I am home alone on a Friday night. I’m playing Pendulum and cooking chilli. Today I’ve mostly been coughing. The horrible illness that took me out about a week ago is in its death throes. Its dead bits are flowing enthusiastically through my nose, down my throat, into my lungs. Millions of defeated bits of virus, wrapped up in phlegm, trying to choke or drown me.

Last time I broke my rib I ended up with double pneumonia and, eventually, lung collapse. I was 12. It was partly my own fault, owing to my habit of stoicism, but I had no context in terms of relative bad and good. And I knew how much noise some people made when they stubbed their toe. I knew it couldn’t be as bad as that.

Nobody worked out it was as bad as it was until it was too late. Partly my lack of desire to make a fuss, partly my parents assuming I was being a teenager while they were getting divorced. It was spotted by a matron at my boarding school, after the kids sharing a room with me started complaining that my coughing all night was keeping them awake. “You’re coughing all night.” “Yes, but I find I can still get sleep in between fits. I’m used to it now. It’s been like this for months ”

Back then I had nothing to compare it to, so thought that maybe grown-ups coughed for months all the time. Now I think I know roughly what’s normal, so the alarm bells will ring on time.

Today I’ve been doing the old deep bronchitic coughing pretty consistently though. It’s horrible. I’m letting myself cough at the moment, and bringing up what’s needed. As a kid I was mostly told to stop as it sounded vile. I’m parenting myself this time, and letting myself hock. Don’t hang out with me unless you want to hear the inside of my lungs.

I spent the morning with Jack, my business partner, and for him it was a bit like I’d shoved his head down my gullet while gargling oysters. If I’m hacking for more than three days I’m going to go to a doctor. These lungs are tough as hell after all that teenage physiotherapy followed by decades of theatre warm-ups. But I’m not letting it complicate again. For six months of my life I coughed whenever I breathed. Now I need to use my lungs and my voice to make money. Constant coughing is not an option. That coughy year around my voice breaking – it deepened my vocal timbre and gave me useful damage in my vocal palette. But no more thanks. Now I’m the healthy guy. I rarely get sick as an adult, touch wood. Now I can ply my trade. When people let me.

Today we were thinking about Christmas Carol again, practically. The nitty gritty. It’s such a glorious show that it’s worth these conversations. However it pans out, we’ll be able to build into a venue. However it pans out it’ll be a lovely thing to come back to it for a fifth year.

I wonder what I’ll write when I’m in a consistent run of a show. In a normal year I’d have found out by now, but the year I’ve documented turns out to have been the one with the longest theatre gap I’ve ever had. I’m not going to let myself believe that this blog is a jinx. I think it’s to do with my stricture towards myself not to work for too little.

Right now though I’ve cooked a mean chilli and Brian has just come home. Here he is with his gruel and a beer. Friday night.



Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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