Feeling the Cold

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I am cold.

There is something about being cold that is completely debilitating. Something that numbs the senses as much as the fingertips. Now, I think it only right to point out – lest you were to consider calling the emergency services – I am not talking life threatening here. Nothing close to hypothermic. What I am talking is ‘Below Optimal Operating Temperature’. I am talking chilled, not frozen. However, it is more than cold enough for me.

As the body becomes cold it begins to pump out all manner of messages to the brain, most of them telling it to stop whatever-it-is it is doing and figure out a way to get warm, that does not involve emigration.

I am old enough to remember life before central heating, when homes were occupied by small puddles of warmth within a sea of cold: the fire, the oven, the bedroom paraffin heater. I remember when the only way not to be cold in bed was to be covered in such a weight of woollen blanket that it was impossible to move. I remember the dread of having to vacate that woven cocoon in the morning.

In general, our lives now are not dogged by cold: our homes are warm, our shops and cafes are warm, our clothes are warm. We encounter cold much more infrequently and, when we do, we seek to find warmth with an increased alacrity. We do not seek warmth, we bathe in it.

I also remember draughts. Homes were full of draughts, the entry points of which had to be blocked by any means available: parcel tape around windows; paper over airbricks; giant, cloth-filled ‘sausages’ at the bottom of doors. This was the world of the draught-excluder. Unchecked draughts were the root of all illness: got a cold – you must have been sitting in a draught; got arthritis – you must have been sitting in a draught; T.B., Consumption, Pneumonia – all draught-related. Of course, the home with no draughts was also the home of suffocation – the price you had to pay.

This lack of ventilation also led to damp. Corners of rooms were routinely black with mould; windows ran with condensation; clothes were always heavy with moisture. On a wash day, the whole house could be fog-bound. A simple Sunday boil-up of spuds came with the threat of low-visibility across the English Channel.

I have always felt the cold. My gran said that I was ‘thin blooded’. I’m not sure what that meant, although I was thin. Mind you, I had that in common with virtually everybody I knew. If you weren’t skinny, then you were fat and therefore, presumably, not cold. I’m not sure why we were all so thin. We ate the kind of food that was not ready until it had had the living shit boiled out of it. Anything green required several hours of boiling before it was considered edible. A steak and kidney suet pudding may have to be boiled for several days in order to cook the three inch layer of suet which surrounded the gristle-bound lump of meat that lie at its core. These foods were meant to give us ‘a lining’, to keep out the cold.

Well, these days, I am more than adequately lined, but somehow, I still feel the cold and now, I know that it must be serious because my mind has thrown all of the words out of my head and is currently pleading for hot chocolate…

Under the Weather

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…So here we are, my cold and I, trapped at home together with just an expectant laptop for company: eyes riveted to back of skull; tongue superglued to roof of mouth; nose dripping like newly installed washing machine. Try to bring focus to eyes that are vibrating like a tumble dryer with a dog in it. Laptop screen looks like amateur graffiti scrawled across a naked jogger’s buttocks. Try to listen to radio but, unless they’re playing Ethel Merman again, ears appear to be malfunctioning in some way. All sound seems to be filtered through several bales of cotton wool. Somehow, passageway between ears and brain is blocked like a service station latrine. Judging by unusual sounds reaching auditory cortex, ears may be stuffed with self-inflating sheep. Fevered brain is doing somersaults. Even beleaguered bladder has climbed aboard the trampoline. Just a cold – I know – just a cold, but, my age, who knows where it might lead…

Must grit teeth and try to write. Not easy as hands are employed in constant search for tissue and, anyway, dental bridge-work not really up to gritting these days. Nose glows like electricity smart meter with kettle on. Tissue feels like sandpaper. Hang on, tissue is sandpaper – no wonder couldn’t rub blemish out of front door yesterday. Must have been using Kleenex.

Sweating. Am wearing only boxer shorts. Thermometer shows body temperature normal. Shows room temperature 120˚. Central heating thermostat is stuck. Equatorial temperature in lounge bringing flies out of hibernation, blistering paint on radiators, melting curtains. Attempt to adjust thermostat. Search for superglue to reaffix little temperature knob to front of thermostat. Easy. Little knob no longer falls off thermostat. Unfortunately, little knob no longer turns either. Stuck somewhere between Timbuktu and summertime Mercury. Turn off central heating at boiler before house bricks melt. Temperature in house immediately drops to by twenty degrees. Flies are frozen on the wing; left gliding around the room like miniature microlight aircraft.

Nose running like rusted garden tap does not. Resume frantic search for tissues. Tissue box is empty. Blow nose on box. Ears screech. No, cat screeches; have stood on cat. Cat attempts to sharpen claws on leg. Flail at cat with one leg whilst attempting to shake him off with other. Become immediately aware of advisability of having at least fifty percent of available legs (eg one) firmly anchored to floor. Pick self up. Cat now sharpening claws on head. Cat 90% more effective than anti-dandruff shampoo. Take half a paracetemol – never take full dose: have vision of liver dissolving like new grouting on bathroom wall. Anyway, cannot read tablet box instructions to discern correct dosage. Contact lenses feel like dinner plates when I have cold and vision is filtered through net curtains. Looking out at the world is like my grandma looking out at next-door neighbours on a Saturday night. Would wear glasses, but put them down somewhere before lunch and have not been able to find them since. Can smell them though. Somewhere hot, little plastic molecules are reorganizing domestic arrangements. Head towards thick black smoke billowing from kitchen grill. Spectacles now smouldering black walnut. As is forgotten Welsh Rarebit. Remove battery from smoke alarm and realise that screeching in ears has not abated.

Common cold is very minor complaint – even for man – so why do I feel like death? (Once had a vision of death whilst travelling on the bus. Death is not a skeleton dressed in black. Death does not have name written in fire. Death drives a bottle green Toyota. Death is a double-glazing salesman with halitosis. Death has your name in his contacts list. He was given it by Facebook. Death is called Nigel.) This is the most trivial of illnesses, yet it manages to rob me of half of my ability to see, hear, smell, taste and breathe. God knows what an un-common cold must be like. Wonder if the Queen is immune to the common cold. Surely she cannot catch something so vulgar. I bet the footmen have it for her…

One of life’s great imponderables: why does huge, snotty sneeze always correspond with complete failure to locate tissues? Why does frantic dash around the house with mucus a-dangling always lead to empty cardboard tube where kitchen roll used to be? Ditto toilet roll. Where’s the bloody cat when you need it? Am left wondering where all this mucus actually comes from and, perhaps more worryingly, where it all goes when it is no longer dribbling out of my nose. Will explain to wife what happened to curtains later…

Mind is wandering. Could be delirium. Could be Buttercup Syrup overdose. Must concentrate. Must write blog before dark as all lights fused by decimated grill. Also candles melted by central heating and batteries welded to torch by strange green goo. Desperately need to stop nose running. A good strong blow should do it… There is nothing in human existence quite like the sound inside your ears when you have blown your nose and external air pressure struggles to restore some kind of equilibrium inside your head. Unless you have sat on the cat…

Hold tissue with one hand and type with other. Something real and contemporary. Something deep and satirical. Hard to be satirical with something buzzing in ears. More likely to be wasps than ideas. Wonder how to tackle wasps in ear? Perhaps should dangle over-ripe plum to side of head. Perhaps should have a root about with cotton bud. Wonder what to do when routine broggle leaves tiny cotton ‘bud’ in waxy recess of ear, other than look at little budless stick in dismay. Hopefully will fall out overnight – otherwise will book two weeks off work to visit A&E.

Very dark now. Cannot type in dark – especially as super-efficient laptop battery ran out after six minutes on stand-by and keyboard on mobile phone does not respond to mittened hands. Should go to bed. Need to rest. Lay head on pillow and go straight to sleep… soon… eventually… Nose immediately fills with God-knows-what. Eyes no longer close without strange rasping sound. Shattered taste buds detect faintest hint of yesterday’s sock and tonsils grow to size of Blue Whale’s adenoids (if you don’t believe they have them, look it up – I did). Brain works loose in skull and trickles out through nose…