Dot writes: kids are always ill, and one would rather they weren’t, for their sake and also one’s own; but when they are ill it is a mild consolation if they have something with a name, a disease that gets mentioned in children’s literature (so long as it’s not consumption or polio or something genuinely frightening). Hugh has scarlet fever.
As always we hesitated to take him to the doctor. The symptoms were: acute headache, no appetite, intermittent fever, one episode of vomiting, and a blotchy rash which we nervously tested with a glass and concluded to be of the non-meningitis variety. We may be fortunate compared to many in Ireland, but I’m afraid the swingeing cost of a GP visit (currently €60) is still a powerful deterrent. However, I had heard scarlet fever was going around, and it is an infection rather than a virus, so I took him along and was glad I did. Hugh was very good; answered all questions in a sad, hoarse little voice; had a high temperature at the convenient moment (i.e. when it was tested); inquired politely if the doctor was going to have a baby (she very obviously was); and was rewarded with the official diagnosis and a bottle of penicillin which he finds utterly revolting.
While we waited for the medicine to be made up at the pharmacy I took him to the shop next door to buy a magazine. I fancied some chocolate myself and offered some to Hugh.
“No thanks,” he said, “anyway, it’s not good for me.”
The boy behind the counter laughed and I remarked that Hugh was more virtuous than I was. As we walked out Hugh said, “He was a teenager.”
“Yes, a nice teenager.”
“I could tell he was a teenager because he had metal teeth. All teenagers have metal teeth.”