My household has a spring cold virus, and it's like the Walking Dead in here - Gaby Soutar

Paint a big red X on our front door. Better still, build a new street on top of ours, in a Mary King’s Close style. We have been hit by the plague. Well, not really, it’s more of a spring cold. Definitely not Covid. We have swabbed.

Since we both started working from home, we’ve caught fewer of these common or garden viruses. This time, it was my other half’s fault. He had to go into an office meeting, and dragged the lurgy back home, like a cat with a decomposed mouse.

As he felt the disease descending, he uncorked the Vicks First Defence, but to no avail. This Goliath of a cold needed more than a little pebble in a catapult.

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He succumbed to the bug first. I was later, but it has affected us very differently.

Woman sneezing and blowing nose with tissue and handkerchief. Pic: AdobeWoman sneezing and blowing nose with tissue and handkerchief. Pic: Adobe
Woman sneezing and blowing nose with tissue and handkerchief. Pic: Adobe

I hesitate to use the words ‘man flu’, because that might suggest that he’s hamming it up. He genuinely always seems to get much worse symptoms than me.

His sinuses appear to be wired like a shonky plug, so any cold migrates into his skull. His skin turns the same colour as an owl pellet. He looks desiccated, and is misery incarnate. There are sleepless and sweaty nights, and he survives on a single poached egg a day. He had to take almost a week off work.

I tiptoe around the flat and have learnt not to ask “what’s for dinner?”. All catering services are temporarily suspended.

As you can tell, my bedside manner leaves much to be desired.

I actually think I’m in the doghouse, for going out and leaving him, during the peak of his lurgy.

To be honest, it didn’t even occur to me that staying indoors while your partner is under the weather was the done thing. After a quick Google on cold etiquette, I discovered that couples actually do that. You’re supposed to hover around, in case they need emergency resuscitation, moral support or someone to administer the Night Nurse, while singing the matching UB40 song.

He was asleep most of the time, is my defence.

When he felt his worst, it was over my precious weekend, and there were films to see – Monkey Man AND The First Omen, in case you were wondering – and exercise classes to do.

Food to eat. Pals to meet. It was even a little bit sunny.

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And, when I’m at home, it’s not as if he communicates anyway, except with a few grumbles as he skulks from crypt to bathroom and back again, with his dressing gown hood up, like an angry capuchin monk.

If I crept beside his bed, to mop his brow with a wet flannel, like they always do in films, he’d be so irritated. I suppose I am a rubbish nurse. I’m only one hobbling incident away from being Annie Wilkes in Misery.

As his cold reached its zenith, the kitchen surfaces were littered with his arsenal of medications: Sinutab, those sucky throat lozenges, inhalers, Paracetamol and neti pot paraphernalia.

We were about a week in at that point, and I thought I’d dodged it. No such luck. Just as he turned a corner, my catarrh kicked in.

It happened during a very enjoyable performance of This Is Memorial Device, at The Traverse, so I’m sorry to anyone I might have infected. It’s a one man play, and it was very silent in the theatre, with a single voice and occasional blasts of soundtrack, written by Stephen McRobbie from Scottish band The Pastels.

I gently blotted my leaking beak, Victorian lady style, and tried not to honk. At the end, my enthusiastic clapping was muted by the huge ball of tissue that was clutched in my grip.

I knew I was a goner. The next day, the virus was at full throttle.

I had to stuff tissues up my snout, but only on one side. I’ve often wondered if it’s just me who gets asymmetric colds, which make me feel like a Picasso portrait. Answers on a postcard.

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When I was a teenager, my mum used to tell me that nobody would marry me, if I walked around with these veils hanging out of my nose. But I got the last laugh, since there WAS a sucker available to accept this vision of beauty and poise.

My flat was soon strewn, like a hamster’s nest, with my tissues. Or bog roll, if I’m being honest, since we’re not classy enough to invest in proper Kleenex. That stuff is reserved for the wealthy, with their silken nostrils.

The main symptoms were a brief sore throat, tiredness and a runny nose. I carried on working. It was no biggie.

I had a few crazy fever dreams. Nothing major though. Just a touch of nudity in public, and penguins.

The third most prominent symptom was hunger. While he didn’t eat for about three days, and felt queasy the whole time, I was absolutely ravenous. Nothing would quash it.

I was craving thick slices of cheap white bread and butter, as well as cinnamon buns and iced gingerbread. I rediscovered my love of toasted crumpets.

They do say feed a cold, but this was an overly greedy beast. It was like being Siegfried & Roy, having to pay for the pre-show dinners of a troupe of big cats.

Over the course of my cold, I gained three pounds, and he lost the same amount. It was the Jack Sprat of viruses.

His and Hers versions. And neither was man flu.



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