I can proudly announce that my Christmas objective this year was achieved. Not one member of our small family unit were ill on Christmas day! It was truly a victory against the odds. My reason for this objective was that last year we missed Christmas and instead we had Illmas. It was a fever-drenched, puke-covered, sleep-deprived, snot-riddled washout of a holiday and as the festive season loomed again, I began to twitch nervously. So, based purely on post-traumatic neuroticism, I began my campaign to keep the family well.
Stage one of my battle plan against the bugs most vile began on December the 1st. The children and I began an advanced immune boosting diet of every vitamin known to man, plus Echinacea, tea tree, woundwort and essence of St John. My son particularly objected to the Junior Echinacea pills, which I then periodically found scattered in all the dark corners of the house. My son also had the flu jab and booster for the first time, having previously viewed it as only for the weak and pessimistic.
Stage two was ‘illness avoidance’. I viewed any social gathering purely as disease minefields. Before having any child over for tea they were subtly symptom-checked. Hopefully this was subtle and not just rude. Then my poor mother succumbed to an apparent ‘migraine’ two weeks before Christmas. She insisted it wasn’t the Noro nuisance but I saw through her masquerading and promptly banned the children from going anywhere near her for the entire fortnight. When she tricked me into going round by pretending to be at death’s door I then washed my hands like a maniac about every 30 seconds. My father phoned and accused me of having OCD. ‘It’s not being OCD, it’s being OCSensible’ I retorted, which actually didn’t make any sense.
Stage three was more hand-washing.
‘Don’t read the front page of The Telegraph’ a friend helpfully texted, whilst I was in the grip of my paranoia. ‘More than half a million people struck down with norovirus’ it sedately screamed. I texted my sister and told her to boil wash all Mum’s sheets.
Stage four was manically touching wood at the merest mention of illness, Christmas or anything health-related.
Then they started to fall like flies at school. The numbers in the playground dwindled. I watched the children like hawks and, it was with a sinking feeling of inevitable dread when my daughter started coughing and then developed a fever in the last week of term. After all that, I thought, the bugs had won. But then, against all the odds, we didn’t catch it, she rallied, made it in on the second to last day…and then I did something morally debatable.
Stage five was switching into siege mentality and, against all my goody goody instincts, I kept them both off school on the final day of term. They looked pale, wan and vulnerable and I really felt that that last day would have been the clincher. They would have caught the BUG, and we would have fallen like skittles. So we bunked – we slept in – we merrily mooched – we strolled in the park – we were well!
Christmas came and went in a triumphant flurry of wrapping paper.
My husband went back to work and I took the children to the Museum of London for something free to do, and we found ourselves in a little black room watching a video on the spread of the Black Death in the 14th Century. On the 1st of November 1348 the Bubonic Plague reached London and, out of the population of 70,000, 20,000 people died within two years. Now that really was something worth being paranoid about.