Dear Readers, after feeling as if I was on the mend yesterday my fever has come back with a vengeance today. What the hell is going on? Maybe that quip about malaria isn’t so wide of the mark. Anyhow, at least I’m not working so I can crash out in bed with my teeth chattering. There are different schools of thought on whether you’re better off bringing the fever down, or letting it run its course – the fever is the body’s way of fighting the infection but it doesn’t make it a lot of fun for the battleground (i.e. me). So, I am holding on for as long as possible and then taking paracetamol when I can’t stand it any more. Hopefully it will all sort itself out. It would be heavily ironic to have a week off and be sick until it’s time to go back to work.
What I wanted to say was that I never miss my Mum so much as when I’m sick. I feel myself longing for her instinctive way of comforting and coaxing, her patience and those lovely cold hands on my forehead. She was always at the ready with a tin of Heinz tomato soup, or fish with mashed potato and a parsley sauce, or a boiled egg with soldiers. Best of all were the chilled tinned peaches with Bird’s custard. She could persuade anyone to eat, my Mum.
Sometimes when we were children we’d have what were described as ‘bilious attacks’. These generally involved vomiting all over ourselves and the bedclothes. My long hair was a particular challenge. Mum would change the sheets, wash my hair, change the pyjamas, put me back into bed and sing a medley of songs from the early sixties. She had a great fondness for Ghost Riders in the Sky, I remember, and also ‘The Girl in the Wood‘ – clearly Frankie Laine was a favourite. Generally, an hour after we’d gone to sleep we’d do it all over again. I never had the sense that Mum was the slightest bit irritated, but of course I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I remember that poem about love’s ‘austere and lonely offices’ by Robert Hayden, and it seems to me that that is what love is – the things that you do when you don’t feel like it, the little things that no one even notices at the time. I remember those nights, with Mum singing in the semi-darkness as a kind of magic. It seemed to me that she could heal anything, and I had absolute faith in her ability to know what to do. What a responsibility, and yet it felt like what she was born to do.
I still miss you, Mum. I always will.