home to me instantly the reason why men should leave the multi tasking to women, my elbow slipped off the arm rest and the neat whiskey sloshed out of the glass and onto the raw, broken skin of my nose and deep into my eyeballs.
There was that brief pause that our bodies like to give us at times like this. Those few seconds when it lulls us into a false sense of security--- making us believe that all is well and that the stupid thing we just did will have absolutely no ramifications what-so-ever. Then it leers at you with a twinkle in its malevolent eye, and all hell breaks loose.
The pain came, and it came in on the backs of all four riders of the apocalypse. I left the sofa in one clean movement, trilling like a soprano as my head rocketed out of existence via the front room ceiling. As I ran and hopped my way maniacally around the living room trying to extinguish my nose, I swear I heard fire engine sirens follow me and I could almost see the steam coming from my ears.
I’ve no idea how long this went on for, but eventually the pain subsided. The watering eyes dried up and my heart rate slowed down from cardiac threat to relative docility.
It was now about 3:30 in the morning. The house was trashed, the kitchen roll was depleted and I was well into my private stock of ‘Morrison’s Budget toilet rolls’ (which are made from SIX parts iron filing and only four parts glass). I was lying flat, bemoaning my imminent demise and wondering why I felt so drunk.
You see, the weird thing was, I seemed to be getting more and more hammered even though I’d not taken a single sip since setting my face on fire during my last attempt at curing the cold.
And here’s a lesser known biological fact: when alcohol enters your body via the eyeballs it gets right into your blood stream and precipitates drunkenness. And seeing as my eye had had a tumbler full of Irelands’ finest whiskey, I was getting well and truly hammered without having to go through all the rigmarole of lifting the glass to my lips.
Slowly but surely my blood alcohol level climbed mercury-like up the drunk and disorderly thermometer and a supercilious smile crept over my face. And as I lay there, slowly disappearing under a mound of tissues, I turned my attention to the TV.
Early morning TV is a weird enough experience when you’re sober. But when you’ve consumed a few tumblers full of whiskey through your eyeballs, it takes on a whole new vista. For a while I’d watched the world news go round and around on a loop--- I knew the weather off by heart, and the adverts had taken on a banality all of their own. So I ferreted through the pile of discarded toilet tissue and came up with the TV remote and began to channel hop.
My throat had settled down a bit and was now just as knackered as I was. So I took full advantage of this lull in the hostilities and started watching one of the weirdest programmes I’ve ever encountered. But weird as the programme was, it was what happed during the show that weirded me out even more: I’m still not sure whether I saw it or if my drunken eyeballs hallucinated it.
The programme involved a girl who was a statue in an art gallery who came to life (the girl, not the museum). She walked around talking to other pictures and exhibits before finally jumping into a spiralling painting and telling me all the thoughts that had gone through the artists mind as he or she painted the pile of doggy do she was in, when suddenly, from the corner of my eye came a movement. I turned my head from the girl, who was explaining why Jackson Pollocks is often seen as absolute bollocks, when there, into full view, came a spider; one of the larger black house varieties. Now normally I’d run screaming like a girlie at the sight of one, but seeing as I was drunk and ensconced in a mountain of tissue, I just looked at it with curiosity. Curiosity, because the thing seemed to be having trouble walking.
At first I thought he was crippled in some way, but as I looked closer, I saw it was staggering. I frowned at my discovery and looked even closer still. When I did I saw that he was glistening--- almost like he was wet. Then I followed the damp trail that preceded the odd spider; it went under the kitchen table, right up to my up turned, disguarded tumbler of whiskey. I looked slowly back to the spider with startled realisation dawning upon me. He must’ve come out of the skirting board, seen the whisky, had a crack at it and was now off his head and probably singing bawdy little spider songs; god only knows what his webs looked like.
I began to push the pile of tissues out of the way to take a closer look. The spider stopped, turned, looked at me through his forty thousand eyes and saw one hundred and twenty thousand Man Flu suffers and beckoned me with his front four legs in the time honoured drunken way, and I could almost hear him saying (in spider) ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. So I squashed him with my slipper.
I saw it as a mercy; the last thing I wanted to inflict on a poor spider was a hangover and with that I sat back into my chair and fell into blessed sleep only to be awoken by the raging sore throat, which now appeared to be even grumpier because it had a hangover.
I got up, washed and went to work. Roughly half way there I discovered why everyone was staring at me. Having checked my flies and finding them to be secure, I discovered that I still hadn’t taken the whiskey sodden tissue from out of my nostrils.
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