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Heavyweight political pundit Simon Campion-Brown returns to front-line reporting just in time

By tradition I catch one thumping cold (or is it bout of ‘flu?) somewhere between October and April. This manifests itself in a gradual shut-down of all bodily organs, a streaming nose, watering eyes, regular sessions of uncontrollable Whooping Cough-wheezing and ‘serious’ sneezing – by which I mean huge, raking, hiccup-like convulsions that (out of sympathy for my fellow man and the world at large) by habit I seek to restrict in their germ-spreading explosiveness by holding my nose tight between a finger & thumb – and a general feeling of listlessness and inability to think clearly or act decisively that, if I did not know better, I might attribute to either MS, ME … or perhaps something else that begins with an ‘M’.

Yes, in other words ladies – you know what I’m going to say – I have a tendency to succumb to man-‘flu.

Funnily-enough, because I hadn’t yet had my annual ‘episode’ over the winter of 2014/2015, I had been suckered by default into imagining that I wasn’t going to have one this year. It’s not complacency. You just get used to what you get used to – in this case, not having ‘flu.

Until this week, when I caught a big one.

I think it began on Tuesday, but I compounded things by having a busy day out and about on Wednesday and therefore awoke yesterday morning to find myself in the vice-like grip of a full-on man-malady.

There was nothing else for it but to venture out for food provisions and medical supplies, arrange the wagons in a circle, pull up the portcullis, lock the front door and hanker down – feeling pretty sorry for myself, naturally – until this ‘flu-plague had passed over.

The pharmacist behind the counter of my local chemist was clearly a lunatic. I walked in, picked up 4 boxes of Kleenex man-sized tissues, strode towards him and announced my symptoms – Whooping Cough, constant streaming nose & eyes, a severe chill and light-headedness every time I rose from my sickbed – and said I needed ‘stuff’ to clear my cold/’flu swiftly.

Without examining me or asking any supplementaries, he immediately announced that I was suffering not from cold or ‘flu but from an allergy and handed me a small box containing what I now know to be Cetirizine Dihydrochloride tablets, to be taken one a day with water.

I was stunned. I’m not allergic to anything – well, except Nick Clegg.

I knew I had a cold or ‘flu (probably both) and so, in a retaliatory act of petty defiance, I asked for a jar of Vicks’ VaporRub which I spotted as we moved towards the cash machine.

Back home, I then spent all day alternating between lying in my bed listening to Radio Five Live and sitting in my favourite drawing-room armchair, under an old duvet, watching daytime television with the sound playing through my quadrophonic speakers.

With the Election off-limits courtesy of the broadcasting rules, it was an eerie experience, not helped by the fact that so much of what is fed to the masses during daylight hours is mindless moving wallpaper. Furthermore, when you’re feeling decidedly crook, you keep getting warped perspectives upon what is happening as you drift in and out of consciousness.

The first thing that made me sit up as if a cattle-prod carrying 50,000 volts had been shoved up my rectum was when by chance I flicked across to ITV’s Morning Show – hosted by Amanda Holden and Philip Schofield – where some late-middle aged doctor was in the act of fondling the naked breasts of a middle-aged lady (I hope I’m not doing her a disservice here by over-estimating her years on this planet) in the supposed cause of demonstrating to both Amanda and we viewers at home how to check ourselves for possible breast cancer.

It was rather as if, in a surreal dream, a scene from Carry On Matron and/or a 12 year-old schoolboy’s first tentative sexual fantasy had come to life and I spent the next few minutes marvelling at what the broadcasters can get away with these days.

See here for today’s relevant report on the website of the – DAILY MAIL

Much later, having by then entirely lost my time-zone awareness, whilst waiting for the 10.00pm watershed moment, I caught snatches of Channel Four’s Alternative Election Night, featuring former Newsnight heavyweight Jeremy Paxman and a team of comedians headed by David Mitchell, and the opening minutes of BBC1’s Election 2015 hosted by David Dimbleby.

The former was truly awful. It started at 9.00pm, which meant that for the first hour no reference could be made to the Election … so – yes, you’ve guessed it, they all took turns to try and find humour in the fact they couldn’t mention the Election. Paxman looked like a fish out of water, reading his supposedly-amusing patter from an auto-cue (none of which raised a laugh from the studio audience) like someone who signed his contract without reading it and now wished he was somewhere – anywhere – else.

The BBC had plainly spent a buck-load of money on its Election studio and wanted the viewers to know it. Jeremy Vine has now become Peter Snow as what we will always call ‘The Swingometer Man’, even though it’s all digital effects and not a simple long pointed arrow anymore. Upstairs in a mezzanine studio area, presumably in honour of the importance of the occasion, Andrew Neil seemed to be sporting not one but two giant Brillo pads on the top of his head.

David Dimbleby teased us by waving an ‘Exit Poll’ result in an envelope in the five minutes before 10.00pm – the point at which the polling stations closed and the broadcasters could begin analysing. It predicted that the Tories would get 316 seats, Labour 239, the Lib-Dems 10 and the SNP possibly 58 or even all 59 in Scotland.

After another quarter of an hour, during which there was no news at all but plenty of opportunity for the BBC to test all its outside broadcast units were working, I decided that I could take no more endless time-filling and retired to bed.






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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts