Death to the Common Cold! Three Things that Don't Help and Five that Do

Having had a sort-of-but-not-quite cold for the last, oh, three months, I am about ready to get out there with a flamethrower and start frying some viruses. Are you with me? photo essay 080911-A-8725H-067

Ok, I’m not really planning to let loose with a flamethrower, nor with the weapon of my (literal) dreams: the flamooka. (Flamethrower + bazooka. Yes, this is the kind of thing my subconscious mind comes up with while I sleep.)

Here are some other things that don’t work:

1) Joining the wackos who advise drinking home-made bleach as a cure-all. For one thing, there’s the risk of chemicals exploding in your face; and for another, why drink something you’d hesitate to use on the kitchen floor? Yes, it’ll kill any germs it encounters, but so would a flamooka, and you don’t see me swallowing one of those, do you? No, you don’t.

2) Taking antibiotics. The common cold is a virus. Antibiotics are useless against viruses, and taking them will only wipe out the beneficial bacteria in your system, leaving you open to anything that might stroll in. Not to mention that unnecessary antibiotic-taking is a leading cause of antibiotic resistance, which is how we get lovely things like untreatable necrotizing fasciitis (do not click unless possessed of a strong stomach).

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Bacteria

Don’t take the antibiotics – or me and my flamooka are coming after you. If you want the placebo effect, swallow a tic-tac and tell yourself it’s a cure-all. Or pour a little white meths on a sugar cube and swallow that. It might not help your cold, but rumour has it that it makes you unattractive to bugs, so you’ll at least have one less thing to worry about.

3) Buying a cute, cuddly little model of the cold virus (also comes in pillow size!) and sticking pins into it. A useful way to store your pins, perhaps even some relief to your feelings, but of no proven health benefit (alas).

So, instruments of destructive chaos and cuddliness aside, what’s the plan of attack? How shall we rise up and conquer?

1) Rest. Don’t rise up, and conquer. Rest is good for what ails you, whatever that may be. (Except bed-sores.) This is why people are put in induced comas, although this may be a bit of an overreaction to a common cold.

The London Blitz, 1940 MH26395 2

2) Liquids. Especially hot liquids. Especially hot lemon, honey and ginger. (Nothing like a hot ginger for medicinal purposes!) Chili is another excellent ingredient, I hear, although I am seldom desperate enough to overcome my wussiness in the face of burning tastebuds. Garlic is another healthy additive, but you may find it makes the drink taste odd. Remember there is always water, which is good for you and tastes just as good if you let it get cold.

3) Fresh fruit & vegetables. Preferably not genetically modified to grow legs and dance the tarantella, or whatever it is they get them to do these days; and not covered in any sort of -cide, because -cide means kill, and who needs a killer vegetable when they’re sick?

Grimaldi and Vegetable

4) Fresh air. Preferably with rain, hail and mist not included – getting cold doesn’t give you a cold, but it certainly doesn’t help. Consider: all the air in here has been circulated through your lungs and is thus all germy and yuck. Get rid of it and get in some fresh stuff.

5) Exercise. Can be combined with the acquisition of fresh air, but don’t overdo it. I know, it looks like I’m contradicting #1, but trust me, there is a balance to be found. Obviously, this balance involves a nice big fat rest sitting as close as possible to the fulcrum while a brisk little walk hangs off the far end.

Coincidentally, all these things are good for you the rest of the time too, which will save you going to the trouble of making new habits when you in due course recover.
Of course, there is nothing new in all this: it’s all Just Like Mother Made (except the flamooka – unless you had a very exceptional mother).

Old woman in Kyrgyzstan, 2010

What’s the ancestral wisdom relating to colds in your family? Let’s pool our knowledge – together let us make the cold uncommon!

Disclaimer: Ancestral wisdom is not always smiled upon by medical authorities. Seek medical advice when ill, and don’t request (or accept) antibiotics for a virus.

Getting to Know You

Do you have Deborah Kerr (or rather, Marni Nixon) stuck in your head now? Excellent. Let us proceed.

I took it into my head recently to look at my list of followers and see whose Readers are receiving my missives. Discounting myself (thank you for that, WordPress) and the Caped Gooseberry (thank you for that, dear) I have forty followers.  (Welcome!)

But who are you?

Hi, my name is... OUTER SPACE!

Not surprisingly given my usual subject matter, half are writers (or groups of writers) including:
one who dispenses dating advice (for men);
one aphorist;
one person setting out to offend everyone (a bit like Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged);
one whose poems consist of assorted words (either hasn’t quite got the idea or is making some kind of post-modern point, not sure which);
and one who I suspect is blogging as his book’s character but may in reality be in a lot of trouble with the law. How much is 30kg of cocaine worth, anyway? (Hullo PRISM!)

Burning hashish seized in Operation Albatross

There are also two who blog about literature and books, and a press which gives rates for (among other things) ghostwriting and lists of agents/publishers you could approach (handy hint: get the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook from the library instead, it’s free).

Then there’s one set of relatives (hi Ma!) and five Pyramid Schemers (all with the same scheme, shows how good it is!) leaving eleven others.

“Achievement: You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To When You Have Vision, Determination and An Endless Supply of Expendable Labour” via

The Others include an opera singer; a movie blogger; one who makes top-ten lists; possibly another pyramid-schemer (a more subtle one); a blog with a grand total of three posts (one of which was a reblog of my first post); and one which is completely blank. (Stage fright?) In short, an eclectic group.

So, now that I have, figuratively speaking, broken the ice, feel free to circulate and chat amongst yourselves. Have a drink, have a nibble, try to avoid being sucked into a pyramid scheme.
I don’t mind if you’re the life and soul of the party or part of the philosophical coterie in the kitchen, I’m glad you came.

Guys in the Kitchen

I’d love to hear what brings you here, what you’ve enjoyed, and what you’d like to see more of. And if you have a great opportunity for me to make easy money and live the life of my dreams – sorry, but that would interfere with my delicately balanced regime of artistic suffering.

Your happy host,
Sinistra Inksteynehand250

P.S. I realise I am somewhat behind-hand with the Artist’s Way posts. Great Things are afoot – but I promise I have not forgotten.

Do You Believe?

When did you start to believe in yourself as a writer?

I always knew I was good with words (ok, I can still remember asking my mother if sentences ended with a capital as well as started with them, but that was decades ago now).

Learning to Write

There were the occasional pieces in school publications, but that’s hardly conclusive evidence. You don’t necessarily have to be good to be published in a school mag, you just have to be better than the competition.

I think the first time I can remember seriously thinking of myself as a writer was a bit over twelve years ago now – it was supposed to be one of those school things where you tag along with a grown-up for a bit of work experience.

People work on computers at the Busy Internet computer center in Accra

Trouble was, we lived in the back of beyond where almost everyone was a hunter-gatherer (and distinctly averse to taking along annoying little white kids who might do something stupid like hurt themselves or scare the food away). The exceptions were my parents, and I was sufficiently formed as a person by then to know that their line of work was Not For Me.

So we had to Make Do and Make It Up.

My mother asked me what I would like to do, and I said I liked “writing, but-” and she said, well then, you can write an article. I will be your manager, you will have fixed hours (bit of a foreign concept in my life at that point) and you will write an article which you will then submit, etc etc. (Or words to that effect.)

Office Hours

I sat. I wrote.
I submitted the piece to my mother for her editorial approval, and the piece was eventually published in the in-house magazine of the organisation my parents worked with. Compliments ensued (I’m fairly sure they were intended as compliments, anyway), a cutting was made, and that was that.

But the writing bug had bit.

She scanned the page...

In one fell swoop my mother had moved writing in my mind from being something enjoyable but regrettably limited (rather like time spent lying about daydreaming) to being something that happened in the real world. Being a writer went from pie in the sky to an actual possibility. Yes, there were the hours, and the editor, and the annoying people calling you cute, but there was the writing!

The Dream

It was like telling a kid they could get a job as a professional ice-cream taster. Money for jam. (Well, jam, anyway. Negligible money.)

Mind you, my mother doesn’t hold with telling children pretty little lies – Santa Claus, for example. My parents never tried to tell me he was real, and this was a good thing, because living in a country with ‘security problems’ does not shape a child into the sort of person who takes ‘strange man is watching you and will creep into your bedroom while you’re asleep’ at all well.

creepy Santa

So she wasn’t going to tell me that writing jobs were easy to come by, and I did flirt with other ideas over the years – medicine, law, landscape architecture…

But I kept thinking of myself as a writer. I kept writing, here and there. I even earned a bit of money by my writing (slightly awkward when I was sent a cheque and had no bank account to deposit it into).

Throughout my life, my mother has been the one who has taught me to question my assumptions that I can’t do something, that a particular course of action is not open to me.
Often it is, but at a price I am not prepared to pay.
But sometimes it is a price I am prepared to pay, and the world opens out before me in a way I didn’t believe it could.

"Opened the door of faith..."

So if I never said it before: thank you.