I like to think of myself as pretty healthy. It's certainly rare for me to have what you'd call a Sick Day. Being freelance, if I call in sick, I don't get paid, which is not the reason I don't have days off, but it's an incentive to make sure I'm not tempted. So yesterday was quite a shock to the system, and a blow to the cashflow, when instead of spending the day drawing caricatures at a corporate event in Essex, I spent the whole day in bed, unable to move except for sporadic staggers to the loo to open up the sluices at both ends. Yes, I had food poisoning or a stomach bug. Could I have got it here..?
Hardly likely, but I could have I picked up the lurgi germs when I was in Belfast on Thursday and Friday doing a live masterclass and interview on BBC Northern Ireland which you might be able to see online here. (Not in the studio itself, I'm not saying I got it in the studio! PLease, I want to work for the Beeb again, their studios are spotless!) It remains a mystery I might not solve as to where exactly I ingested something poisonous. No mystery about the end result. On Saturday night, after a quiet night in watching Dr Who and the rest of the telly, doing some writing work and not drinking, I noticed feeling a bit hot (it was a humid night, but we put the fan on for the first time this summer) but was otherwise fine when I went to bed.
I then found it hard to get to sleep, my mind keeping itself awake despite my best efforts. I think my mind knew what was coming up. At 2am I got up and threw up. Not pleasant. Tried to get back to sleep, failed, didn't get any cooler or more relaxed, then at about 4am I was up again with vomiting and diarrhoea (can I just add that, every time, I made it to the loo. This was a hygienically controlled explosion from both ends). All this time I was convincing myself that I was going to be okay to go to work tomorrow. This would necessitate me setting off in the car at 8am, getting to my venue in Essex for 11.30, drawing caricatures until around 5pm, then driving home. I spent the remaining waking hours, when I should have been sleeping but simply couldn't, working out when I would get to every motorway service station and how I could hold it all in until then. When I found myself a-spewing and a-pooing again at 6am and 8am I knew that wasn't gong to happen and, pausing momentarily to marvel at the clock-watching regularity of my bowels and immune system, I phoned the client, made my apologies, spent a little longer in the loo, and returned to bed.
Where I stayed for the rest of the day. My body, having elected to keep me awake throughout the normal sleeping hours, now chose to knock me out and make me so tired I couldn't even sit up and read. It was quite a pleasant feeling of being anaesthetised, relaxing me to such a degree that I couldn't even manage to feel guilty or frustrated at my inability to work (and did I mention how many hundreds of pounds this was leaving me out of pocket?). By mid afternoon I managed to move from the bedroom to the lounge, where I then vegetated for the rest of the day, occasionally getting the energy to sit at the laptop and to read, but not a lot more. I consumed a glass of orange, a peppermint tea, a cup of weak tea and two satsumas. I am seriously hoping I lose some visible weight as a result of this diet. Today, a sleep later, I'm back to normal.
So what did I have? Food poisoning or some other stomach bug? The news is full of a ecoli outbreak in Germany, coming apparently from beansprouts, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything to do with that. Googling "stomach bug" on Twitter I find, anecdotally, lots of people suffering from similar symptoms. Whether this is what's going on every day of the year, or whether there's a low-level epidemic, who knows?
If it was something like a norovirus, or contamination you pick up from surfaces, where could I have possibly got that from? Saturday we ate in the cafe of Spike Island the art gallery, on Thursday I flew to Belfast returning on Friday night inbetween which times I ate in a Wetherspoons, the hotel, the Ulster Museum cafe, a small cafe, the BBC canteen, and the airport. Oh and I did a masterclass with 30 kids in a TV studio, drawing a caricature of every one of them, and shaking hands with most people in the crew. If there were any germs bouncing around in any of those places from any of those sources, I was in line to get them. Heather, by the way, wasn't ill at all.
Anyhoo, all better now, just felt like making a record of this in case it ever comes in handy. Back to work.