When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Land of Counterpane
That has been one of my favorite poems since I was a child, especially when I was sick and in bed, as I am now. (And, no, it is not The Man Flue, I have an ear infection and a fever, thank you very much, but I’ll soldier on despite the pain.) Appropriately enough, I do have three pillows at my head, but unfortunately, my toys these days consist of a BlackBerry, a WiFi enabled laptop and a box of tissues. Useful, to be sure, but not as much fun as leaden soldiers.
As a rule, I attempt to avoid illness, especially now when I know that, in my misery, I will not be able to surround myself with the familiar comforts of home.
As a sick-bed must-have, Campbell’s Chicken Rice Soup is number one with a bullet. Dress it up with extra rice, some garlic salt and there is no better cure-all this side of a Jewish Grandmother’s kitchen. Tragically, it is unavailable here. I look for it all the time (always nice to have a few cans in the larder, just in case) but have never found it. This, naturally, has led to some experimentation with native ingredients. Bad idea.
Nyquil is also among the missing. As is a qualified pain reliever. British aspirin, in addition to being doled out in packets of sixteen tablets, has the curative properties of tap water, and the various aspirin substitutes are not far behind. I think it must have something to do with what we are brought up with—the drugs we take as children must get into our chemical structure, making us immune to foreign drugs. This is why I always have a large bottle of Aleve on hand—it is the only drug that seems to work for me, and I have to have it shipped in from the States.
To be fair, there are a few indigenous comforts I am learning to adopt to ease my convalescence along. The main one is tea, simply because they have better tea over here and there is nothing like a nice cup of tea when you are feeling poorly. Add to that a steaming cup of Lemsip at bedtime and you can forget about American drugs. For four hours, at least.
But I know I’d be up and around by now if I just had a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Rice Soup.
If you look in my medicine cabinet you’ll find Dioralyte, the kids’ diarrhoea-stopper and general miracle powder, Tyrozets, the throat number and general miracle lozenge, and Feminax, the answer to any cramping woman’s prayers. I can’t find anything close in the US so every British guest is asked to bring at least one of each in lieu of the usual Cadbury’s chocolate, Branston pickle or Marmite. (Yes, I sacrifice all of those for decent British drugs.)
I can’t say I agree with Mike’s assertion that American drugs are better/stronger than their British counterparts. When I showed my lady doctor the list of ingredients on my Feminax packet she was aghast that the stuff (codeine) was sold over the counter and advised me to be very careful. Given that I am usually parenting at least one child, I usually take half the recommended dose of Feminax unless I really want to pretend they don’t inhabit my world. Powerful stuff.
And then there are the British foods and drinks I consider must-have’s for recovery from anything:
- Lucozade. Vile, orange, fizzy stuff that meant (in our house) that you were really quite poorly. It served the same purpose as Gatorade, replacing the stuff you lose when you’re dehydrated and can’t eat, but (dare I say it) tasted even worse. Ah, good times. Pop over to the web site BTW, they’re giving away an I-Phone an hour.
- Night Nurse – Actually, it’s probably exactly the same as NyQuil, but doesn’t the name just scream TLC – if you know what I mean? That reminds me of the conversation I once had with my paediatrician when one of my kids had really bad flu. I mentioned that the Night Nurse was working wonderfully, and noticed a momentary look of shock on her face. I realised that she thought I had hired a night nurse to deal with the child through the night, and immediately clarified the situation. Despite being English, I am not royalty!
Vicks Vapour Rub– spread so thickly over your chest that it makes your eyes sting and stream for hours. You can actually buy this in the US, but it doesn’t seem to be the staple that it was for me as a child and my kids won’t let me anywhere near them with the thick gooey stuff ever since I put some under my sons nose and accidentally got it on his chapped lips. He screamed so loudly I think the neighbours were a little concerned. Americans go for the gentler versions of Vicks – vaporisers, light creams and other namby-pamby treatments.
Oh and as Mike says, soup is always good. Only for me it’s Heinz Tomato Soup all the way.
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