Do You Know the Definition of Man Flu?

No, neither do I! But I'm fortunately in that my other half and I are pretty healthy. I can not actually remember the last time either of us visited the doctor – except when we went to get our flu jabs. We've reached that sort of age, you see.

Consequently, I do not know much about the symptoms of Man Flu, other than what my daughters tell me in respect of sons-in-law. But when I had that jab, I found myself suffering with the female version. And boy, did I suffer! You know the sort of thing? Sleep having greeted you overnight, you wake up next morning feeling utterly ghastly: stuffed ears behaving as though they've been pumped full of the insulating foam that lines the cavity walls of your house (unless you happen to have shares in British gas); Throat believing it's swallowed a golf ball, if not a tennis ball; Head exploding; And nose like a blocked drain in need of a plumber and a plunger.


I do not know the cure for Man Flu, but hey! You're female. You gotta get out of bed. And doing the washing is woman's work. (What is it about men and a washing machine?) Whatever – it did not get done over the weekend because you were trying to reduce the ironing pile before adding to it again, and a great heap now awaits you on the bathroom floor, Scattered, because the family, if they noticed it at all, simply took it to be a novel bath mat. As if that's not enough, there's a living to be earned. And if you work from home, as I do – job-sharing with my husband – there's no way you're going to get out of sitting in front a computer for at least part of every day. You groan.


Your mother rings. 'You sound terrible', she says. But as she continues you realize that this is not so much sympathy for you as self-pity because you're not going to be a blind bit of use to her. She does not want to get what you've got, you see. You love her to bits, and you realize that at her great age, her needs are probably greater than yours. But what answers can you give her when she's desperately in need of a holiday from your father and his dementia, there's no one else to look after him, and guess prevails her from putting him into reply care. You listen, make what you intend to be soothing noises but actually sound more like a bull-frog in the mating season, and try to reinvoice what your sister's been telling her.

Then your sister rings! 'What do you think we should do about Mum, Mel?' You'd like to be a time-traveler to some ethereal Desert Island, and give essence of Death Cap to both your sister and Alexander Graham Bell. Life could be sweet without the phone.


Your daughter rings to ask if you're well-enough to look after the twins next day because she's on a course. 'Of course,' you lie. 'What time does it end?' She tells you to have an early night, to look after yourself, and you know, because she's a mother, that she understands the feasibility of such advice. Next morning, she brings you her inhaler, and you hang your head over a rising mist of menthol which scraps the skin off the back of your throat more effectively than nitro mores on varnish. The twins, fortunately, are subdued. Perhaps it's the sight of grandma's red shiny nose and scarecrow hair that make them look askance, as if she's a stranger to them.


Your husband buys you some of those decongestants that make your tongue feel as if it's been hanging around the Sahara Desert for the last decade, and points out, lovingly, that they're the non-drowsy sort. You do not tell him, but you long for the drowsy sort which will give you the excuse of dropping off on the sofa after lunch. And then you spend night two in a state of demented hyperactive sleeplessness – only to discover that the stimulants in the non-drowsy formula are the cause.

By Wednesday your limbs are aching almost as much as your ear, throat, jaw, teeth, neck and head. Is this the result of the flu you deny you have, or your fight with the duvet, the pillow and the mattress? After a cocktail of meds, you feel sick to your stomach, and the idea of ​​falling under a bus seems infinitely more appealing than the (illegally) offer of a holiday in Hawaii would be. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday run into each other in a sticky pool of snot and nausea.

Then comes today! And another article due. Hey, you think, I'll just let my readers know that I'm a little off color, and ask them if they'll mind if I keep it short and sweet for now – just a sentence or two. So this is it folks. Sorry to let you down. Hope to be back with you pretty soon!