When Ray Mears was asked if he’d rather be too hot or too cold he took another bite of his Cornish pasty and stared into space. ‘Too cold,’ he said with a mouth full of macerated beef and potato, ‘…because if you’re too cold you can always get warm (swallow) but if you’re too hot you can’t always cool down.’
With the weather approaching temperatures that require dedicated air conditioning units, I pondered Ray’s opinion as I picked up my one-year-old son -one again suffering from both a cold and a temperature wrapped in some sort of ironic paradox- and found myself in the familiar position of sort-of knowing what to do, thinking it through and then realising that I don’t actually know what to do at all. Again.
In this instance, the issue revolved around keeping him cool on the hottest day of the year. I figured he needed cooling down with water, but then should I close the window in case the breeze blasting the moisture on his skin turn him into some sort of pneumonia-contracting fridge? Of course, I could be being completely paranoid so I fluctuated uncomfortably between two schools of ignorance as the all the temperatures rose exponentially. Then he threw up.
We’re sort of getting used to him doing this now but he doesn’t usually do so much, and in front of horrified friends that we’d had over for a spot of tea and a chinwag on a Saturday afternoon. Actually, when I say we’re getting used to it I mean we’re not getting used to it at all, it still retains the power to shock, what I mean is that we’ve seen him throw up before and we have knowledge of how awful it is, just like when you or I throw up. Similarly, one mentally thinks back over the past few days, or hours, and tries and work out the source of emesis.
In this case, the suspects, in order of notion, were initially related to temperature/teething but this was partially countered by his planting a small hand into a large pile of green birdshit earlier that day in the park. I didn’t see this particular event but my wife and our friends/witnesses saw the excrement on his hand and no one could guarantee he’d not checked out this new phenomenon orally. And there was always the ongoing possibility he’d ‘picked up something’ at the nursery the previous day, either way, whatever it was, had disagreed with him all over the floor.
That night, as per usual when he’s not feeling well, he slept with us. I like it when he sleeps with us, even if he somehow seems to occupy all of the bed and the likelihood of my being booted in the face and, as he gets bigger, nuts, increases sevenfold. When we woke on Sunday it was apparent that whatever had upset him was long gone. I, on the other hand, woke with my back in knots. When I was a kid I sustained a motorcycle injury that perforated a disc in my spine. I manage the injury by short visits to the gym and ensuring I sleep on my side with a pillow between my knees. That week, on account of a bunch of deadlines, the gym doors stayed sealed shut and it would seem that my young charge had forced me out of my preferred sleeping position the previous evening.
As I lay about groaning in front of Sunday Brunch I barely noticed the missus complaints that, ‘she didn’t feel so good.’
‘Try a bloody slipped disc!’ I countered, inwardly.
By lunchtime, the back nor the missus felt any better. By teatime, the better-half was better but my spine was still wrecked and, worryingly, I’d begun to feel a little nauseous.
By early evening my guts were groaning, I’d begun to pay regular visits to the bathroom in order to empty my knackered back then, at about 9 pm, it began.
I was already lying down in denial of what was coming, that awful place when you know you’re going to be physically sick at some point, it’s just a question of when… Though you assure yourself the nausea will pass and you’ll return to the bosom of normality unscathed. I’m sure that happened once. Maybe when I was a child? Not today, Buster.
I hobbled into the bathroom, I knew I had to perform on all fours as it was essential I kept my spine straight or it might actually break in half. I spent a while with my head lowered into the bowl gulping in fetid odours with a view to getting things going -the use of fingers was out of the question as they needed to be firmly planted on the floor to keep my back straight. The first wave erupted into my chest almost breaking my sternum, then another muscle that only exists for the purposes of puking forced a lump of matter out of my wide-open gaping mouth and down the length of my now inordinately long tongue. I’d eaten very little since breakfast aside from some twig ‘n’ gravel granary bread from Tesco which had been drier than Moses’ swimming trunks, still, I was genuinely surprised at the effort involved in pushing the stuff out. My other end, on the other hand, seemed only too willing to relieve itself of its contents.
The nausea subsided, then those ten precious seconds of euphoric wonder when you feel sensational and you’re thinking, ‘can it be true? Will this be the time I just do one and that’s it? Could it be…?!’
Each time I paused between these horrific sessions, during that lovely feeling of exultation (Hosanna in the Highest! Etc.) I could hear the little fella chuckling next door playing his plastic keyboard safe in the knowledge his mum was there to take care of him. I thought of single parents. How do they cope when this sort of thing strikes their household?
I tried to lie down, I was coated in a cooling haze of sweat which suddenly became clammy. Another hot wave rose up, bloody Ray Mears, I wobbled back to the land of the tiles and resumed barking obscenities at Armitage Shanks. I guessed that they’d just have to bring their little ones in to witness this disturbing spectacle, reassuring them all was well as they continued to be the opposite of anything that indicated it.
After half an hour I was done, five kilos lighter with my disc hanging out like a flashers dick, yet feeling oddly grateful I could simply shirk all parental responsibility and just go to bed to recuperate… I lay in bed, drained, imagining if I had no-one. I wouldn’t be able to loll about, I’d have to be up to change his nappy, make him tea or breakfast, clean up all of those pasty crumbs that Ray Mears’ left all over my bloody rug.