Sunday, 8 January 2012

Rude Health

Sometimes, when I am least expecting it, a phrase pops into my head. As I was hauling the buggy up the front steps this morning, I suddenly thought of the expression, 'to be in rude health'.  These words conjure up images of ruddy cheeks and boundless energy, and a smug feeling that while others around are felled by coughs and colds, I remain in a magic bubble of 'rude health'.  Unfortunately, it is usually just at that moment of feeling invincible that I get a sore throat and within a day I am floored by a nasty bug.

When you have children the chances for remaining in “rude health” remain slim. In December last year, my children and I took part in a kind of relay race of illness. When one was getting over a cough, it would be passed gaily onto the next contestant, who would add a stomach bug to it. Then, in the next lap a high temperature and general feeling of nausea would be handed to the next participant for good measure. It was a marathon, lasting over a month. Like all worthy sporting events, it wasn’t about the winning, it was about the taking part, but in the end Eric was awarded a mighty dose of antibiotics, which did us all a lot of good.

Before I had children, I didn’t realise how much of my time would be devoted to feeling under the weather. When Eric started Kindergarten, I had more bugs in the first year than I had ever had in my whole life. The nursery teachers had developed super-human immune systems, after years of exposure to this unique breeding ground.  Unfortunately, it takes at least five years to build up this kind of immunity, so by the time you have some sort of protection your child has left. Then something comes along which even the most robust immunity cannot fend off.

That something or some things, rather, come along in the form of little six-legged parasites otherwise known as head lice. Come on, it is nothing to be embarrassed about! Everyone has had it, even if you can’t remember it. I remember it, as I had them about six months ago.  Again, I was feeling in “rude health” and invincible, so I was probably asking for it. Nits had been going around the school for weeks, but that my child could have them let alone me was unthinkable. When I discovered to my horror that I had them it was a weird feeling, like 40 going on 8 years old again. I was transported back in time, sitting in school assembly where the head teacher was talking about a nits outbreak and I was trying desperately not to scratch my head, although, in fact, I actually had them. The smell of disinfectant dripping off a metal comb came back to me, used by the school nurse to inspect our hair. It just couldn’t be true that I had nits.

Sadly it was, and as I showed the wiggling proof, isolated in a glass, to my husband he still didn’t believe it, saying that it was probably just an insect that rather resembled a head louse that had wandered into my hair. I found this quite an absurd idea that there were insects that were in the habit of impersonating head lice but I had other worries. Suddenly, I was aware of the other people I could have passed them on to, and weighed up whether I was going to tell them or not. After all, you say to yourself, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember what it said on the pamphlet that came with the nit-lotion: it is a myth that nits prefer dirty hair.  But still, you feel ashamed. The next few days the world around me shrank to the task of nit extermination and prevention. I spent literally hours every evening picking out nits from my son’s hair, washing bedclothes at 60 degrees and putting garments in the freezer and trawling through the internet for any tips or hints that I could glean. I began to get quite interested in the subject discovering, for example, on a webpage entitled a Brief History of Lice Combs that nit combs had been discovered in Egyptian tombs and that there is an 11th Century ivory example  held in the British museum. I subsequently spent one hour on the phone getting down to the nitty gritty with one of my best friends in England, who told me that since the British government had stopped providing free nit lotion, the head lice situation had become an epidemic. I wondered if there was a hairdresser equivalent of Jamie Oliver who could convince the government to turn this problem around, say, for example, Trevor Sorbie MBE.

At the moment, touch wood (or our trusty black plastic lice comb) we are nit free, and we are not suffering from coughs or colds or being attacked by any kind of bug. In short, we are in ruder health than we have been for a while. Hopefully we will remain in the rudest of health to the point of offensiveness for the foreseeable future.  And there is nothing more to say on the subject, apart from that I hope that you all remain ruddy healthy throughout the rest of the winter.

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