Time once more to go through the medicine cabinet. It is the time of year for colds and coughs, and my son has already had a very nasty hacking cough, no doubt obtained from school; as school headmaster Seymour Utterthwaite said (in "Last of the Summer Wine"), a veritable breeding ground for germs.
At work, various people cough their way around the office, and germs are spreading, invisible to all, in the air. Isn't it a shame there isn't a kind of spray which would make them glow, or show up, so that you could avoid patches of "infected air"?
And so time to get some cough pastilles in the house, stock up with Night Nurse, and so on. Night Nurse sounds so promising, like one of those dream sequences in Dennis Potter's Singing Detective, where all the nurses in the hospital do a can-can. Instead, however, it is an evil green liquid, which doesn't taste quite as bad as fairy liquid, but almost as bad. I always think that after drinking such a horrible concoction, one should fall to the ground, making groaning noises, and rise up again as Mr Hyde. Regarding cough sweets, I'd recommend the Buttercup ones; sucked slowly, they act like an intravenous drip of the syrup down the throat.
If you don't want the Night Nurse, a warm Lemsip or Beacham's Powder (which sounds like a Victorian remedy) will do; if you haven't time, it's in a handy pill or capsule form. So there's more to stock up on.
And of course, along with the Night Nurse is Buttercup syrup, which actually does taste quite nice, in a kind of organic environmentally friendly way. Then there are the sore throat sweets, now almost always with an "anesthetic" action. In fact, if you have a sore throat almost any kind of boiled sweet or fruit pastille will help; it is the sucking and swallowing that does most of the work. But just in case the specialist sweet has "ingredient X", I buy these things. The old cough sweets become stickier over time, and are almost impossible to prize off the paper they are wrapped in. At school, of course, they were handy because you could have sweets in the classroom quite legitimately. I used to munch my way through packets of Zubes every winter term.
What happens is that as the winter goes on, colds and coughs hit everyone, and there is always something left over. A dreg of cough syrup, a cup of Night Nurse, a few cough sweets, and one or two strips with powders and tablets remaining.
On top of that will go all the summer medication, the allergy pills to remedy hay-fever, the antihistamine cream to soothe insect bites, and the pungent roll on or spray on "jungle" formula to keep away the mosquitoes. It is really so repulsive and strong that, alas, it will keep anything else at bay as well.
Then there are the Rennies, and the Gaviscon, and Settler's Tums, all inclined to be helpful when one has overindulged over the festive season, or any other time, for that matter. We each have our own favourite, which works well for us, so all three are in evidence. I myself tend to favour Gaviscon; I tried Rennies for many years, but a side-effect was incessant burping and a rumbling stomach. Annie always used to comment on that, and complain that it could keep her awake, and anyway, it was not nice to kiss someone who was burping in your face. I think she had a point.
The headache pills come in handy when you haven't got a cold, just a headache, or backache, or toothache, or indeed any number of aches and pains, including joints in the fingers. I'm sure those result from standing as "left back" on the football pitch as a boy, in freezing winter winds, clad in only a white shirt which became icy cold, and shorts. Could I sue the school? The warmer shirt was the brown one, but that was also prickly. Why do they make these things? Is it in inherent sadism in the clothing manufacturers, or is it part of the hearty Tom Brown's Schooldays masochism?
There is TCP. Indeed, there is always TCP, for dabbing on cuts, and giving a distinct odour that almost is as effective as the Jungle juice for keeping other people away. For milder treatments, and less anti-social ones, the well-stocked hypochondriac should also have Tea Tree Lotion and Savlon.
And now it is Winter again, and some of the stuff deep buried in the perma-layer of the medicine cabinet has been there for a few years; I've been lazy, and just stocked up with new stuff on top or in front of the summer stuff. So after a few years, it is time to go through the medicines, and also get rid of those odd antibiotics that you should have completed the course on, but didn't. Please don't tell my Doctor.
Spring cleaning is sprucing around the house to make it fresh for the summer; winter cleaning is removing ancient medication from the medicine cabinet to make that fresh for the winter.
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