Dot writes: I used to quite enjoy being ill as a child. Not the vomiting, swollen glands, phlegm or itchy bits, obviously, but the specialness of it. The part when I felt really terrible was usually quite brief and followed by a pleasant period of watching videos and being waited on. I remember one illness when I couldn’t bear the light and had to lie with my eyes closed (I’m still not sure what I had); I spent the time listening to Under Milk Wood on LP. I liked it very much.

Being ill as the mother of two young children is not so enjoyable. It involves a lot of self-pity on the mother’s part and a lot of whinging and whining from bored boys who want, but are not getting, activities and attention. I’m better now, but for about a month I’ve had a bad cough that periodically turned into flu. It was worst when my parents were over for the half-term holiday at the start of November, probably because that was when I could give into it; anyway, there were a lot of days when I retreated into bed at 4pm or so, for a nap or for good, while Grandma held the fort. Last week the cough finally passed off in aching ribs and Exputex and I am extremely glad it is gone. Although I had company for the half-term holiday, the first weekend of feeling fluey was one when Ken was not here and Julie disappeared off to see a friend, so I was completely on my own trying to look after the children with aches and shivers and hacking. Much self-pity, as already mentioned.

I was also on my own with the boys this last weekend, when Hugh got a stomach bug: he started being sick at about 1.30am on Friday night, decorated his bed and the carpet, came into bed with me (bringing his little brother with him, who was woken by the sounds of distress), had to be supplied with a bucket at roughly hourly intervals through the night (Frank slept through that bit – I have no idea how), and managed to get vomit on the big bed too at around 7am, when my guard was down as I thought the worst was over. He is big enough now to be sick into a bucket, but not big enough to hold it in if a bucket is not immediately available, and he found it all very upsetting. However, he did rather enjoy having a bed made up for him on the sofa (using his brother’s duvet: I spent the day washing all the others), and he reclined there all day, emerging only for a couple of tentative snacks and a brief fit of making Christmas cards. Make no mistake – he was still very droopy, and fell asleep on the sofa while Frank and I were eating dinner; but he did like his special downstairs bed, and not getting dressed, and being fussed over. I think it’s the first time he’s had such an arrangement; younger children don’t tend to be so conscious of performing the part of the invalid, and are less prepared, even when feeling ill, to lie still and rest (unless they can do it on someone’s lap).

Saturday night was unbroken, thank goodness. On Sunday morning Hugh announced that he was still ill. “Too ill to go to Jake’s party this afternoon?” I asked. “Only joking!” he replied. “I’m completely well.”

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