The genuine article;Talkback

26th March 1999 at 00:00
I can tell it's 'flu - I'm off the booze. No, a Beecham's Lemsip, with mulled wine instead of water, a slice of real lemon and two fingers of whisky. No, only joking, paracetamol and alcohol don't mix. This could be fatal, so don't try this at home, least of all in the staffroom.

This is the third day and I kind of rise again and struggle in to work. My classes are thin. Maybe they weren't expecting me back?

Someone says the absentees have all got 'flu. And how my attitude changes. I never really believed anyone had 'flu - they just stayed at home with a cold. Anyone who wasn't there was, in my book, automatically suspicious.

The next day I can't cope, and stay away from school. I lie in bed thinking this is what it must be like to be old, really old and sick. This is a godsent premonition to warn us what we're in for one day and to make us kind around old people.

A Lemsip without the Lemsip, just whisky and mulled wine (I must be getting better now) pushes me into deeper thought. I think of all those people over all the years I've been teaching that I've glared at on their return from sickness. And what's been the matter with you? I've had 'flu, they've moaned weakly.

Maybe they weren't skivers after all. Maybe I've been unfair to generations of students. And what if those migraines that went home, come over funny, at midday, especially on Friday - what if they were all genuine, too?

And then I think of Matthew, a former student of mine, who died of meningitis, and thank God I've never suffered from anything worse than a good dose of migraine and 'flu.

Richard Daubney teaches in the south-east

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