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Today is the Olympic Opening Ceremony.  And London is ready.  Very ready.  Everywhere we look we see posters, screens, logos, tat…reminding us that The London Olympics is here and raring to go.  Our city is the picture of fitness and health – and everyone in it is too.

But what happens if you are not?  What happens if, unlike the rest of London (carrying torches, jogging round parks, skipping to work in the sunshine), you find yourself shriveling, weakening, crippling?  In short, what happens if you find yourself in the midst of summer, in the run up to the Olympics, enshrouded in a cloak of sweaty, sickly, mucus-ed flu?

Well, this happens, naturally…

I hate the terms ‘cold’ and ‘flu’ mostly because they are inaccurate.  With a streaming nose, cracked throat and sweat dripping from your eyeballs, we all know the very last temperature you feel is cold.  And the word ‘flu’, well that’s just something a Teletubbie would say.

One feels so very wretched when one is fostering either of these ailments. All you want is for someone to bring you soup on a tray, pat your head with a cold flannel and whisper sweet-nothings into your ear.

People often confuse colds with flu, but there is a great difference. Colds mean a sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, headache and earache, lasting roughly 3-4 days.  Flu is all of the above, plus a heaviness of body that turns your bones to lead, your skull to a canon ball, and lasts for weeks, not days.

I recently experienced the latter. In the run up to the Olympics, in the midsummer heat wave, it really was most unpleasant. I struggled through the first 4 days alone, unaided, undrugged.  The next five, I’d had enough and reacquainted myself with my old pals Beechams and Night Nurse.  Surely that would do something.  It didn’t.  By day 10 I was still in the thick of it – whatever ‘it’ was.  I’d been calling it flu but the thought suddenly occurred to me (as I blew my nose raw for the millionth time), what if it wasn’t?  All this time I’d been stoically ‘dealing with it’, shutting myself off in my bedroom, ‘managing’ with courage and valour…for all I knew I was silently dying…of consumption.

I reached for the phone and weakly dialed NHS Direct. I finally got through to a nurse, who told me I needed medical attention.  Since Im not currently registered to a doctor, she had an inspired idea.  She suggested I take my flu ridden body off…to hospital.

I balked at this idea.  Just ridiculous.  Then I sneered.  Then she gave me a lecture.  Then to get her off the phone, I gave in.

Gearing myself up for the outing was difficult.  I was just so weak and tired and…an advert for something Olympic flashed up on the telly.  You’re in the country of champions, I told myself.  Pull yourself together.  Fired up by my new “inner-grit”, I marched out of my house with conviction. You can do this.  Ten steps later, I couldn’t do it.  ABORT.  Heroically though, I continued.  You’re an Olympic marathon walker…just a few more steps…

I stumbled into A&E feeling very sorry for myself. Then I decided to buck up because I was in the home of actual emergencies and wasn’t I lucky I wasn’t having an actual one myself.

I filled in a few forms and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

One hour later…

‘Edwina LANGLEY?’

Startled from my slumber, I sat up and wiped drool from off my cheek.

‘Yes?’ I croaked feebly.

‘This way,’ said the man. The Olympi-man.  The Olympian man guised as an A&E doctor.  Tall, dark and muscly, he was the perfect example of a “London Olympian”.  London Olympians are normal Londoners, but so naturally and perfectly formed, one could easily mistake them for an athlete, an Olympian athlete.

Artist’s impression

As I shuffled down the corridor, I rued the hour I thought ‘ugly’ was the best look for this sort of excursion.  I walked into his room and stood there, vacantly.

‘Sit yourself here, or there,’ he pointed to his chair, ‘or wherever you like!’

Great. He wasn’t just smiley, kind and GODlike to look at, he was funny and strong and…’So what’s the problem?’

‘Err, erm, nothing!’

‘Sorry?’

‘Well, I’ve had this sniffle, but really…it’s nothing.  I’m very healthy.’

He looked confused. ‘Says here, you’ve had it for 10 days.’

I was being an idiot. If I didn’t start explaining my symptoms pronto he’d think I was one of them mugs wot dialed 999 when they stubbed their toe or needed directions to the supermarket.

‘Yes, no, oh, sorry, I was trying to be stoic. I feel dreadful. I’m very ill. Or I’m not, but the person, the NHS person said it was a good idea that I come in…but see, I think I’m fine. I didn’t want to waste your time, I mean, flu – poo! [Yes, I actually said that – I DIE].  Just a sniffle. But the NHS person, them, THEY, said I should come, and well, here… I am…’

‘What are your symptoms?’

‘Tiredness and a blocked nose. A sore throat. A cough – oh and fever. So dreadful, I know its hot at the moment, but last night I promise I sweated so much it was like a Turkish bath, no, a sauna, really quite disgusting…’ [yes VERY disgusting, STOP talking]

‘And err, have you had any… discharge?’

‘What, like…phlegm?’

‘That’s right’

‘Well…’[note to self: never ever visit a hot doctor again]

‘And what colour was it?’

‘What…the phlegm?’

‘Yes’

[What are you doing to me?]

‘Any vomiting?’

‘Sort of…’ [Make this stop]

‘Diarrhoea?’

[What, die-in-here? Yes I’m about to]

The more I looked into his kind, handsome, twinkling eyes, the sweatier, more ill and more rotten I felt.  If he was the face of The London Olympian, then I was most certainly it’s foot: the athlete’s foot.

‘Well it all sounds pretty normal to me. Some people have had this for up to 2 weeks.’

‘Great,’ I gushed, ‘only five more days to go!’  [And then what? A medal?]

‘Sleep and lots of water’

[No.  No medal]

An awkward moment followed where I went to shake his hand but ended up giving a “thumbs up”.  A top-of-the-podium moment for me!

So yes, my heart goes out to all TP readers suffering from flu at the moment.  12 days later, Im still not completely ‘well’, so unfortunately I can offer no advice.  Except, of course, this gem: steer clear of all Olympians, for they only make you feel worse.  Just hide yourself away in your bedroom and bear it; if you’re anything at all like me, you won’t find any Olympians in there.

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