Sick joke to play on the home workers

24th March 2000 at 00:00
THE MINNESOTA author, Garrison Keillor, once said a very wise thing to me.

We had met in London where I was to interview him. A tall man, Keillor walked stiffly and strangely, and when we finally got into the recording studio he delivered eight words that I have never forgotten: "It is so good not to be vomiting."

There is a wisdom in this that I have tried to live by ever since. However bad existence may get, at least I'm not on my knees, heaving what feels like my stomach lining into a basin or a toilet.

Sadly, we forget so quickly to be grateful for this fact. Ask most people how they are feeling today and very few will reply: "At least I'm not vomiting".

In fact, the only folk likely to give vent to Keillor's great universal crie-de-joie are those who were up all last night, praying for death, with their heads resolutely down a lavatory pan.

I tell this story because - of course - I have been ill this week. First in an empty hotel in Italy and then in an empty house in Britain while my children clip-clopped happily off to school. Well, actually, they did't clip-clop happily at all.

"It's not fair," said one of my Billy Goats Gruff (I was far too ill to notice which). "How come Dad gets to be ill during the week and we're only ill at weekends and holidays?"

Here we encounter Mourby's First Law Of Perversity. "Only the self-employed get ill on days when they should be working." Were my big strapping daughter Sarah ever lucky enough to be kept at home on a school day, she'd have no problem resigning herself to a life of wall-to-wall TV soaps. Whereas I only had to spend half an hour yesterday, prone in front of old Frasier videos, before remembering how much money this malady was costing me.

Days off aren't too great for people on salaries either. Their cheque may still arrive at the end of the month but their sickbed is deluged with calls from anxious colleagues, busy creating the havoc which must be faced on one's return.

Ill-health definitely gets less enjoyable as one grows up. As I said to my children yesterday: "Treasure the illnesses of your school days. These are the Best Days Off Of Your Life."


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