No one here is busting out with good health. My wife has the remains of a month long earth-shaking cough, my step-daughter has had Winter Vomiting Virus, and been off school all day, and I got visited by a lovely migraine, which took hold just as I arrived at Birmingham City University for a day of seeing students; which didn’t happen. Instead, I slept in the car in the One Stop car park for a couple of hours, then drove home half blind.
I’m reading Brian Dillon’s excellent ‘Tormented Hope’, whose subtitle is ‘Nine Hypochondriac Lives.’ It’s the best book on the subject I’ve ever read. Illness is a relief to a hypochondriac, of course, because the imaginings lessen as the actual symptoms take hold.
Migraine is the only real thing I’ve ever had, and I’ve had it for all my life. Over the years, it’s changed its pattern. When I was a kid, I had loads, and would spend three days vomiting into a bucket. I don’t get that now, but strange things happen. Words get lost. Lines of text lose all meaning. Speech comes out backwards. Nice.
In days of yore, when Charley was a kid, I once contracted a migraine while I was pushing her home from her child-minders. I threw up in the gutter on the Lewes Road in Brighton. When we got in, I sat her in front of the telly, and did my best to sleep it off. I was still asleep when Charley’s Mum came home at about half seven. But I woke up, because I was going out. I felt like death on bad acid, but I was getting up and going out. I had tickets to see Doctor John at the Top Rank, and no shit migraine was going to stop that.
I was going with my mate Gary, who lived a little way up the Lewes Road, closer to The Level. I called for him. His housemate let me in. Gary sat with his head under a towel over a steaming bowl of hot water and friars balsam. He looked up at me, with eyes streaming.
‘I’ve got the flu, mate,’ he said. ‘But I’m not missing tonight.’
Somehow, he got to his feet, and dragged himself up the stairs to change out of his filthy pyjamas. When he came down, we got our trusty old pipes, and each had a fill, which gave us the energy to get out. We didn’t have the money for the bus, so we walked from the Lewes Road down to the seafront, and along to the Top Rank.
There was a notice sellotaped to the door, written in black marker pen.