I nearly had to postpone the start of my dream fellowship trip to Cape Town, as flu continued to wreak havoc with my body, brain and mind. I’m normally a heavy cold person – getting caught out once a year – and soldier on, with tissues abound. But this time, I was knocked for six. Splitting headaches, shivering bones, crawling skin, and no appetite for life.
Somehow, I managed to get through the worst of it by the weekend and decided to take the risk of flying.
As I was gingerly whisked off to Heathrow, my driver commented on how the way to tell whether someone has flu or a cold is to tell them there is a £20 note in the garden. If they have a cold they go outside and pick it up; if they have flu, they won’t even register what you are saying.
I don’t even remember looking outside or opening the blinds. I did not even Google my symptoms to check what I had. For the last 4 days I had been struggling to think along a straight line, let alone bothering to check my email, etc. Instead, all I did was fall into feverish, delirious sleep at every opprortunity. When eventually I woke up, I’d struggle to the bathroom, and then return to bed in an altered state for another day.
The flight to Cape Town just passed me by. Then I watched the passengers as they plopped out of the plane, like drops from a pipette, onto hot soil. The warm unfamiliar air hit my face as I joined them. I was taken aback. I’d managed to arrive without going through any bout of nerves, anxiety or stress. At least there was a silver lining to the great illness.
G, my host, welcomed me to his adopted country. He looked totally at one in it. As we drove through the burbs back to his abode, I listened to him talk about “braai”, and living in different parts of SA. Then we drove to the bay, bought excellent coffee from a wonderful local bakery, sat down for a bit and watched some baby seals flip their tails. There was an intoxicating smell of fresh fish being grilled, cleaned, and caught. Everywhere I looked, I sensed a Hockney-sparkle in the water.
Peacefulness and perfect sunshine enveloped me. I felt my body beginning to stir; ready for some blue-sky thinking.