We are having a ‘spate’ of ‘illnesses’ in the family at the moment. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that ‘someone’s out to get us’!!… now let me think ……. who could that be …. surely there’s no one that nasty out there……..
Take light bulbs for instance – if one goes there’s generally another and another popping their filaments (or whatever!) in sympathy. Well, at the moment we, in our extended family, have everything from sore throats to conjunctivitis, to severe allergic reactions, to gastric problems, to mobility problems to ….. oh that’s enough to be going on with! I feel I am working for the NHS – ‘Nana’s Health Service’ – fielding medical queries and advising on how to cope until appointments are secured or due…… in some cases more than a week away!
In exasperation I find I am searching for answers from my own childhood – what did mother do? For starters she was not hugely sympathetic to ‘sick weans’ – she was very matter of fact and it was extremely difficult to resist her ‘bedside manner'(!) In our medicine chest (the all purpose drawer) the following random cures could be found :
‘Syrup of Figs’ – for when one was diagnosed to be looking ‘peely- wally’(…’a good clean out’s what you need!’…) Usually she was right and I didn’t mind the taste of that at all.
‘Musterole’– for when a ‘wheeze’ was detected. That was rubbed into the chest and back and oh what torture! Skin burned, eyes watered, noses ran as did everyone else in the vicinity trying to escape the lethal fumes. Persistent coughing brought her upstairs with a large lump of butter rolled in sugar which was deposited with unfailing accuracy into one’s reluctant mouth – YUK! It wasn’t this that stopped the coughing – it was the fear of a repeat dose!
‘Beecham’s Powders’ – for severe colds. Rather than mix it in a glass with water, my father used to shake the powder onto his tongue and then drink the water. I tried that method. Before I could drink the water, I coughed. The powder puffed right out of my mouth, went up my nose, into my hair and down onto my jumper. The residue seemed to stick to the roof of my mouth for ages. I have a memory of a taste like ‘Oddfellows'(…remember them?) – I disliked them ever after because of this experience. (Oh I’ve just remembered – my father’s working socks were offered on more than one occasion as a cure for a sore throat – something to do with the ammonia in the sweat……. you can guess how popular that was!)
‘Snowfire’ – for hacks and chilblains. It was a small green waxy tablet which my dad needed a lot for his hands especially in winter (no safety gloves in the steelworks then) and we would rub it on our toes, on our red itchy chilblains. Does anyone suffer from this affliction any more?
Andrews Liver Salts – for tummy upsets. At least it was fizzy and did cause the wind to rise but I do think it was ‘the glass half full ‘ attitude of my mother when she said, ‘That’s you sorted!’ that would make things ‘come to pass’!!
I think that about sums up our extensive medicine supply back in the day. There was no need for ‘period pain relief’ then either ( well, not in our house anyway) as hormones hadn’t yet been invented!! Bumps and bruises were treated with ‘magic rubs’ and psychology……..( sore elbow? …….. rub the other one and you’ll get a big surprise!) ‘Elasoplast’ was something of a luxury as it was deemed better to ‘let the air get to the sore bit’…… Feigning illness was always a failure and if you were ‘on your feet’ after a ’bout’ – it was time to go back to school. Bottom line though, we knew that things were really serious if she took us to the doctor’s.
When I was at college, a queue of ‘fair middens’ could be found outside the college ‘Infirmary’ each night after supper(I’m talking the late fifties here),nursing a plethora of aches and pains. The nun in charge had a panacea called, fondly, ‘a jammy drink’ (blackcurrant juice) which was distributed to all and sundry. One of my friends challenged ‘Sister Florence Nightingale’ one evening when she presented with a staved toe. Close examination of the toe ensued. ‘The Jammy Drink’ was sidelined. ‘I have the very thing,’ pronounced the holy mother with no little confidence. She proceeded to unlock the medicine cabinet with one of the many keys which hung from her belt. Rummaging around she eventually produced…….. a jar of ‘VICKS’ …..
‘But Mother, ‘protested Maura, ‘there’s nothing wrong with my chest!’
‘Now Maura dear, this is going to work wonders…… have faith!’ and she proceeded to massage it into Maura’s toe. Now, the thing is, it worked. The ‘Jammy Drink Brigade’ were dumfounded and as far as I know, to this day, Maura’s toe has neither stiffness nor wheeze……. Was it the Vick or was it the faith?………. I, personally, think it was a happy combination of both……..
I am off now to enjoy a health cure of my own……. where I know I’ll soon be feeling ‘Fyne’…….. x