On Sickness, Health, &c.

Joel Golby

I had a cold this weekend [1], which was obviously good in the way that I had a no-kidding beautiful woman cooing over me and nursing me back to health with such as lemon drinks and head-strokes – mainly out of guilt, although, seeing as she did give me said cold in the first place – but also it (the cold) was not so great to have as my own personal head felt like it was filled with some lymphatic glue and plus I fell fully and unconsciously asleep in random three- or four-hour bouts of deadness, just utterly dead sleep, stirring back to life and looking puzzled at the book I had been holding all along, my shoulders just covered in my own dribble, and it felt like I was having ‘some turns,’ and plus again the whole affair reminded me of various traumatic days of my youth when I was sick and my Mum was looking after me.

[1] I know, I know. There, there, ME. Pity me. Pity me for I am unwell.

When I was sick I had this whole routine, a whole to-do, a performance piece I would enact each time I was even remotely suffering from the ‘under the weathers’ to convince the decision makers that I was indeed sick enough to not go to school, that day [2]. The stage was a squidgy and off-white chair in the corner of our dining room; that backstage odour, normally giddy and heady and of sweat and greasepaint, instead was of various tinctures and plus Vicks Chesty Cough; the costume, ornately stained pyjamas. My Mother, coolly smoking [3] and fighting hard and sleepily to conceal her eye rolls, would sit there, at her chair, the rapt audience.

[2] I do not know if it is only me, this, who had The Fear, but I always felt when I was a kid that I was missing out on some key pieces of learning when I was off sick, or even actually for about a year had this paranoid fancy that the kids in my class were merely pretending to go home at night, and actually, as soon as I had thresholded the school gates, would all turn with relief, upturn their chair from back up on it’s desk, pick their buttons and press-duds open on their warm winter coats, and sit down to an extra lesson in either i. geography or ii. maths, unheeded now by my contagious idiocy. Also Saturdays. It took me a while to admit myself that I was just bad at algebra, here, and it wasn’t just some massive conspiracy (please do not know tell me otherwise it would be too much for my poor heart to bear)†
†although, legitimately, one day I returned from a Wednesday off sicksies to find that, in my lieu, the class had learned not only apostrophes but also bullet points too, a grammatical crippling that I think, in some respects, I carry still to this day, especially as Mrs. Borriden, a hard-ass if ever there was one, straight up refused to go over the old ground and catch me up, here, so I was doing ‘its’’ and ‘month’s’ right up until, in some cases, about a week ago, and what I am getting at, here, is fuck you Mrs. Borriden.
[3] cool as in aloof to the sufferings of her only son, not cool as in The Fonz, I stress

The whole to-do, in order: I would decide, upon waking, and by making a HUD Terminator-style approximation of my own personal health, that it was below 30% and that I was doing that angry and mangled face like the guy out of Doom, and so I would tiptoe down the stairs very tepidly, and but here is the key –  I would pretend I was totally okay and carry on with my usual routine of having a big shower and preparing myself some piss-weak and floaty-bit adorned tea and some just ridiculous and huge bowl of cereal [4]. This was key for, just as I was ready to exit for school, I would do a Columbo-like U-turn and sit, again, on the squidy off-white chair, and just stare dully into mid-distance and go, like, “just give me a minute, here,” and eventually my Mambly, who had undoubtedly rumbled me from the start and probably endured this whole to-do for her own private benefit – just to watch disappointment unfold in real time, I suppose – would finally play along, and go like, “are you not feeling well, then?” and I would pause and then admit no, I wasn’t feeling so hot, perhaps it would be better if I not go in, today.

[4] at this point y/h/a is looking down at his own personal bowl of Chocolate Weetabix Minis – which have been recast of late as Weetabix Chocolate Crisp and which I do not agree with at all, this, because the selling point is the size and not the texture†, Weetabix, and plus they go soggy in milk anyway because they are Weetabix – but anyway yes I don’t suppose things have changed, much, because I still take overlong showers and am always mad at some stupid thing and think cereal is an acceptable dinner.

‘No Maria, I had a cold’: Telling My Sister’s Cleaner That Those Weren’t Wank-Rags in the Bin

– a v. short story, by Joel Golby

The hero of this story – a man, yes, and an unerringly handsome one at that, unemployed but available, e-mail to enquire, and certainly most certainly not the narrator of this piece or some mangled approximation of such – had been ill, the week prior, while cat-sitting at his sister’s house. His sister, who owned the house in question, had a soft spot for these just incomprehensibly broken and unwell cats that require entire handfuls of pills to be shoved down their collective maw every morning before breakfast, and one who had a thing for just licking the gravy off his dinner and leaving the meat, dry and unwanted, in the bowl, and was called Benny, and again this is not at all based on real life all the characters are cats are entirely fictional.

But anyway and so: throughout the course of this week-long sickness ordeal, the man, being too stricken to empty them, had filled up circa two entire IKEA bins with used and (TRIGGER WARNING) snotty tissues. Two.

[Your narrator, who again has no vested interest in the integrity of the character – and who, just for the sake of ease, we will call, like, I don’t know: ‘Noel’ – would like to reiterate the snottiness of the tissues, here. As in: not spunk.]

At this point it would be remiss to mention that on the Friday, before the sister of the character got home from her Mother’s house in Devon armed with fudge, that is the day that the cleaner [1], a bustling woman called Maria, would come around to the house to do two hours of bleaching and cleaning and, most crucially, bin-emptying.

[1] the middle classes, man.

It is only when the key had wiggled in its lock, when the cleaner had waved a hearty ‘¡Hola!’, and that an amount of hoovering had happened under and around your hero, that he realised the bin full of tissues might look: somewhat suspicious. Like, as if I – he! – had spent the week in a wanking frenzy.

‘Those aren’t – I mean, I haven’t…uh.’


‘As in, I had a cold. Hence the tissues.’


It was at this point your hero realised he was in too deep.

‘YO LO NO WANK-O!’ he shouted.


I mean, while we’re talking about bollocks – which we were, pee ess, that’s sort of what that last story was about, and not, again, me – it would be again remiss of me not to mention my recent brush with hypochondria. I have never especially been one for whipping myself up into an alarmed and foaming frenzy over unchecked symptoms i.e. a practising hypochondriac – and, indeed, the performance pieces I did was a kid were just to exaggerate my actual illness to secure a day off, ostensibly recuperating although this one time I did play Theme Park World so hard I got a legitimate headache – although but, when (TRIGGER WARNING) scratching my balls this one time a few months ago I felt a pinch. A twang. A twang in my nadders. This, I felt, was uncool.

I think every dude fears for his own personal bollocks because in the grand scheme of things they are kind of important to the whole masculine identity and plus also it really bloody hurts to like get kicked in them or whatever. There is probably some great biological irony in the fact that nads, while attached to gruff and rough warrior-types (myself not at all included in this: for reference, see cereal for dinner, Ibid.), i.e. dudes, are so dangly and fragile and exposed, while the meat of the female reproductive system is all wadded and folded up inside their bodies, robust as all heck. What I am saying here, is, and this is without experience: I think I would rather take a kick in the fanny than in the balls.

But I worried about my balls, post-twang, my achy balls, and most particularly my right ball, whether they were being kicked in or not, alternately pulsing and humming at various intervals as they were. I had visions of lady doctors snapping on latex gloves and shaking their heads, sadly. I saw myself performing one final and clinical wank into a cup. I wondered how much play I would get with one teste and none of my lustrous hair. I pinched and rolled said bollock between forefinger and thumb, my eyes rolling up and to the left, my tongue prodded out, the face of doom. But then I felt nothing untoward so I ignored it.

This, the ‘ignoring everything bad and hoping for the best,’ was hardly a tactical masterplan, no, but one I had employed before to some degree of success [5], mainly when a wardrobe fell on me when I was five. So: one time, when I was five, a wardrobe fell on me. It was a pretty bulky wardrobe, all mahogany-stained wood and up on little wardrobe-legs and mirrored, on the front, with this sticker that looked completely old but I must have put there, irremovable from said mirrored front, in the corner, advertising a ‘Woolworth’s Kids Club!’ I never once remember attending. The wardrobe was a spare, in our spare room, and filled with clotted plastic bags with old clothes and scraps of material in, and spindly unused coat-hangers, and slippery piles of photographs, and various ephemeral junk, and obviously, as a child and an idiot [6], I was climbing all up inside it.

[5] zero success
[6] and I am basically still both, yes, and as such can totally see this happening again

At some point between me clumsily and precariously grappling over so many mountainous piles of junk the whole ensemble fell on me, entirely, with a massive ‘KER-THUNK.’ I was fine – it was like ‘in the movies’ when the side of a house falls upon a shambolic hero, who stands safely and perfectly in an unbuilt window – only I was a child, bemused and suddenly in darkness, squished by bags, poked by hangers, and my first thought was: “uh oh. Uh oh, I am probably in trouble, here.”

(See, when a wardrobe falls on you, there is a window, to scream for e.g. help, and that window is in the first second-and-a-half of the wardrobe falling on you. You probably don’t need telling this, I’m assuming.)

Then I thought: “it has been about a minute, here, of me lying prone underneath a wardrobe, braced for a shouting at that has yet to materialise,” or, you know, something similar that a five-year-old would think. Then I thought, like: “hmm. Should probably shout for help here, or something.”

By this time somebody, my Mambly, the hero of this story, had noticed her son was, for whatever reason, trapped under a wardrobe, and with help from my Dad had wrenched the thing off me, while screaming. Screaming just like crazy. Screaming, bewildered, such as: “why didn’t you just shout for help?”

I do not know what the moral of this story especially is other than ‘there have been a series of incidents scattered throughout my life that might suggest to my Mother that she has a brain retard for a son,’ but anyway, and I know you’re all wondering: my balls are fine.

—October 5th, 2011

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