I thought I'd bring a little bug back from Istanbul. One of those nasty little bastards that grows on the pull chains of filthy Ottoman toilets. Not that I ever found a pull chain, or an Ottoman toilet for that matter, but somehow, despite all the usual precautions, a bug found it's way into my digestive tract. It began to bite during the return trip making the near 4 hour flight particularly unpleasant. Increasingly so when I realised that even if I was strong enough to pick up our cases, I still had to traverse one the busiest motorways in England during the tea time rush hour. At least I wasn't on my own, Mrs Fisher, in an act of total unselfishness, had caught the very same bug.
So there we were waiting for the bus to take us to our car, shivering and weak under gloomy Manchester skies wondering where this is all going to end. By now the thing is really starting to take hold and all we’re wanting to do is get home and get to bed. I'm shivering uncontrollably, my head is thumping, my throat feels like I've been sucking Nitromors pastels. I get the cases in the boot and bang my head on the door frame getting into the car. I feel like I've been banjoed by Sonny Liston. I'm starting to get clumsy and feel my sense of balance is deserting me. But an hour or so later we're outside 17 having managed to steer the limo past lumbering HGVs and the inevitable spray. With fingers gripped to steering wheel and with the windows going up and down [too hot, too cold] we cross the moors to the safety of home. We dump the cases in the living room, where they will stay untouched for two days and go to bed. It's 5.30 in the evening.
Before I stumble upstairs I ring work with the ridiculous idea that I may somehow be able to sleep this thing off and there's a slim chance that I may just be in in the morning. Six days later I realise that I was just kidding myself.
During the night I experience a mini cold turkey moment. If I had ever got addicted to heroin and then decided to get off it then this might be something like it. I sleep in two hour stints then wake up, thrash about for a bit, moan inside and begin detailing my symptoms inside my head: hot and cold flushes, muscle aches, headaches, a throat that feels like someone has lined it with battery acid, a mouth so full of strings of gob that I can’t shift them even with my fingers.
I’m intensely thirsty and decide to get up for a drink of water. Getting out of bed proves to be more difficult than I thought. It’s like one half of me wants to stay where it is whilst the other half knew that if water wasn’t ingested soon then there could be trouble ahead. With immense concentration I manag to get first one leg then the other out of bed. I slowly lift my wobbly frame to its full height before staggering to the toilet smashing one of my shins on the corner of the bed in the process. I sit on the toilet, head in hands, elbows on knees covered in sweat and release about a thimbleful of urine. I hang my head over the sink and try to get rid of some of the mucus that has formed in my mouth. When I try to cough up the stuff at the back of my mouth my stomach turns and I think I’m going to vomit. I get most of it out and manage to drink a little water but it burns my throat as it goes down.
I make it back to bed without any further disasters to find mrs Fisher in much the same state. We pass some mumbled greeting before going all fetal, one minute too hot the next too cold, covers on, covers off, each body a trembling mess of immune system chaos.
When I sleep my dreams are vivid and hallucinatory. I fly past miles and miles of perfectly lined up street cafe tables, all empty and laid out for the first customers of the day, carpet shops and bazaars whizz by on a journey that ends about 3 am when I am woken by the most violent stomach cramps I have ever experienced in my whole life. This time the part of the brain that makes me want to stay in bed is quickly overruled and I make haste to the toilet. When my arse cheeks hit the wood I release the most violent, black and horrendous pound of slurry it has ever been my misfortune to experience. It was ejected with such force that if it hadn’t have been for the porcelain it would surely have stretched a good 12 feet. It came in two parts. I had a breather after the first and then the second wave hits me. This time a trumpet blast of liquid fecal matter aided by a fetid blast of disgusting air. I moan inside.
I sit there in junky toilet Trainspotter mode for quite some time, trembling, sweating, trying to breath normally, only slightly aware of the stench that surrounds me. And then I fear for the future motions of Mrs Fisher. I tidy myself and the toilet up and stagger back to what is now a mess of sweat soaked sheets to continue what was to become 16 hours of bedridden torture.
At 10.30 the next morning I’ve been drifting in and out of sleep for four hours. I know I have to get up but the half of me that wants to stay in bed is the dominant force. Get up. What for? To eat something. Not hungry. To drink something? I could do with a drink but then I can get a drink in the bathroom. Get up and have a shower? OK.
Mrs Fisher was by now downstairs having crawled out of bed two hours ago, she’d brought me a cup of tea which I couldn’t drink because it was too hot and burnt my throat but which had now gone clap cold and was as equally undrinkable. Get up and shower and have a cup of tea I say to myself. Cups of tea can cure anything. Everybody knows that. I get out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. My head is light and I feel dizzy. I have to take small steps and try not to bump into things. I am aware that my sense of balance is out of kilter and that there is a good chance I could easily fall out of the shower. Whilst waiting for the shower to come on I stand over the sink and try to get rid of some of the gunk that has accumulated in my mouth. I realise that my toothbrush is in my case but we have Listerine so I gargle with that and my throat feels a little better. After getting out of the shower I throw on the first clothes I can find and very carefully make my way down the stairs on unsteady legs. I’m feel marginally better, as in last night I was dying and flatlining but now theres a blip on the machine. It isn’t much but its something to cling on to.
Mrs Fisher is sat in her wing back chair. She doesn’t look well. I make us both some tea and realise that even though I dont feel hungry I have to get something inside of me. I mash up two Weetabix in milk and let them go soft. I let the tea go cold for a while then take a sip. It is incredibly painful to take even a tiny sip of tea. As the tea goes down the pain in my throat becomes so intense that I can’t help but involuntarily pull my head back, which intensifies the headache which coupled to the fact I’m shaking all over and have a stomach that resembles a rancid goats bladder, doesn’t make me feel too good about myself. I grab at my throat and rub the swollen throat glands. They feel like two Victoria plums. I stare at my Weetabix like its radioactive waste. I put half a spoonful in my mouth and make myself swallow it. Its agony but the pain is short lived. I wait for the pain in my throat to subside then take another mouthful. I repeat the process until half the bowl has gone and then I feel sick. I take a tiny sip of tea. As it goes down it meets the Weetabix coming back up and I just make it to the sink before unleashing it. I stand holding the sink, trembling, sweating, going hot and cold on and wonder how long this is going to go on for.
In the living room the cases still stand where we’d left them. Neither of us has any energy so thats where they stay. My toothbrush is inside mine but considering the state my gob is in brushing my teeth really doesn’t seem to be that important. Instead I lower myself steadily into the Poang and give thanks to Japanese designers and Swedish furniture stores. Mrs Fisher throws a quilt over me and there I lay, gob open, breathing unsteady, head swimming, aching, staring out of the window like a coma victim. Neither of us says much.
After about three hours I get the first abdomen cramps. I throw off the quilt and make for the toilet. Weaving, head all a swim, trying not to knock pictures off the wall I make it to the top of the steps. After a short burst of diarrheic filth I tidy up, wash my hands and decided a sip of water might be in order and the Listerine might be a good idea too seeing as how I’m already up here. The water goes down easier after the Listerine.
I update Mrs Fisher on my condition upon return. She looks at me like a cow about to be slaughtered. At 6.30pm we decide that we really need to eat something even if our bodies are telling us they didn’t need anything. Mrs Fisher volunteers to make some cheese on toast and disappears into the kitchen. I managed half of it. Its like trying to eat glazing mastic. Even with the help of a half cold cup of tea I can’t manage any more of it. Its like my stomach has shriveled to the size of a tennis ball and is refusing to allow any more food in, assuming I had appetite or throat enough to cope with it.
At 7.30pm I return to bed. Mrs Fisher comes along. We take glasses of water, paracetamol and throat lozenges [by the grace of God there was a stash of the things in the medical tin]. Our cases stand like monuments to a time when we could move about like decent human beings.
The next night was much like the first. The dreams were the same, the aches the pains but the throat has taken over as pain area number one. It is so painful by now that swallowing anything; water, spit, cold tea, is impossible. I have to resort to leaning over the edge of the bed and rolling long strings of gooey gob into my water glass. My lips are now totally chapped. The inside of my mouth feels like the sides of a Bombay sewer. My throat is crippling me. But I know that if I’m losing water at one end it has to go back in the other. So during one of my toilet visits I manage to gargle some more Listerine and it does the trick again. So I stand on unsteady legs, holding the sink with both hands head back gargling, then a sip of water, gargle, spit, drink, gargle, spit, drink. I manage to get all the mucus out of my mouth and despite the shakes and the woozyness in my head I do feel a teeny tiny bit better.
The next morning I’m downstairs by 7.30am. I stare at my Weetabix mush and can’t force even a half a spoon of it down. I stare at it for fifteen minutes before giving up and going to the fridge. The fridge is almost empty. We’d frozen two pints of milk and some bread before going away and this is what we were now living off. The bit of cheese was a bonus. There are also four eggs in there that haven’t gone out of date so I suggest some soft boiled eggs. The old bung em up idea. I eat a half of one and drank half a cup of tepid tea then take off to the Poang.
The continual onslaught of antiseptic lozenge and Listerine is doing something right. I sit with a glass of water taking sips and am managing to take it down and keep it down. The abdominal cramps are now coming about every four hours but the emissions are getting smaller. I decide that what we need is soup. So I raid the tin cupboard and right at the back I find three tins of chicken and vegetable. I wipe em up and take out a pan and then notice they are all a year out of date. Then I remember we have some packet soups. I dig out a chicken noodle one and make it up. I stand dipping the bread into the stock and despite the pain in my throat it feels like a morphine injection. I know that we were going to get better.
We get the soup down along with some bread and retire to our chairs. I can concentrate more now which is a good sign. I’d gone to the toilet and farted and nothing else. Soon proper stools would appear. I would regain my appetite and all would be well with the world.
That night we make sardines on toast. Its a defining moment. We go to bed at around ten pm and the dreams are gone. I awake at five. The shakes are receding. I’m still a little unsteady but the appetite is coming back. The throat is still sore but I know how to fight it now.
I go downstairs, open my case and take out my toothbrush. After bushing my teeth I make breakfast. Three Weetabix, granola and honey. Why hadn’t I thought of honey before? I was mad at myself but knew that the road to recovery was now in full view and that with the honey and the lozenges and the Listerine normal life was out there for the taking.
By day five the only really problem I have is the throat. Mrs Fisher has still got the headaches but the violent shits never did really appear for her. For days now the only thing we’ve talked about is the state of our poo. Its like being on a six month trip round India. I know that once the solid stuff starts coming through again I was home and dry. Literally.
The worst thing about this illness, apart from the obvious, is the ability to not be able to think straight. Its like being given a particularly strong soporific drug. That first day of the illness I sat and stared out of the window for about eight hours straight. No TV, no radio, no PC, nothing. The illness did not allow anything else to intrude. The next day we decided that a bit of moronic daytime TV might be all we were up for and it was but by day three I had regained the ability to concentrate. It seemed like a good idea to catch up with the review pile.
Sat in my Poang with headphones attached I listened to all of this in one straight go:
Olympic Shitman - Supercharge [Harbinger 2xLP/magazine]
Raionbashi & Kutzkelina - Aktion 091216 Berlin [one sided Harbinger LP]
Astral Social Club/Tomutonttu [split 12” on Tipped Bowler]
Astral Social Club - Snaefell/Mocne [Trenmat 7”]
Astral Social Club - Scudding [CDR]
Andres Bick - Fire and Frost Pattern [Gruenrekorder CD]
Tom Lawrence - Water Beetles of Pollardsdown Fen [Gruenrekorder CD]
Ernst Karel - Swiss Mountain Transport Systems [Gruenrekorder CD]
Playing With Words - v/a [Gruenrekorder 2xCD]
Flux of Yellow Daises - ECT Disasters [CDR]
Truant - The Truant Accord [Memoirs of a Flatworm CDR]
Some of it I listened to twice. I really like most of it. Now all I need to do is find the right words.