Im-Patient

Theoretically, I'm a big fan of germs. When I was little I regularly indulged in fantasies of romantic invalidism, in the way that only equine-constituted youth can. My wan, rained-upon, white-clad and somehow nineteenth-century self would sport heroic stoicism in the face of vague, consumptive wasting-away. Handkerchiefs, blood, jutting clavicles: you get the idea. The suffering would inevitably be deepened by betrayal, cruelty and a spot of mildly kinky sadism from some swarthy piratical cove. My imaginatively striken self was a kind of unholy mashup of Job, Goethe and Marianne Dashwood. In reality, I'm just unholy. Quite possibly the worst person at being ill, ever. While my body battles germs, I battle my body with all the equilibrium of a thwarted toddler. Forced to stay at home, my post-holiday zen has been destroyed in a sea of phlegm and other more southerly fluids, and I have taken to the aqueous invasion with neither grit nor grace.

I tried cleaning the entire flat, as if I could kill the bacteria within by blitzing those in the oven. I tried working manically until I started typing emails that appeared to be in demonic code. I tried a few yoga postures. I failed, messily.

I'm now trying a bit of rest, and fluids, and all that irritating, predictable, passive stuff. Except for writing a blog post, obviously.

The only redeeming feature has been the chance, in my more lucid and less lymphatic moments, to devour Pilcrow, the extraordinary novel by Adam Mars-Jones that has been sitting on my shelf for far too long. Narrated by John Cromer, a boy who suffers from the rare and debilitating arthritic condition Still's Disease in bleak 195os middle England, it is a dense, delicious tapestry of wordplay that hilariously and movingly locates searing emotional truth in the defamiliarised details of adolescent life, from Peak Frean to cold toast, Etch-a-Sketch to snatched boarding school sex.

I loved it, and you should read it, although deep down I'm not convinced that John suffers quite as much as me.

I'm moving onto a bumper collection of Ex Machina; nothing befits the sickroom better than a comic or two. If things continue their steady decline, I'll be on Imodium and Asterix in no time.