It started with a tickle.
Just an innocuous little tickle at the back of my throat. Nothing to be all that worried about. I blamed it on hayfever. Or allergies. Or a minor sniffle due to being a bit run-down. But over the course of the next few days, it grew and grew. I spent most of (the always amazing) Supersonic festival attempting to ignore it by pouring industrial amounts of whiskey, Jamaican ginger beer and jerk chicken laced with a fiery peppery sauce down my throat. But it was to no avail. By the time I called my Dad on Monday evening and spent five minutes convincing him that yes, this woman who did sound like a third rate Deirdre Barlow impersonator was indeed his eldest child, I knew the jig was up. I had a cold.
I hate being ill. As someone who spends most of their life flitting from city to city, the thought of spending days confined in bed doing nothing makes me itchy. I regress to being a child – one who wants someone to tuck them up, make them tea and fetch them Beecham’s Powders. I get lonely. I think about how much fun being ill was when I was a kid. I miss my Grandad.
My Grandad John came to live with us when I was twelve. My Nana June had just died, my Mum wanted to return to the workplace, and it seemed a good fit. He was a man unlike any other I’ve ever met before or since – one who once painted the inside of an oven (My Nana attempted to cook a pie in it, and it blew up, causing her to fly across the kitchen before repeatedly belting him around the head) and whose favourite post-work snack was a block of Stork Margarine dipped in strawberry jam. He resided in our conservatory like a wise old owl who always had a mug of tea in one hand, and a John Player’s Special in the other. During his time in our household, he acted as teacher, study aide, relationships counsellor, human alarm clock, and the World’s Worst Cook. (His ‘signature dish’ was a concoction of chicken breast smothered in Homepride curry sauce, served over half boil-in-the-bag rice, half oven chips. He also once infamously gave my ex-boyfriend food poisoning from some undercooked sausages.) However, where he really came into his own was a Nurse.
Whenever I had the flu, or tonsillitis or any of the other myriad nasty childhood illnesses we carry with us from the playground, he’d make my parents living room our plague battleground. Duvets would be whipped off beds, and the downstairs sofa would be turned into a sumptuous recliner fit for a Empress, full of cushions, pillows and blankets. He’d always make me Cream of Tomato soup with white bread soldiers (always Warburton’s Toastie – usually a banned substance in my parents household), and – if circumstances were exceedingly dire – a Hot Toddy with perhaps just a smidgen more whisky than was really necessary. Together we’d watch Watercolour Challenge and Countdown hudded together in that overheated living room like a pair of thieves.
My Grandad has been dead for four years now, but I still try and conjure up the memory of those days spent together whenever I’m ill. Heinz Cream of Tomato soup and tea, hot toddies and Countdown… all these comforting little things which make the past feel as though it’s within touching distance, but at the same time, so incredibly far away.