Okay, I’m coming out of the woods with my hands up. With a very welcome small amount of free time on my hands this week I had planned nothing more than to camp myself in my council library’s ‘Local Studies’ section and research stuff (we anoraks do).
I did two days of that on Monday and Tuesday, nearly sending myself around the twist.
Scrolling through microfiche images of fading newspapers that had been ‘grabbed’ by some council clerk with a heady mix of foresight and vision in about 1978 is not for the faint-hearted. The newsprint on some of them – usually the ones I am looking for – is barely distinguishable, plus of course this was 1910 and local newshounds in the outer suburbs of London were no better at noting down what they were being told, or indeed then re-reading it out over the telephone to some 18 year-old jobsworth in the outer office of the editor’s suite, than I am. The number of misspellings, erroneous initials and straightforward cock-ups as are legion.
Plus, of course, when scribbling away with a succession of newly-sharpened HB pencils like a mad dervish into the small black rectangular notebook that I retain for such purposes in an effort to ‘get through my task’ as quickly as possible, I then come to the next issue when I get home, the better to transcribe my notes into the massive Microsoft Word database that I am constructing.
When I scribble fast, especially with a pencil, there’s about a 20% chance that, within each sentence noted down, I won’t be able to read my own writing when I get home.
Anyway, that’s the preamble.
Last night around tea-time – having slogged away for about seven hours in one form or another on my quest – I downed tools, made myself something to eat and sat down to watch some television.
Whenever I do this, the phone always rings just as I’m beginning to settle into whatever I’m watching.
It was my daughter. After bringing me up to date with her news, she explained that – having only just started her new job where she works … and having had to take four days off owing to a bout of the ‘flu from which she was not yet fully recovered … it would really suit her to postpone tonight’s (i.e. Wednesday’s) edition of our regular light evening meal together.
This was no hardship to me, especially since I had decided to ‘take the day off’ today and literally do no more than potter around, maybe do some housework, and then watch Prime Minister’s Question Time (a television exposure that I always enjoy). If all other things should come to naught as regards conjuring up something to write a Rust post about, perhaps I could even risk treading on the toes of this vital organ’s political team and review PMQs myself!
Fast-forward to about 12.40am, by which time I had been both to bed at 9.30pm and got up again to do my stint on the day shift.
As ever, first I made myself a vat of black coffee and took up my position at the computer. I always start with outstanding emails or other known tasks, and then set off on a tour of the broadsheet newspaper websites.
Now, at this point, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. Normally I am a pretty robust man health-wise. Yes, bits and pieces are giving way or dropping off, sitting on the edge of my bed and getting my socks on in the morning is a bit of an challenge, and I keep forgetting where I left things … but that’s taken as read. When it comes to ‘flu and sickness generally, I’m pretty hardy. Until, that is, I get a bout – when things really go downhill fast and I am on the verge of death, suffering like nobody has ever before.
Forget all that nonsense about giving birth, a serious visitation of the Man ‘Flu is as near the end of the world anyone can get without actually experiencing it.
And so … no more than twenty minutes in … I became aware for the first time of a growing ‘sense’ of queasiness in my body. You may know the sort of thing. You’re bobbling along, doing what you’re doing, and then suddenly you get, not so much a stab of sharp discomfort, but just a ‘sense’ (and very unpleasant sense because it is familiar to you, based upon past history) that all in not well in the personal engine room.
In short, if things don’t improve, you might just be in for a serious bout of gastro-enteritis, or – worse – if and as things build up in the way they might do, you could be in for a serious bout of, as Barry Humphries’ famous, out-and-out ‘Okker’-type, character Barry McKenzie, (originally drawn as a comic strip for Private Eye but then later, with then actor Barry Crocker in the title role, appearing in two feature films including the classic Barry McKenzie Holds His Own) might have put it, ‘a serious technicolour yawn’ or – as we in the UK might say – a passage of projectile vomiting.
There was nothing else for it – I could feel that I was almost certainly going to lose the fight on points – and so asked my cornerman to throw the towel into the ring.
This he did. I shuffled upstairs to my bedroom, taking the kitchen sink’s washing-up bowl with me and prepared for the worst.
It wasn’t long before I was shivering under a mound of clothes, a duvet and an eiderdown. I shall spare my readers the full details of my three (stomach trouble) trips to the bathroom and then having to lie awake for hours and hours, teetering between having to go again, reach for my washing-up bowl to spew into that … or just lie there hating every moment and (a sure sign this, whenever it happens involuntarily to me) groaning audibly in rhythm with my breathing.
By the morning I could not raise my head from the pillow and was just listening to the radio.
At some point I nipped to the kitchen for supplies. All I have ‘taken in’ during the last eighteen hours is the contents of just two small 250ml cans of (1) Diet Coke and (2) Lucozade.
Literally nothing else.
What’s worse, from 11.30am I was listening to Peter Allen on the radio, building up to the start of Prime Minister’s Question Time, content at least that I was going to hear it …
I next came to at 12.27pm … having missed all but the last eight minutes of David Cameron’s ordeal at the despatch box!
My great foray into the world of political journalism had rather deflated and sunk before it had begun.