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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Evidence that Fran has been single-handedly supporting the cough sweet industry for a fortnight

'Do you know the little rhyme about coughing?' I asked a sixth former at school on Thursday.

We were discussing the problems associated with having a cough. I've had a hacking, violent one for two weeks now, one of those in which your insides make a strong bid to become your outsides. This is fine if you're at home and can bend over double in your own kitchen, but not in front of a class of 25 teenagers watching you cough and hack like a tuberculous hag throughout an explanation of the difference between a dash and a hyphen. 'So, you see [cough cough cough], whereas a dash is punctuation and can be used to [hack hack hack] separate clauses in a sentence do excuse me while I open this cough sweet [cough cough cough], a hyphen is used to create [desperate, panicked sucking on cough sweet] compound words [hack hack hack inhale sweet].'

No pupil wants you to come to their desk to help with their punctuation exercises, either, when it's like having a eucalyptus plantation check your work.

The sixth former hadn't heard the coughing rhyme. 'Tell me,' she said.

'Okay. Here it is. "It's not the cough that carries you off. It's the coffin they carry you off in"'.

'Oh,' she said. She put on a face that implied, 'You just spoiled my day, old person. It's like the Grim Reaper just walked in and said, "Time's up."'

'Sorry,' I said.

Mrs Hill in her role as encourager and motivator of today's youth


I'd forgotten that when you're seventeen, fresh-faced, and erupting with optimism, jokes about death seem more macabre than when you're fifty-four this April and your definition of optimism is a hope that the brown spots appearing on the backs of your hands and on your forehead won't mean people mistake you for a giraffe when the light is poor.



I was intending to write a blog post about coughs, but now I think I'll write a list of definitions of middle-aged optimism instead.

1. The hope that your hair will go 'glamour-grey-white' and not 'sucked-of-all-life-dirty-grey'

2. The hope that you'll be able to keep your getting-out-of-a-chair noises to little uh sounds and not progress to BLOODY NORA with a hand on the hip

3. The hope that toilets will never be more than ten strides away

4. The hope that the effect of that chorizo sausage last Friday night was a one-off

5. The hope that you'll never have to thread a needle again with anyone watching

6. The hope that no one will ever say 'Would you like a million pounds - no strings?' to you in a crowded room full of other people chatting

7. The hope that you'll be at the bottom of the stairs when you realise you have forgotten why you intended to climb them, and not already at the top

8. The hope that, today, no forty-five year old will let you on the bus first

9. The hope that, if death should come while you're napping on the sofa, someone will close your mouth for you

10. The hope that, if death should come while you're coughing your inner organs out, someone will take the cough sweet out of your mouth before it sticks to your skull for ever and when someone digs you up in 2064 it'll still be there, exuding its menthol fumes


The cough is going now, which is welcome, because our neighbours are doubtless wondering whether I have TB.  I have coughed so dramatically on the other side of their bedroom wall at night-time that I suspect flakes of plasterwork have drifted from their ceiling, the light fittings have swung gently from side to side, and a few porcelain ornaments have shifted dangerously to the edges of shelves.

But the manufacturers of Lockets have been laughing.












22 comments:

  1. Bless you Fran, love how you see the funny side of things, even a cough. Thanks for making me smile today.
    And glad you're feeling better. Hope that cough clears off for good x

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    1. You know what they say - if you don't laugh, you cry! And, thanks. I think the cough is finally waving goodbye and going off to torture someone else.

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  2. Brilliant. I am in tears of laughter at your numbered list, Fran.

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    1. Thanks, SC. I'm glad it amused you - I'm guessing that's because the list struck a chord!

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  3. And I've been laughing too -- at your caption under the Grim Reaper picture and the paragraph right after it! Giraffe!

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    1. I'm glad you liked that paragraph - I kept re-reading it and thinking, 'Is that funny? Is it?' So, thank you for helping with my crisis of confidence!

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  4. #1 "glamour grey white" is for blondes, my hair is doing that now; "sucked of all life dirty grey" is for brunettes, my sister's hair is doing that one.
    #8 I don't mind at all if people let me on the bus first, you get the best seat that way.
    Coughing? I would never put up with painful hacking for that long. Cough sweets are useless, I'd be getting some sort of suppressant, especially if the cough is non-productive. Weirdly, coughing long-term can become a habit, sometimes the lungs keep doing it when they no longer need to. A cough suppressant stops that cycle.

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    1. Gosh, if coughing became a long-term habit, I'd have to consider a different career. Thankfully, it seems to be settling.

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  5. As queen of coughing, I get your pain, and I also found the dash/hyphen explanation highly instructive. Fran you are the only person I know who can make growing older sound fun. Absolutely hilarious :) :)

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    1. I can make it SOUND fun, maybe ... whether it IS or not is another matter entirely! I love explaining the dash/hyphen difference. Almost everyone in the world doesn't know the difference, it seems, including every child I've ever taught.

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  6. Ha! Someone else who suffered the Cough of Doom. It was hideous wasn't it. Mine has almost gone but not quite. An annoying, occasional spasm remains to remind me how poorly I was. 2 months it lasted! Harrumph. Lxx

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    1. Two months! I have got off lightly, then, with two weeks. And there I was, feeling sorry for myself ... The Cough of Doom is a great description. Hope you fully recover soon, Lesley, and thanks for your comment.

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  7. Oh dear - I can relate to most of that. Except it wasn't chorizo.

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    1. That comment made me laugh! Thanks for visiting 'this' particular bit of Britain, Mike.

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  8. Being Me is, categorically, the only blog guaranteed to make me laugh out loud.

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  9. The Cough That Lingers ...
    There's always , as a last resort a Fisherman's Friend ? I usually find that the threat of a second one is enough to cure any cough .

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    1. I kept looking at those in the shop, but they're lethal, aren't they? Don't they make you breathe fire?

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  10. I had a chest infection when my son was born. I coughed all night in a ward full of new mums. They were very kind to me in the morning but lucky for them a bed came available in the cottage hospital near my home & I transferred there. I had my own room to cough myself silly & leave the others in peace.

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    1. That's one way to get your own room. It's the worst thing about a cough - when you know you're really annoying people, let alone spoiling their sleep. I have a slight phobia about it after a childhood experience when a friend took me to a church service and I coughed like crazy all the way through it, making adults around me really angry. I couldn't do anything about it! And I was trapped in the middle of a row. It makes me shiver just to think back.

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  11. .. hello Fran... so sorry to hear you have been coughing so badly.. it's exhausting. Hope it continues to go away.

    I really LOVE all your 'middle aged optimism' sayings ... and I can relate to all of them... I was laughing out loud reading them. Thanks for that. xxxx
    I do like the way you write.
    Hugs ... Barb xxxx

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    1. I'm happy to say that the cough has gone off, without the need for a coffin. Thank you for your lovely comment, Barbara. Much appreciated. :)

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