In late December some twelve thousand people in the Netherlands had the flu, two of them under our roof. Our baby son started showing the signs on Christmas Eve, signalling his discomfort as best he could, which is to say with indiscriminate shrieking. We are hoping that by this time next year he will be capable of simply announcing ‘Listen, I’m really feeling rather poorly, how about shoving some more of that paracetamol up my bum,’ thereby saving us all the trouble of a misdiagnosed ear infection, the antibiotics prescribed for which resulted in the worst nappy rash ever seen outside of a Moldovan orphanage.
For me the flu had the good grace to wait till after Christmas dinner, allowing for a little time to enjoy the good cheer, although less than there should have been: we’d delayed our arrival at the in-laws in an effort to avoid catching my sister-in-law’s flu, seeing friends at home and catching it from them instead.
I felt the onset in front of the telly around 9.30 pm, just as Hugh Grant was flirting with the tea lady and Colin Firth was jumping into a lake to fish out his manuscript and Portuguese housemaid. Initially I chalked the sore eyes and headache up to the fact that this was the twenty-third time I’d seen Love Actually. But it was the Flu Actually, and it laid me up for a full week, leaving my husband to care for the sick baby – an activity only marginally less pleasurable than what he would otherwise have been doing (marking 140 Advanced Quantitative Something-or-other exams).
New Year’s Eve we celebrated together, which is to say apart, in separate rooms, me still in my facemask and enveloped in a cloud of Dettol. Resolving that 2018 will be the year of a household handwashing regime stricter than a military hospital. And thanking the Lord (in whom neither of us believe) that if we can be quarantined in separate rooms, that means we are lucky enough to have separate rooms, and indeed lucky enough to have one another to be separated from. All well and good, although the point could be made with rather less of the vomiting next year, thank you very much.