When a particular, loathsome season is rather long and damp and chilly (and a particular populace favours obscenely heated shops and restaurants, the turgid air relieved only by a brisk schedule of briefly-opened windows) there is an air of inevitability to getting ill. Little colds, big colds, the flu, gastro, sore throats – winter here is a buffet of sicknesses that pass from person to person, despite everyone’s faces being swathed in scarves and high collars for five months on the trot. Immune systems, begging for some sunshine, warmth, and citrus fruit, are perilously low. As temperatures drop, and the weeks go by, people become increasingly wary of anyone sneezing in their vicinity. Sales of fennel tea skyrocket.
A fortnight ago, I touched wood as I said we were lucky to have arrived in March having skipped a particularly gruesome winter, one that’s menu featured the Grippe Welle (flu wave … how much more ominous does Grippe Welle sound?) and a vicious case of gastro. It seemed our quick brushes with snot and off tummies in Singapore were likely a combination of germ-riddled planes, jetlag, and curry. As Magen-Darm (gastro) raged, and the Grippe Welle kept ebbing and flowing, I felt like a unicorn, prancing about in full health, with a lustrous, snowy white coat.
As the sun began to inch out (and inch back behind mists and fogs and 2 degree days of endless grey) and people boldly began to talk of spring, and as the birds began to sing, I succumbed to gastro. A week later, so did the Lüdde in what became her first attack of the vomits (which utterly repelled and mortified her sensibilites). Now she has a cold, straight off the back of the gastro, barely a 12 hour break between the two. The last remaining unicorn of this winter, is SG. The sickhouse beckons, will he succumb? (Hopefully not. I need him upright. This pregnancy is advancing and I can’t quite pause it.)
Germans are extremely sensible about being ill (surprise!). They stay home. They load up on various remedies (tea …) and they wait it out. They don’t go to work and snot and cough and sneeze and genereally infect others, simply because they are worried about being seen as weak. (This approach is something Australians, for example, could learn from.) They go and sit in a waiting room with tightly closed windows and snot and cough and sneeze on similarly infected people, in that gross yet useful medical stalwart, the Sprechstunde. They collect their sick note, their drugs and teabags, and they go into hiding. Body contact is limited. Hands are not shaken in greeting or farewell. It dawned on me quite late, that perhaps one of my classes wouldn’t want me coming to teach them, having spent the day wading in my daughter’s vomit. Apologetically, I gave them the offer to skip the class, if they were concerned about contracting an obviously contagious shit of a bug, but let them know I was more than happy and healthy to take the class (don’t think I am weak! Or chucking a sickie!). Obviously we cancelled the class and they reduced their risk of spending a week being drained of their bodily fluids.
So, here we are. A gorgeous day in the middle of March. The sun is out, the birds are singing. The vomit has been replaced by the, admittedly highly preferable, snot, and we are waiting it out. I am about to run down to DM and buy out their eucalyptus oil supplies (us Aussies fancy a bit of natural healing ourselves).
Winter, you can rack off.