Grunting Teen staggers into the kitchen, sniffing loudly. ‘Mum, I’m feeling proper ill,’ he rasps. ‘Do I have to go to school?’
To be fair, he doesn’t look great. I’m leaning towards giving him a day off. However, the Nearly-Beloved is having nothing of it. ‘Stop exaggerating. You’re fine. Besides, you’ve already missed nearly two years of education, so you can’t afford to lose any more,’ he says. ‘But to be on the safe side, we’d better do a PCR test.’
With clinical precision he grabs a swab stick and performs a near tonsillectomy, sending our adolescent gagging to the sink. If Grunting Teen wasn’t feeling good before, he’s now feeling a whole lot worse, particularly as the test comes back negative and he’s despatched to Sixth Form, with the advice to wear a face mask to prevent his germs spreading.
This turns out to be a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Apparently, half his class have sore throats and runny noses and the local pharmacy has already run out of Lemsips and lozenges. It’s simply a matter of time before the whole school succumbs to mass infection.
‘It’s only a common cold,’ snorts the Nearly-Beloved, rolling his eyes as I rustle up a honey and lemon drink for my man-child on his return. ‘He just needs to buckle down and get on with it. Stop babying him.’
The six-foot baby looks at me with sad eyes and retires to his Teen Cave with a boxful of Kleenex, to ‘do his homework’. I’m impressed. Even though he’s feeling under the weather, he’s showing remarkable maturity and dedication to his studies. Later in the evening, I bring him up a salt water gargle and some mentholyptus sweets discovered in the depths of a winter coat. I can hear him wheezing on his headset. Poor thing. He’s still managing to work on a group project, despite losing his voice. Only that was wishful thinking on my part… I open the door and catch him in a full-scale battle on the PlayStation.
Seeing my disappointed look, as I pick up the sea of tissues surrounding him, he puts on a pathetic face and croaks, ‘Couldn’t concentrate properly, mum. Besides, the assignment doesn’t have to be in until next week as the teacher is off sick…’
The following morning, it’s not only the teacher who’s suffering. My head feels as if the entire cast of River Dance is rehearsing there and my eyes are running so much that my pillow is waterlogged. Yet my nostrils and throat are tightly blocked, causing me to fear a tracheotomy is on the cards.
‘Oh, for goodness’ sake. You’re such a hypochondriac!’ huffs the Nearly-Beloved. And it’s all I can do to beg Mr Florence The-not-Nightingale to bring me a glass of water and some paracetamol. Luckily, I have no work on today so tuck myself up in bed and succumb to illness. How ironic that after so long worrying about Covid, it’s a common cold that fells me in the end!
All that social distancing and mask-wearing did in fact serve a purpose. I’ve been germ-free for months now. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel poorly. But I’ve also forgotten the benefits of a duvet day. No need to make an effort. Lack of appetite works wonders for the waistline. And binge-watching ‘First Dates’ is perfectly acceptable medicine. Plus, a head cold never lingers and is, thankfully, not life-threatening.
By the weekend, both Grunting Teen and I have made a full recovery. Unfortunately, bugs love to breed and spread. They have now transferred themselves to the Nearly-Beloved. He has taken to his bed, demanded regular thermometer checks and is insisting on a home visit from the GP.
‘Come on, love. Pull yourself together,’ I tell him. ‘After all, it’s only a cold.’
‘A cold?’ he splutters indignantly. ‘This is no common cold. This is full-blown flu…’