The Scottish Patient

My boyfriend is ill. Everything smells of Olbas Oil. There is a trail of tissues running through the flat like a germy version of Hansel and Gretel, and at the end of it instead of a gingerbread house, there is a bearded 28-year-old whimpering under a blanket.

Naturally we like to avoid gender stereotypes wherever possible, and so we will just say he has… ‘hyperbolic flu’. The kind that renders you unable speak in any voice except that of a cartoon vole. Still, he’s a grateful cartoon vole. “Taaank-oo” he snuffled when I made him his third Berocca of the day. “How… how would I survive without you?” he rasped from within his underwater mucus world when I forced him to take some more First Defence.

“Ohh… I don’t mind,” he wheezed when I called to see what the invalid wanted for dinner. Broccoli was what he wanted for dinner, I decided in the end. With loads of garlic because I dimly remembered that it was meant to be good for lurgy. I even let him eat the rest of the Haagen-Dazs afterwards, because I am apparently some kind of saint, but he’s got a Kinder Egg in the fridge that I’ve been eyeing up for three days now.

The truth is I’m not great at the Florence Nightingale act because I’ve never really had to do it before. The sickly person is normally me. As a hypochondriac with a healthy imagination and access to Google on three separate devices, I am never not at least a little bit ill, while he is perpetually, resolutely tickety-boo. Apart from hangovers, I have single-handedly brought all the malady to this relationship.

Before we got together he was barely even familiar with the idea of pharmaceuticals, preferring just to be in pain or burn off a fever through the sheer power of stubborn ignorance. Then I came along and said, in what was probably one of the most useful things I have ever said to him: “why would you willingly feel terrible, when you could have a Lemsip and feel slightly less terrible?”

This has all come back to bite me now that he’s actually been struck down and I have to be matron. When I’ve finished writing this I have to make a fresh hot water bottle, pick up the tissue trail, plump the pillows, fetch the Strepsils, do some sympathetic clucking noises and say, “the bad news is, I ate your Kinder Egg. The good news is, here’s a tiny plastic car!”

But it’ll all be worth it in a few days’ time, when I catch the same plague. Then order will be restored.