Out of the fog.

Warning – I am reliably informed that some of my descriptions can be considered by some people to be less than tasteful, and by others to be utterly disgusting. I’m a microbiologist, have been for a long time, and have worked with so many revolting things that a mere noseblow is of no more than sticky interest. Sometimes I fail to see the problem.

Today I blew a lump out of my right sinuses that was, I think, worth suffering three days of total knackery just to get rid of. I have not breathed this easily for a long time. Cold weather plays havoc with my sinuses, my right side bungs up so often and so badly that I hear my voice echoing in my head. This is due to an accumulation of inhaled dust and particulates, and no, I do not believe smoking is involved at all. It forms a hard mass which is really difficult to dislodge until a heavy cold fills my face with fluid. This makes the hard mass into a gel and if you catch it just right, it shoots out like a plasticine bullet.

Every cloud has a silver lining it seems. Three days of feeling like absolute crap did at least clear that accumulated mass I knew was building in there but could not remove.

My head is clearing, my sleep patterns are random (came home from work at 6:30 and went straight to bed but I’m off tomorrow so can re-adjust) and the world is coming slowly back into focus. I have Lochlan tonight – I still have the Ben Bracken from when the cold started but I’ll stick to the cheaper stuff until I have all my taste buds back online. No sense wasting them.

One point of rage (coincidentally just before blowing out the lump) came when I had to buy a pack of ten cigarettes on the way to work. Oh, I have plenty of leaf but had no strength or drive to shred and stuff it. I thought, the hell with it, I’ll just get a pack of ten. Just this once.

Four pounds. Four! That’s eight shillings per fag, and those were the cheap ones! You could buy a car for that when I was a kid. Needless to say, I have forced myself to shred baccy tonight.

It’s probably not an exaggeration. My first car was a MkII Cortina in around 1978, I paid £75 and it wasn’t worth it. So in the sixties, a tatty banger for a fiver would not have been impossible. It is indeed very likely that you could have bought a fully fiunctional, if battered, vehicle in the sixties for less than the price of a pack of cigarettes now. In another twenty years I bet you could say the same about houses.

Anyway, the sand I’ve been thinking through is draining away, I no longer cough like a dog with croup and I am no longer losing all the water in my body through my nose. My chest still feels like every interstitial muscle has been explored by a rogue midnight surgeon trying out his new rib separators but that will fade.

It’s interesting to observe the effects of this three day cold now that it’s nearly over. Wednesday was a day of unusually harsh cough but I didn’t see what came next until Thursday when it hit with full force. Friday was less hellish than Thursday, and Saturday, although I felt drained all day, wasn’t really as bad as the days before. Now, at nearly 3 am Sunday, I am almost fully recovered. Some spontaneous sneezes but the croup-cough is pretty much gone and the nose is breathing just fine. Yet there were time in the last three days when I just wanted to lie down and sleep. Now it’s clearing I’m wondering what I was so bothered about.

Dealing with a cold, I think, involves 1) not letting it win. Keep doing stuff. You’ll do it slower and you can’t concentrate on details but keep moving. Once the cold gets you on the ground, you’re stuffed.

2) Stay hydrated. The amount of water coming out in the sweats and from your nose can be alarming. Keep putting more in. Unusually for me, I do not recommend whisky as a rehydration method. Beer is better.

3) Sleep a lot. With extra covers on the bed. The cold will give you chills in the early hours. Keep warm and add extra hours to your sleep times. Don’t follow the ridiculous orthodoxy of ‘I must go to bed at 10 pm’ or whatever. If you are shattered at 6pm, as I was this evening, go to bed.

4) Eat. You won’t feel like it. Eat anyway. I found those little 3-minute microwave pizzas very useful here. Not too much at one time but you can have them lots of times. It doesn’t matter what the food tastes like because you can’t taste it anyway. Just get something in there. Cheap crap will do just fine.

Okay. Nearly back to normal here, or as near as I’m ever likely to get.

Beware, whisky suppliers. I am back!


25 thoughts on “Out of the fog.

  1. Top tip for colds: Avoid paracetamol as it actually makes the cold last longer cos it is an antipyretic and the raised temperature is your body’s way of killing the virii. Sure a fever makes you feel like shit but take ibruprofen or something else. Personally I find that lying in a bath hot enough to melt the cellulite from my arse and sweating for a good half an hour tends to sort out most colds after a couple of such treatments. It’s all about raising your core body temp to kill the little viral fuckers….you’ll know you’ve got it right when you get out of that ‘sweat bath’ and pass out (no joke, it can happen very easily). When I win the lottery then there will be a proper sauna in every property I own but until then Monkey Baths (ooooh oooh ooooOOOOOOOOH!).


    • “It’s all about raising your core body temp to kill the little viral fuckers….”

      After feeling limp and sorry for myself for a couple of days, generating a burning and persistent rage at the sheer audacity of any virus to invade me seems to fulfil that function.
      A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. : )



      • “After feeling limp and sorry for myself for a couple of days”
        Being very male I just whine pitifully at The Bestes Frau In The Whole Wide World to come and minster, nay tend, to her DYING Lord and Master- who is departing this Vale Of Tears.


    • Yup. Although it really comes down to dose for all substances, phenacetin and paracetamol are best avoided altogether. Incidentally, those heat stress symptoms cross safety margins to enter Heatstroke territory. Risks are reduced when you steadily acclimate (and seriously limit the evening’s intake of alcohol!) 🙂


    • BD, doesn’t Ibuprofen also act as an antipyretic? I agree with your “a temperature is good” analysis, though within limits: once it starts playing kissing games with 104 you definitely want to take something to get it down: too much danger of moving into bad territory up there.

      – Michael


      • Yes AFAIK Ibuprofen does have some slight antipyretcal effect but not really enough to make a difference in the sort of doses it can be safely taken. Of course when the temp goes above say 39C point something then it becomes a risk in it’s own right and needs controlling but most colds never get anywhere near that degree…most barely get above 38C. Infact it’s the easy way to tell the difference between a cold and a flu .Flu will give you a fever and maybe make you dead…a cold will just make you wish you were!

        [BIG BOLD FONT] I should add that i am NOT medically qualified to give any health advice – incase any Tweeties happen to chance upon my comments here. Consult your physician before taking any bath hot enough to poach your testicles [/BIG BOLD FONT].


        • “Consult your physician before taking any bath hot enough to poach your testicles ”

          Heehee… I have a bit in TobakkoNacht on this, comparing wisps of concentrated smoke to normal 24 hour exposure averages:

          That is what is meant when researchers cite figures for peak concentrations. Such figures are completely meaningless when com-pared with the EPA outdoor air standards for contaminants inhaled and exhaled with every breath, for 24 hours a day / 365 days a year, but that is exactly the comparison Antismokers make when presenting these “smoking in cars pollution studies” to the public. For individual tiny discrete moments, the air quality in a particular few cubic centimeters of space in these cars could indeed be far worse than the EPA’s level for 24-hour constant and inescapable exposure. Actually, if that were all the air one had to breathe, it’s unlikely even the hardiest adult would survive for a single hour. But in terms of a moment of exposure, it’s kind of like having a cup of coffee at 160 degrees and taking a tiny little sip from it – you’ll enjoy it and your health won’t be damaged at all. But if I immersed you in a cannibal’s kettle at 160 degrees for 24 hours, you’d be soup. Heck, you’d be deader than a hard-boiled egg in 24 minutes!! That’s why you should ignore the “peak readings” in stories about studies like these: they’re nothing but a propaganda tool used to frighten innocent people.”

          Not that I’d particularly mind seeing some poached Antismokers’ testicles floating in bowl of soup. Wouldn’t eat it, but I’d enjoy seeing it…

          Perhaps Legs will feature such a delicacy in one of his future horror stories…



    • It seems the good thing about the intense infection is that it’s over quickly. All I have now is a bit of residual sneezing and a general run-down feeling – and six pounds of weight loss in three days. That can be rectified in short order.

      The ‘mild’ cold is worse, that can drag on for a week or more.

      No paracetamol here. That stuff damages your liver and I need mine. I use it every day.


  2. My first car, which I bought off some gypsies in 1969 was an Austin A35 pick-up, and cost me £15 – so two packets of fags at today’s UK prices. It was (understandably, at that price) a heap, but it got me all over the place for about a year or so. What I liked about it was that although the battery was fucked, it had a starting handle, which you would insert through a hole in the front bumper to engage with the engine inside. Amazingly, it would start very easily, and usually only required one turn (with a little bit of choke) to fire it up, even on cold mornings. Worrying about flat batteries was not part of the pains of ownership of this model! The heater didn’t work, though, so winter was a bit of a trial. I wondered for a while why the steering wheel would shake violently when I got up to 70mph, and then discovered that I had two completely different size wheels on the front (well, it was ex-gypsy). I found another correct size at a breaker’s yard, and peace at high speed was restored.


    • I hate to think what that A35 would be worth today…

      “Didn’t have the money round to buy a Morry Thou” so my first car was a ‘gift’ (and remember the word ‘gift’ means ‘poison’ in German!) from a mate in the Bundeswehr. He’d been pretty much living in the thing and we took two black plastic bin bags full of empty pizza cartons, beer cans, used condoms, used tampax and general bachelor detritus out of it when he gave it to me. Had to use a bit of silver fag packet foil to repair the distributor finger and it had no syncro on 1st and a choke handle made out of a washing peg.

      Had the old round bulbs in the headlights and on a wet German Autobahn in Winter at night , holding my lighter outta the window would have kicked out more lux!

      Loved that car – aka Jemma The Tree Frog- but who doesn’t love their First?


      • I once had a really bad cold and blocked sinuses. After numerous attempts at dislodging the accumulated gunk, one particularly gooey lump escaped the waiting handkerchief with such force that I actually HEARD it hit the floor…

        “I hate to think what that A35 would be worth today…”
        Anything from £2,500 to £10,000 or even more…

        Did all my early driving in Mini’s, so no starting handle. But they had the same “A” series engine, and could usually be “Bump” started easily. The Mk1 versions also didn’t have synchro on 1st gear, so I taught myself to double de-clutch. The transverse engine put the distributor and ignition leads right behind the grille, so the first deep puddle normally mean coasting to a stop, followed by much squirting of WD40. Various “DIY” methods were tried – the most popular being a Marigold rubber glove with the tip of each finger cut off, for the plug & distributor leads to pass through. The sleeve fitted nicely around the distributor body, and this “bodge” usually kept the water out.

        Modern engines don’t have plug leads any more – just a hideously expensive combined coil & cap, one per plug. And don’t try push or tow starting one – there’s supposedly a risk of damaging the catalyst if it fires with unburnt fuel in the exhaust.


        • Ah, I remember stripping a carburettor in the kitchen – while smoking. Those were the days.

          Look under a bonnet now, all I see is a lump of plastic.

          My most economical car ever was an Austin Princess, the wedge-shaped one. Used hardly any petrol. It completed most journeys on the back of an AA Relay truck.


    • Heh! Nice one! On the subject of glow-worm headlights, that reminds me of an experience I had in 1970 (or ’71) when I was hitching to India (again – 3rd time). I was in a town called Villach, Austria, near the (then) Yugoslav border, and I got talking to a couple of guys in a bar (as you do). They offered me some money (DM, but can’t remember how many) to drive a car over the border for them, thus avoiding the import tax. Of course, being the chancer that I am, I agreed. There were, it transpired, two crossing points near Villach: the main one on the road to Lubljana and another, much smaller one in the mountains, which of course was the one I had to take.

      The car was an ancient VW Beetle, and when I got in, I found that the driver’s seat back was broken and flopped onto the back seat and there was no gear knob, just a metal rod with a threaded end. I was also told I must hit the border post just before it closed at 10pm. And it was the first time I’d driven a left-hand drive car. So I set off early evening, timed to arrive at the border just when all the guards were getting ready to go home. The mountain road was horrendous, all hairpin bends and no barriers, and it started to rain. That’s when I discovered that the windscreen wipers didn’t work. Then it got cold (I was gaining altitude) and I found that the heater didn’t work. Then it got dark. And that’s when I discovered that the headlights were less use than the sidelights on most cars, emitting a feeble orange glow barely illuminating the road three feet ahead…

      And all this perched on the edge of the seat, as I couldn’t lean back.

      To say it was a memorable drive would be an understatement.

      However, mission accomplished. The border guards, as anticipated, just wanted to go home, and just waved me through with barely a cursory glance at the papers. I managed the descent the other side (despite the constant brake-fade, which was a tad scary), delivered the car and got my DM and a lift to Lubljana.

      I should really have known better. I’d done a similar thing with a car a couple of years before (between Bulgaria and Turkey), and ended up being thrown out of Turkey without my passport, and thus unable to go either back or forward.

      But that’s another story.


  3. I didn’t know that about paracetamol – it’s usually my first choice when it comes to cold remedies. I shall look out for alternatives in future. When it comes to natural medicine, I usually choose a well-stoked curry, or chilli-con-carne to sweat it out. Oh and lots of fruit juice.

    I’ve never owned a car, but my first boyfriend’s car was a Ford Capri and I still go weak at the knees when in one, even now. Sigh, those were the days.


  4. During my visit a few years ago to the fair British isle, I was attacked by something I can only call The Mucous Monster Disease. No particular symptoms OTHER than producing the most embarrassingly prodigious quarts of flowing mucous and sneezes. Just lasted for three days or so, but it was TRULY notable!

    – MJM


    • Could have been worse, MJM.

      Medicine: Death in the Smoke
      Monday, May. 11, 1959

      “It does not take “a London particular” to send cough-racked Britons to their beds —or their graves. The tight little island’s air is tightly packed with pollutant particles, boosting the bronchitis and chest-disease rate to the world’s highest. Last week Dr. Horace Joules (rhymes with rules), of London’s Central Middlesex Hospital, painted a Dickensian picture of what a medical nightmare the past winter had been in the city which some Englishmen still call “the Smoke.”

      “We are a great community hospital of 800 beds,” said Dr. Joules, “but during February and March we ceased to be a general hospital. We had to suspend all admissions except emergency cases of chest and heart disease.* In those two months we admitted 616 such cases, and 196 died. The hospital really was an annex of the mortuary. If there had been a few days of smog, there would have been a holocaust in London.”

      Echoed Edgware General Hospital’s Dr. Hugh J. Trenchard: “It is time to panic.”

      *The two are closely related because failing hearts may be fatally threatened by breathing difficulties.”

      I was five.


    • Mind you, it appears that your side of the Atlantic was no better at the time, if somewhat less damp.

      The Boston Record
      Boston, Massachusetts
      December 30, 1959

      Lung Cancer Cause

      “A man who has devoted his scientific career to a study of the causes of cancer warns that air pollution is a more important factor than cigarette smoking in the increase of lung cancer.

      He is Dr, Wilhelm C Hueper, chief of the environmental section of the National Cancer Institute at Bethesda, and he makes the significant observation that the upsurge in lung cancer first was noted between 1900 and 1920, several years before the practice of cigarette smoking was widespread.

      Boston, having one of the most serious air pollution in the entire United States, cannot fail to be impressed – and disturbed – by Dr Hueper’s findings.

      We have always suspected that there was a connection between our contaminated air and the fact that tuberculosis is more prevalent in Boston than in any comparable city, and Bethesda studies support that suspicion.

      The next session of the Legislature would do well to pass laws against the needless poisoning of the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks.

      Other places, notably Pittsburgh, have proved the wisdom of screening out the fumes and ashes which currently rain down upon Boston and other cities, damaging human respiratory systems and undoubtedly shortening thousands of lives.

      Enlightened Massachussetts ought to be able to accomplish at least as much in the public interest.”


  5. My first car was a MkII Cortina in around 1978, I paid £75 and it wasn’t worth it

    One of my first cars was a ’60 era Hillman Minx. I took it from a junkyard because I liked the look of it, and the mechanical parts were dead simple and almost bullet-proof. The electric part was another story, and I finally had to simply start up front and replace wire until the thing worked, then sell it to a stranger.

    Young people today cannot afford to be as auto-centric as we were; it’s not so much the price of the car, it’s the tolls and fees and required insurance and government imposed monies to be spent before driving off that make it so expensive here.

    My grandfather treated a cold to hot toddies, administered early and often. Sometimes he administered them so early that you could hardly tell that he was feeling ill.


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