Body aching like I’ve been thrown several times against a wall. Head hurting like it’s been clamped firmly in a vice, and someone is still turning the screw and I’m coughing like an old tramp nurtured on full tar cigarettes and left out for several days in the rain.
« Can’t give you any antibiotics » says the doctor,
« Just stay home in the warm. Take plenty paracetemol and above all, do nothing. »
And with a flourish of his drug company-sponsored pen, the doc signs off « Here you are » he announces and with a big beaming smile he pushes a form a across the desk
« What’s this? »
« A médical certificate for a week’s sick leave. Doctor’s orders, stay home for a week and do nothing. »
« Nothing ! »
Yes, those are the doctor’s orders – nothing.
Now, there are some people I know who would simply ignore médical advice, and, even with a médical certificate, would crawl into work and work, just to prove to everyone else, that what they do is so important, that no one can do without them, and it is thanks to such « heroics » that a everyone else gets sick.
I am going to firmly follow doctor’s orders
YES you’re ill. You’ve got flu or something nastier and though you are not going to die, you certainly feel in a state close to mortal demise.
Get it into your head that you won’t be fit for work
Doctor’s orders – DO NOTHING.
And that is exactly what I do for a week. I do nothing.
I head home, a shivering wreck. I pop a fistful of paracetemol, pull on a grotty old tracksuit, fill a hot water bottle and then wrap myself in a huge duvet and settle down in front of the TV for a week of nothing.
Yep folks – I’ve spent all week watching TV
The news channels, the soap channels, the shopping channels, the kids’ channels, the vintage re-run channels, the religious channels, the crafting channels.
I’ve watched watched North Korean Missiles tests with non stop beaming faced images of « Rocket man ». I’ve seen Laura Ingells comes to blows with Nelly Olsen, I’ve cruised on the Love Boat, I’ve solved murders with Angela Landsbury, I’ve been to Southfork and back via Falcon’s Crest. I’ve learned how to make « lovely » Christmas décorations and « scrapbooking-style » Christmas cards. I’ve learned how to cook the perfect turkey. I’ve drooled over everything from hot rocks and cool diamonds on the jewelery channel to power vacuums, slow cookers, fitness machines and stairlifts on the shopping channels. I’ve watched Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs all ranting their rants – I’ve had calls to prayer, calls ro reason and advice to bring me closer to God.
And in-between the programs – commercial and more commercials with slippers, surgical stockings, death insurance, more bloody chairlifts, exercise aids for the elderly, Christmas chocolates and incontinence pants and checks for colon cancer and urinary probems for older men
AAAAAGH – If I were old. I’m only 52 and in every bloody ad or programme or propoganda slot for the « elderly » it is echoed and re-echoed «NOW YOU ARE OVER 50 … »
Yes I must accept that at 50 you turn into a gibbering, slobbering, incontinet, piss stinking, disabled, semi senile , pyjama-wearing, slipper shuffling wreck. AAAAAAAGH.
Oh Thank God, I’ve found Boomerang TV on the satellite – re-runs of the original Hanna Barbera cartoons – Scooby Doo, Flintstones, The Jetsons …
Hey, If advertisers think I should be senile at 50, might as well watch some kids TV.
What I have loved about this week in the Twilight TV sickness world – all the mid morning ménopause unf*** your f****d-up life TV –
Forgotten second rate stars back from the grave with a book to sell and a career to relaunch.
The youngish, late fortysomething replastified bimbo looks caringly and meaningfully into the UV gaze of the late sixtysomething soap survivor –
« Tell me how did …
the loss of your pet dog
affect your life ? »
« And what is the subject of your new book ? »
ALL OF THE ABOVE
And in this week of TV watching, I have loved all these heart-tugging broken family shows – like Jeremy Kyle
Get a mid morning TV slot, when all the world’s misfits are just rolling out of bed, and wheel some obese, loud-mouthed, no-brain, white trash dysfuntional families into the studio, get them screaming at each other, and you’ve got one shit hot TV show.
The Usual stuff :
Mother sleeps with daughter’s boyfriend a few weeks away from the wedding.
Husband-to-be is sleeping with his fiancé’s sister.
Father-in-law having a fling with his future daughter-in-law.
And after a venomous slanging match it all ends in tears and a big hug.
When I hear people at work reeling off about their perfect lives and their perfect kids, I always feel that I have kind of failed somewhere in my life, but it takes a week of watching Daytime TV to show me otherwise – aspiring and subscribing to the dreams, hopes and fears of the stay-at-homes – for whatever reason people have to stay home.
It takes all sorts to make up a world, and we all need some kind of place in this crazy world.
Back to work tomorrow – fighting fit and one thing is for sure – the first thing someoneis going to say « Did you enjoy your holiday ? »
Hollowing out a pumpkin – a messy and fastidious business and probably the closest I’ll ever get to brain surgery – anyway Mr Jack O’Lantern is now on the windowsill burning into the dark Halloween night. I can’t say he looks scary, more of a stupid smile …
Sweets are ready too – a big bowl sitting by the front door, awaiting the hordes of ghoulish kids that will soon come to darken our door.
I’d swear that sweets are getting smaller – in comparison to the chocolate or candy bars of my childhood, today’s offerings are tiny – or have I just got bigger? – of course I had to test the merchandise, so few chocolate bars went my way) chomp, one bite, two bites and they’re gone. Increasing obesity levels, rampant tooth decay and a massive hike in cocoa prices – the trend is away from large bars – but no kidding, the size of today’s bars … it’s a joke.
This year, I bought decent « branded » candies – I guess it is in a reaction to all those years I went trick or treating with my daughter and her friends – traipsing round the neighbourhood with a coven of kids in tow, in search of candies – and some people occasionally gave decent sweets, but the result was often crap – cheap candies with near-sounding brand names, from the discount supermarket or the leftover sweets from last year – it doesn’t seem right to have to look at the « use-by » dates on the candy wrapper before your kids can eat it. And what is worse than last year’s Halloween candies? Why, the box of cheap chocolates you got as a gift at Christmas but never got round to eating – stale chocks with « white » surface markings, loaded into your kid’s
Halloween bucket by some seedy-looking old guy – has he washed his hands? DO NOT EAT THAT! You scream at the kids.
There were those Halloween’s of old when I would buy the sweets and then « plant » them with neighbours in the afternoon.
« Oh, the lady at number 21 gave us looooaaaaads of coooool sweets, » my daughter and her fellow witches and wizards would enthuse through mouths full of chewy toffees and bubble gum. (Yeah kids, but that’s only ‘cos dad planted them with the neighbours this afternoon.)
My Halloween nightmare was the lady giving out sugar free cereal bars – what the hell, this is Halloween! A fistful of marshmallows ain’t going to get my daughter tipping the scales.
Okay, I can see some ghosts floating down the drive, better go and fill them full of candies.
Not a peice for those of a delicate post party disposition
Oh to be young again, when the physical scars of a hard night’s partying seemed to heal miraculously in a few short hours.
Flatulence, belching, chronic indigestion, heartburn, gastric reflux, headache and vomiting; those probable unpleasant, pungent, painful and noisy side effects on the afternoon of the morning after the night before … or has it just been one long day that started somewhere in the hazy and undigested recall of the recent past?
Oh, the high price we pay for our brief epicurean episode. Oh, this strange idea of celebration and revelries; gorging ourselves to choking point or drowning in drink until once sensible beings become senseless incoherent idiots talking gibberish and seeing double.
The human body can only take so much, and, at some points, the warning lights will start flashing, the sirens start screaming and the “eject” system will switch into “auto” mode, unless of course you use manual mode and end up on your knees with two fingers down your confessing to the great white porcelain God.
It could have been so easy not to get that far. Everything in moderation. Just a little of what you fancy, but, this is a time for celebration and we go too far.
What is it all for? Welcoming the New Year or marking the demise of the old?
So, it has been a wonderful year and it is only fitting to mark its timely and pre destined demise with due epicurean reverence and revelries or, it has been a truly terrible year and therefore this is the time to exorcise our demons in a ritual ceremony of self destruction in the hope that the on the twelfth stroke of midnight, months of misadventures will mechanically melt away and everything will be better.
And it is in the grey dawn of a dazed and confused drink fuelled stupor that we awake. The post licentious limbo that is New Year’s Day – the fuzzy mourning that marks the first day.
As the day unwinds, so you rewind and then slowly replay the film of the night before. One long bad drunken B movie.
As the day unwinds you remember those you might have invited over for lunch, drinks, tea, dinner, at this time when you are having trouble keeping down your breakfast which was actually the last course of your all night dinner.
Time for booze free, green tea extreme vegan detox and this becomes your new best last resolution that you will keep for precisely two days.
What the hell! We all had a good time at the New Year’s party and we’ll all feel exactly the same at the same time next year.
23 June 2016 Britain votes to leave the European Union, an instution it joined 43 years previously, when it was known as the European Econonmic Community EEC. The EEC was created in 1957 afer the signtaure of the Treaty of Rome. Prior to this, France, Italy, Holland, West Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, the founding members of the EEC, had been in a trade fédération, The European Coal and Steel Community, created by the Treaty of Paris in 1951. As early as 1949, France and West Germany had signed trade accords in a spirit of rapprochment after the Second World War.
So ; you get the idea, for once in its history, a continent that has been ripping itself apart since the Napoleonic era, finally decide to get together in a trading organisation and make money not war. Imagine it as warring neighbours finally getting together and exchanging veg rather than isults across the garden fence.
Britain In Europe
And so we come to 1973, when the British Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath takes Britain into the EEC. We want a slice of the action. In 1973, Britian is in a pretty dire state . After an early 70’s economic boom fuelled by cheap credit, Britian is in serious economic decline, add to this massive public sector strikes and the energy crisis and …
Well in 1973 we are in the grip of the first oil crisis and the miners have gone on strike. British industry is working on a three day week to save energy, there are food shortages in supermarkets, power cuts are the norm and long lines of cars queueing for petrol at service stations become a regular sight. In 1974 there are two changes of government within 8 months. In 1975, the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dennis Healey goes cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund for a huge cash bail out because the UK is bankrupt – Yes, the early 70’s in Britain were not good times, and so it is from energy starved, strike bound Britain that we cast a jealous eye across the Channel. The French and the Germans are doing okay. Those nations destroyed by war are doing better than the Brits. Hang on, we won the War didn’t we ????
A personal note on 1970’s Britain. In 1974 I went on a family camping holiday in France. The pound was worth 8 Francs meaning that us poor Brits could hardly even afford to shop in French supermarkets, we took most of our food with us, yet in France everyone had electricity and there were no petrol queues – life seemed normal.
Joining the European Economic Community will bring better times, and in a 1975 referendum on the question, 66% of Brits give a resounding YES to Great Britan’s membership of the EEC. Even Mrs Thatcher herself voted YES.
The Brits would of course have joined earlier, as early as 1969, however French président General de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s entry. The wiley old General didn’t dislike the Brits, he just didn’t trust them – especially that Churchill guy.
So, that was 43 years ago when living in Britain was still very much like living in the Second World War
The decision by the British people to leave the European Union – has been qualified as a « historic event » – the sinking of the Titanic was « historic » as was the fall of France in 1940. Historic events don’t always make for good history.
Why have the Brits voted to leave an instution, which at first glance at least seems to have brought them nothing but benefits over the last 4 decades ?
Well, the Brits (including Mrs Thatcher back in 1975) were very happy with the free trade, it was in the late eighties when those on the Continent wanted to go a little further that the Brits got cold feet. We didn’t want to get ino bed with these « foreigners »Yes I’ll come up for a coffee, but I won’t have sex, or at least I might consider it, but only if I can choose the position and the colour of the condom, and if you want to do anything kinky, then I’m out of here. » No better way if summing up the British position than a spot of metapohorical flippancy. This from the nation whose aristocraticy has reproduced itself ovr the centuries with the phrase « lie back and think of England. »
Ok, the Brits didn’t want to play ball (or balls) with the Europeans. But why ?
Well, this is where we get into the realms of « Britishness »
Lets look at some of the terms of reference
« Splendid Isolation » – referring to that time from the battle of Waterloo (June 18th 1815) to the signature of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 when the Brits more or less disappear from the European continent for roughly 100 years to concentrate on Empire building.
« The Dunkirk Spirit » – May 1940, the Gremans have thundered through France and the tatters of the British Expeditionary Force sit, marooned and awaiting imminent capture on the beaches in and around Dunkirk in the North of France – appeals are made for all owners of seaworthy craft to leave souhtern England and head for Dunkirk to rescue the soldiers of the beaches. In what was called « Operation Dynamo » hundreds of owners of small boats evacuate nearly 300,000 Britsh and French troops from in and around Dunkirk – so the Dunkirk Spirit – to do the impossible in the face of impossible odds.
« Stand alone Britian. » Those early days of the Second World War when britain stands alone, resisiting Nazi Tyranny.
There are more, but for the last couple of hundred years, the British attiude to Europe has been « better off without », add to this the near xenophobic mistrust of foreigners.
I’ve possibly gone too far in this last one, but the Brits have always cast a beady and mistrustful eye across the Channel as if those foreign types are up to no good and it is better no to get involved.
So, first factor in determining the success of the Brexiteers – this idea that Britain can go it alone. We built an Empire, we won the War, we won the 1966 world cup. It’s a kind of easy and popular generational nationalism based on past glory.
Talking of générations Consider the age of those who voted in the referendum, There are young voters of just 18 who have grown up in the peaceful, globalised Internet age. In the early 80’s it was quicker to get to the Moon than get to Paris from London and phoning home from France to the UK felt like getting a radio message into outer space. Now, the entire planet is one click away and getting anywhere is far easier than it used to be – though on my last travels around the UK driving to Scotland proved far more problematic than driving to Barcelona or Amsterdam. The French part of the journey was fine, the snarl ups started as son as we hit Dover.
Back on age – the génération of my parents – now in their early 80s. Mum grew up in Glasgow in the thirties – the Clyde was bristling with shipyards – she went to the launching of the Queen Mary. Britain had an Empire, and living in Scotland, multiculturalism was all about getting on with the English family who had just moved in next door. This was the War-winning génération. These were the kids born in Empire. These were kids indocrinated in mistrust – just an example – looking at a couple of my mum’s old school history and geography books I retrieved after her death – in history it’s all knights in armour and archers slaughtering the French at Agincourt and Crécy. In geography it’s all pictures of piith-helmetted missionaries administering to local native children who are referred to by the « N » word. I suppose this génération voted on its historical world vision – the last peole to have known Britain when it was « Great ». Remember too, that this génération have always seen Europe as a source of conflict, their parents had fought lived through or in the First World War, they were born and brought up in World War Two. Need I say more.
I might « tag » on to this génération those in the mid sixties to late seventies age group. As for the 50 somethings like me ??? We experienced the doldrums of early 70’s Britain, we were indoctrinated by teachers who had been born in the War but we were the first generation to emerge from the Dark Ages and reap the rewards of European intégration.
Looking at the electorate there is are also numerous regional, political and class divides and within this the fact that many people were not so much voting against Europe, but the pre-dominance of London. Take the example of a lady interviewed by the BBC in a fish and chip shop in Sheffield. She complained about the « London » government foresaking her city – a former powerhouse of the steel industry. She talked about the prédominance of all those « posh » people in London who think of northerners in terms of cloth caps and pigeon racing – for sure, this referndum has opend up some serious regional divides in England. « All the money goes to London » the chip shop lady lamented, « we get bugger all up here. »
This was where the Labour party came unstuck – its leader, Jeremy Corbyn half heartedly campaigned for the UK to remain in Europe, expecting loyal Labour voters to follow the party line no matter what, – they didn’t, but then this also reflect the shifting change in the Labour Party, which is now far more Chattering Class than working class – Left thinking, politically correct, London based intellectuals and bourgeois bohemian types now hold the reigns of power in the Labour Party and as this referendum result shows, they have successfully alienated légions of their traditional supporters.
So, not just a vote against European but a vote of North against South.
Of course this doesn’t expain why vast swathes of the south of England voted for the Brexit – this is where the migration factor comes in to play.
There are roughly one million Poles in Britain, working in all sectors and working in many of those sectors where the Brits just refuse to work – cleaning, agricultural work, catering and service jobs. « What do we do now ? » asked one Polish lady also interveiwed on the BBC. « We haven’t taken jobs, we just do the the jobs no one else wants and after this vote we just feel so unwelcome. »
What happens if all the Poles, Czhecks, Romanians suddenly go home ? Well there are those sectors of British industry that might just grind to a halt. Like the Spainsh waitress living in London who said « this city is run by foreigners. »
Immigartion was the big issue – image after image of columns of Syrians, Libyans, Albanians, Afghans, piling up in the Jungle in Calais the xenophobic campaign led by the Uk Independence Party. That has been the most offensive and devicive part of the campaign – fear of the foreigner. Thse towns like Boston on the east coast of England, where there has been a sizeable Polish community for nearly ten years, voted 70% in favour of Brexit. Dover, the largest UK Channel port where immigrants from Albanai and Serbia have been piling up for years voted 62% in favour of Brexit.
Fear of the foreigner, fear of terrorists, but the terrorists have been here for years. They were British. As far as I can remember those who perpertrated the 7/7 bombings in London were all UK born and bred
Within the immigration issue came the idea that once out of Europe, the UK could once agin control its borders and set immigration quotas and why not stop immigration all together and why not send all the existing immigrants home ? The Brits (or the English) fear being swamped and losing their identity – but don’t cry victory too early chaps, once the UK has left Europe, the immigrants will keep coming. Did you know that the UK Border Force that controsl the UK coastline has only five clippers assigned to the task and three of them have been mothballed. In France though, we have 20 boats doing the same job 24/7. This isn’t the EU, this is a UK government economy drive.
I could go on, but what happens now ?
In simple Brexit terms, British politicans now need to get round the table and negotiate with their (soon to be former) European partners. Naturally the Brits will want to keep all the trade benefits, but what statu sis given to Britain in Europe dépends on just how well or how accrimoniously the négociations go, and just how generous or pragmatic other EU member states are willing to be after this giant slap in the face.
As for Brexit arguments about controls on immigration and former EU membership money (that figure of 350 million pounds a week) going into the national health service, well if it happens, it won’t be for anothet two years at least, if ite ver happens at all. Already Brexit campaigners are busy haunting our TV screens, uttering phrases such as « well we didn’t actually say that » or « well i twas perhaps an oversimplification of the issues. » I just think that the Brexiters have led a « jam tomorrow » campaign promising what they cannot ever deliver.
However I am more interested in the ramifications for the Union – those historic douments and accords that bind the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the principality of Wales. For sure, the Scots will eventually get a second referendum, and perhaps not within two years, but certainly within a génération, they will get their independence. As for the thorny question of Northern Ireland – which voted to remein in the EU – I like the Sinn Fein idea of a referendum on a united Ireland. Oh yes, if we get going on the « Irish question » again, the regtrograde step of Brexit will only look like one small step back compared to the leap back in time that Ireland will represent. Our current peace in Ireland will just be a short historical lull in hostilities. We talk about Islamic fundamentalism and the war agaist Daesh, this will be second division stuff when we open up old wounds. Why not let the Irish, like the Scots decide on their destiny. They want to be part of Europe, let them do it. And of course when the UK does leave, there is the qusetion of all that Eurpean funding that gets pupmed into Northern Ireland.
In England the vote has revealed some cataclysmic regional issues – the power and prédominance of London and the forgotten North. Te régions want power and they want their say – more money from London for the régions and more elected regional assemblies with proper tax raising powers – why not a fédéral model along the lines of the German model ?
I think that our natonal glue is about to become unstuck. What realy keeps us together ?
I might surpise you all, when I say it is the Queen. At 90, she has become a national « grandmother » – she manages to some degree to bind us all in momentary shows of patriotism. It is said that the monarchy is more popular thane ver – wrong. The Queen is more popular thane ver, and when she goes, I reckon the monarchy will get reduced to something along the lines of the Dutch or the Swedish model.
End of monarchy, end of Union, the break up of Britain into a regional or even tribal society, perhaps not, but the UK left Europe also because of top heavy administration and paperwork. By the time the new governance of Britain is sorted out, I think you’ll be in for more paperwork than ever.
Finally in politcal terms ? Well Cameron is out and, short of a meteroical politcla disaster, Boris will make it as leader of the Conservative party, though this doesn’t mean that everyone will vote for him to be Prime Minisiter, but if Boris is the new face of Britain, I guess we’ll all be living somewhere back in the nineteenth century – having said this, he did make quite a half decent Mayor of London, but that is London and not the new fractude Britain. I’m not sure if the Conservative party will be able to pull together after this referendum, and I certainly think that the Labour party as we know it, is dead in the water. As for UKIP, they were only a single issue party. They’ll eventually get absorbed into the Conservative party now they have no raison d’être
And in everyday terms ? Well EU Helth and Hygiene and Enviromental regualtions give us clean beaches, clean restaurants, decent air quality – if you want to go back to shitty beaches, be my guest.
All things considered, it was the Englsih who voted for the UK to leave the EU and for thos reason, I don’t think that we can talk about « Britishness » anymore, because in a few years I reckon that Britain as it is now will cease to exist, and «Britishness » will become a historical concept.
And now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, then the EU is all you will hear about for the next two years as the UK negotiates to leave and in doing so, the national political landscape is redrawn. Yes folks for the next two years ; Europe ill never be out the national media, and those who aligned themselves in support of Brexit will tear themselves apart as they try to negotiate a very British withdrawal.
So, I hear the Brexiteers screaming that this is a revoulution, the people have taken back the power from Brussels and Britain is once again « Free » to determine its own destiny. I don’t know why, but I can’t help thinking of Cromwell or even the Glorious Revolution of 1688. How retrograde is retrograde ? In the latter it was a Dutch monarch who ended up on the Throne and as for Cromwell – well I will let you draw your own historical judgement, but « God’s Englisman » wasn’t as « Christian » as that.
Believe me folks, in a few years, you’ll all be clamouring to join the EU again and if the EU give you a bad Brexit deal, don’t be surprised.
In conclusion, I personally found this a fractious, fratricidal, accrimonious and xenophobic campaign that brought out all that is worst in English nationalism. I can fully understand why any foreigner feels unwlecome in Britain after this result. I wrote on a Facebook post that I wasashamed of my country. I think one should always try to be proud of one’s country, no matter what, but this is difficult at the moment when the Brexit result has confirmed all those more négative, nationalist sides of England – a nation of gentlemen and also hooligans.
Thankyou for reading my lengthy and ustructured diatribe
Might finish this one day, and I might even tell you why I went to the doctor’s; A few common observations on the reading matter on offer down the doctor’s.
In the doctor’s waiting room: the usual age-old, well-thumbed magazines stacked any-old-how high in a ready-to-fall anarchic pile. Magazines always on a how low can you go, plastic coffee-table, in the geographic centre of the room – too close to actually reach with one stride but always too far away to just lean over and pick up a magazine.
Those tired old magazines full of dead news, dead ideas, dead TV listings, dead trends, dead book reviews – Our family doctor is a bit of a motoring nut, so I have elected to read a car magazine – exclusive sneak preview of the stars at the up and coming 2014 Paris Motor Show – how many of those hot wheels are now sitting on the forecourts at second hand car dealers?
Waiting room magazines, repositories of germs and recent history.
The legions of « sickies » who have read these magazines over the years. I am alone in the waiting room, so I take time to burrow down to the precarious foundations of the magazine pile – at the root, a news magazine dating from 2012. On the front page it hails the victory of the newly elected President Sarcoxie. How many « sickies » have pored over the pages of this publication ? What is the incubation and extinction period for germs? I should be reading this magazine wearing surgical gloves and turning the pages with tweezers. Oh dear, I feel contaminated, defiled, where is the user-friendly antiseptic hand wash dispenser? Oh yes, there are yellowing posters adorning the walls telling me to wash my hands, yet, there is no discrete little wall mounted device whereby I can squirt a dollop of antiseptic gel on my hands for a good decontamination.
So, we read the magazines and, there are even those who steal articles. The gardening pages of many magazines have half and quarter pages missing. Gardening is timeless and many a bored patient has carefully ripped a gardening article from a magazine. It is only natural – you are sitting there, just a few knocks away from death’s door, when suddenly you happen upon an article telling you how to grow the perfect tomato. So, you carefully put the magazine to one side and then, when you are the only human in the waiting room, you tear out the article.
I will admit that I have actually stolen magazines from waiting rooms. On time for my appointment, I wait for hours while the wheezy woman in front sits in the doctor’s office retelling her life story. I get « embedded » in some obscure history magazine reading a particularly well researched article on medieval France, and just as the wheezy woman has given in her urine sample and finished telling her life story, it is time for me to pass into the realms of consultation, so, making sure that no one is looking, I roll up the magazine as if it were my own and thrust it deep into my bag. No one will know that I am stealing this magazine, and who will care?
Students of contemporary history, writing a thesis on the happenings in early 21st century France, do not bother with the Internet, do not spend weeks days or hours consulting the nation’s press archives looking for reference material, just spend the afternoon in the waiting room at your local doctor’s surgery.
The opening line of the Rolling Stones song; “Mother’s Little Helper”.
The words take on their full and terrible significance, as I watch my gaunt, octogenarian neighbour, Maurice, pottering around in his garden. It is that moment on a winter’s afternoon, when the light begins to ebb slowly into darkness. All the world is a dirty shade of grey. There is a light snow shower, flakes flurry around Maurice as he leans on his spade staring absent-minded at his frozen patch of God’s earth. He’s here, but he’s elsewhere. Mumbling to himself under his breath, scratching his head and trying to remember why he came out here in the first place.
I’m out feeding the recycling bin it’s daily diet of milk cartons and plastic mineral water bottles. I wander over to the garden fence for a quick exchange of neighbourly banter.
“There can’t be much to do in the garden at this time of year,” I venture.
Maurice looks at me then looks through me. There is a seemingly endless silence.
“Bits and pieces” he muses eventually. “There’s always bits and pieces.”
“So, what are you doing?” I ask, “It’s freezing out here.”
Another long and lazy silence, more redolent of sweet summer lethargy than the biting January cold.
“Don’t know,” yawns Maurice, “There’s always bits and pieces need doing though.”
With that, Maurice carefully props his spade up against the wall of the shed, and drifts up the garden, through the swirling snow, towards the compost heap, fading like a gaunt ghost in the encroaching twilight.
Gastric flu – Yuck – all the symptoms of flu and a tummy doing somersaults when I even think of food. At home on sick leave when I should be at work, because I went to work and caught this crappy condition from a colleague who should have been at home on sick leave.
“I had to come in,” he croaked at me on Friday last: “I’ve got an important meeting about our new project and seeing as I am team leader …”
I know. You are so important and indispensable that you can’t be sick, or are you simply playing at “workplace heroics”. This who normally shine by their mediocrity suddenly take on a whole new aura when they are sick – just one knock off death’s door, they crawl into work as if to say “Look at me. I’m sick, but I came in all the same. What a hero.”
No, you are not a hero, you are like that small lower body aperture where the dun don’t never shine. You are a walking biohazard, a repository of germs and you should be at home, rather than at work pissing everyone off by telling them how ill you are and also giving us your germs.
Yes, I hate the workplace “sick” heroes. They come in many different forms. There are those who come swathed in layers of warm clothing, popping pills and sniffing on nasal sprays. They sit and suffer in silence in a corner in full view of everyone – their aim, to gain the pity and benevolence of co-workers. “Oh you look awful. You should never have come to work.” And later at the coffee machine – “Did you see so and so? He looks awful, but he still came to work.” Oh how sweet.
The other sick hero? Well he or she I have already mentioned. When all around are dropping like flies, our sickie is at work telling everyone just how sick he (or she) really is, BUT “I am here all the same,” whilst in the same breath, roundly condemning all those who have decide to stay home and quietly die rather than crawling into work to die there.
Of course, sickness can be an excellent strategy to rid yourselves of those with whom you are not on best terms – call this the most basic form of germ warfare: your boss for example. There you are coughing and spluttering away like an old car, and you enter the boss’s office to say: “Hey I’m illl, but I’m here,” but also to spread a few germs, ensuring that your boss is on sick leave when you finally make it back to work – ah, a few days without your boss. The same strategy also works with vile colleagues.
Typically French – with the current gastric epidemic at work, there has been an internal memo telling us all to refrain from shaking hands with co-workers or kissing each other on the cheeks – standard daily forms of French greeting. You will pretty much shake hands with all your male and female colleagues. The kiss on the cheeks is reserved for female colleagues with whom you are on friendly terms. So what are we all doing? Germ free High Fives, because in a recent report on health in the workplace, French doctors have discovered that the good old but ver unFrench high five is the most hygienic way to greet colleagues whilst still maintaining some kind of physical contact.
So, one day off so far with gastric flu, but I didn’t manage to get to the doctor’s and I will need a sick note from a doctor to justify my one day absence – yes, this is France and even one day of sick leave needs a medical certificate – no doctor’s note, no pay. Ah for the UK where you can have up to three days “self-assessed” sick leave before having to consult a doctor.