The clearest thing to emerge from my recent visit to my native land is that I have obviously developed some sort of allergy to the place.
I was fine when I set off on Saturday and was a broken coughing wreck by the time that I returned home to Spain!
I have to admit that an unlikely evening out in High Wickham which took in flavoursome pints of real beer and a deliciously wonderful Indian meal (with more alcohol) and (indeed) with yet more alcohol at the end of it was a delightful interlude from health to illness.
As indeed was the equally delicious, heart-warming and bucolic visit to my Aunt Bet to celebrate her ninety second birthday up a bumpy lane to my cousin’s spacious house in rural Buckingham.
I managed to fit in a rushed visit to Tesco with a fit of delirious spending in the ever welcoming aisles – always with the fear of overstuffing the single piece of luggage that I had to take back with me.
Yes, Saturday (after the two hour wait in Barcelona airport) and Sunday (after losing the key to my hotel room) went well. The birthday party for my aunt and her delight at her presents was well worth the trip and it was an experience to be in such a welcoming and rambling house that my cousin inhabits.
It was the gradual arrival of a cough on Sunday evening and its development in the chilly air of Monday morning with the disconcerting flurries of snow as courtesy details that dragged the delight of the trip back to sordid reality.
Finding a petrol station to fill up the tank on the hired car (and finding that every other hired car in the neighbourhood had found it as well at exactly the same time) linked to the hour wait that we had in some sort of holding pit before we were allowed to board the plane, ensure that by the time I took my seat I was no longer eager to start reading one of the books that I had bought (on pure reflex) from the branch of W H Smith which catches me every time I fly.
No, what I wanted to do was lapse into a semi-coma and arrive immediately in Barcelona (or “into Barcelona” as the air flight attendants will have it) and find my bed.
I did manage to find a seat on the wing where the row of three was blocked by a man so enormous that he made me feel svelte and petit. As he was sitting on the outside seat I felt that if only I could get to the window seat no one would ever try and take the “compressed” middle. And I was right. With the arm rest up and me sprawled diagonally I managed to find some sort of comfortable position and hope for oblivion.
This, of course, did not come, and by the time I was ready to find a taxi in Barcelona airport I was prepared to pay almost any amount of money to get home.
However ill I felt, it would not have been human if I had not tried to make the “prepared laptop” work and see if I could get British television programmes as I had been promised as part of my birthday present.
Astonishingly: it worked. It was just cruel fate that the first programme I tuned into was “The Weakest Link” – I will keep the culture for later.
The bed. But no oblivion. Alternately hot and cold, there was not comfortable position I could find and the night was one of searching for the impossible with moments of drug takings so that by the morning my blood stream was mostly ibuprofen.
Tuesday dawned with my realization that (pride aside) there was no way that I was going to trust my coughing, pill pushed, dog tired body behind the wheel with the usual slew of suicidal drivers that I can usually dismiss with casual contempt.
The rest of the day in bed was a continuing search for the elusive “comfort zone” with only my incandescent hatred of the noisy dogs next door to give lashing direction to my maudlin self pity.
My great mistake was to go in to work the next day, with the result that Wednesday was truly horrific with my falling back into bed at the end of the day.
I did do some teaching, though what its quality must have been like defies description. There is a sort of professional adrenalin that keeps you going when you are in pedagogic mode and not really firing on all available cylinders, but using this invaluable substance means that you have a price to pay when the clientele is not there to keep the fix in place!
Bed beckoned, though not before I downloaded books into my telephone. It is very difficult to convey what unutterable delight that the last sentence actually gives me. I am but scratching at the capabilities of my fearsome phone but the fact that I have the whole of Paradise Lost on my telephone is a fact which gives me particular delight.
In spite of wheezing, coughing and bruised ribs I managed to declaim Satan’s brilliant speech beginning “Not too know me argues yourself unknown, the lowest of your throng” before fatigue and a realization of the astonishing pretention of what I was doing got to me and I fell back into bed.
Today (with the mere grace note accompaniment of theatrical coughing) has been much better and I begin to believe that I will be fully recovered so that I can enjoy the latitude of the “bridge” which means that this weekend will be converted into a sort of mini holiday with three days of next week being mine to do with what I will.
Lazing around and recovering seems like a good plan at the moment!
One more day to get through and then the thought of an exhibition of British Art to look forward to!
Culture to the rescue.