23 May 2011

On the Benefits of being Ill

The experience of the last week or so has been an interesting gastro-socio-philosophico-literary ride.  As I write, I am on sick leave having been smitten by a particularly nasty bug (I won't go into the gruesome detail but, if that kind of thing interests you, google campylobacter).

The Philosophico- Part

I've had a couple of nasty bugs before, of which one almost finished me and another took 14 weeks to get over.  The latest pestilence had me feeling almost as bad as I have ever felt in my life and fearing another long journey back to health.  For the first two days I slept, being physically capable of only the short, frequent and necessary excursions from my bed, and mentally almost lacking the will to make them.  I ate nothing, mainly to starve the invader, partly from lack of interest.

In the midst of all that, I thought of a friend of my Beloved's who was about to undergo drastic surgery and whose prognosis was far worse than mine.  At least I knew I would recover; she faced she knew not what.  It's not that there's 'always someone worse off' to think about.  Feeling how I felt, it was much easier to empathise with her in her plight.  We all-too-often merely sympathise with the afflicted without ever sharing in (or really caring about) their suffering.  We distance ourselves from their hopelessness; it's less disturbing that way.

The Socio- Part

A few days later, and having the benefit of a downstairs toilet, and feeling a little improved, I took to watching daytime TV.  Yes, that's how bad I felt.  Actually, some of it was interesting; much more was mindless.  There are programmes about people trying to raise cash for trivial escapades by auctioning the junk in their homes, or buying dilapidated houses at auction and trying to make fat cash from the investment of a few licks of magnolia.  And the adverts: so long; so boring; so repetitive; so many.

Then I thought of the audience.  What kind of people watch this stuff?  Obviously, people like me who are laid up for a while.  The housebound, who have no escape.  Judging by the adverts, people who are up to their eyes in so much debt they can only just afford the satellite subscription.  Or who have some pretext on which to enter litigation.  People who are easy prey for parasitic organisations that charge for services that are free, like reclaiming your payment protection insurance premiums.  Whoever we are, we still have brains and need stimulation instead of the mesmeric tripe churned out by even the BBC.

For the afternoons, I sought out SciFi programmes.  I have finally had my fill of Stargate SG-1 and the various Star Trek series, certainly I had one episode too many of Voyager (The Week of Hell, in two parts).  Crass, mind-numbing pap.  I think they have all run out of ideas. 

The Literary Part

A couple more days and I was well enough to be bored.  I was no longer prepared to put up with daytime TV and resorted to a much more stimulating medium: the printed page.  Actually, I found a couple of books that my Beloved had acquired long ago and that I had not read.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Skin and Bones by Tom Bale I found slow at first (although that may have been an effect of my then under-nourished brain) but it soon became a gripping read.  Very well written, too.  Now I'm reading Winter in Madrid, by CJ Sansom, which is proving to be one of the best reads I've had in a long while.  The imagery in books truly is better than on TV. 

A bit More Socio- Stuff

In these days when Government is imposing cuts, we are in danger of losing such valuable services as lending libraries.  It's tragic to think that the value of these institutions may have been undermined because of the convenience of daytime TV.  We should be promoting libraries, not closing them.  Yes, I know there's a lot of crap on bookshelves too but you don't have to read it.  Daytime TV is to reading what the naso-gastric tube is to the knife and fork.  The latter allows you engagement and variety.  You can only get emulsified slop through the former.

The Gastro- Part

At the beginning, abstinence from food was surprisingly easy.  The reintroduction of food had to be a careful process.  I had to take only bland food at first so as not to upset my delicate and sometimes painful gut.  As someone used to eating curry and stir-fry, and a lover of chocolate, I was delighted to rediscover the flavour of basic foods cooked simply.  Rice and steamed vegetables were delicious: it was as though my taste buds revelled in their very existence.  Strangely, my first glass of wine and my first square of chocolate last night were disappointingly offensive to my palate.  I'm hoping to recover very soon from that problem.  After all, I lost over a stone in a week and have to put at least some of it back on so I am well enough to return to work and normal life.

Being ill is never fun.  It has however been interesting, providing a change of pace and time to reflect on the things we take for granted. 

And now I am well enough to write again.  Too bad, you may say.  Well you didn't have to read this.

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