The archaeology of a sore throat

15109440_10154619520775396_7999203122052647292_nIf you don’t mind, I’d rather we called it pharyngitis. That sounds more impressive. I get it annually, but this one is a real doozy. I haven’t been able to speak at all for three days, and it doesn’t look good for the weekend either.

Never ask a boat-dweller ‘Is it cold in the winter?’ With the stove lit constantly, the atmosphere inside can be very dry and hot, much more so than in a house. A hint of woodsmoke is lovely, but the inevitable puff of ash when you clear out the grate is less so. Some of it must end up in my throat, and since my voice is my fortune I lose my living for a few days. It hurts and it knocks me flat for a while, but it’s nothing epic. So I can step back for a moment and look about me for evidence.

The material culture of mild illness is similar to that of a cafe. Mugs, bottles and glasses for a hot toddy or herbal tea; the kettle which sits on that stove top to keep the air moist; a pan and bowl for soup. A cheap spoon in a jar of wildly expensive honey which (hold the front page) really does seem to make a difference. Add to this the paraphernalia of self pity, in a time and culture when the patient can afford to rest for a couple of days. Here is a scatter of plastic-and-foil blister packs, there a heap of blankets and cardigans on a comfortable sofa. A pile of DVDs, a Kindle, reading glasses, a box of tissues.

It’s an assemblage which reflects human experience in the early winter, replicated in homes across the nation. And there are many people suffering much worse in the way of illness or seasonal difficulty. All the same, this afternoon when I went into town for a doctor’s appointment I appreciated the fresh air of November a little more than usual, and the berries of the newly-leafless trees seemed particularly bright.

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