I've just survived a fortnight of Fifty Shades of Grey. It involved a lot of lying in bed and horizontal passivity though not (what a life-saver !) velvet hand-cuffs or spanking.
Shades of Grey is what happens to your life when you find yourself in the clutches of flu-with-cough virus. So much energy is taken up with coughing that almost immediately your get-up-and-go gets up and abandons you completely.
This enfeeblement soon makes even the short, but essential trek from bed to bathroom like climbing Everest - without oxygen tanks or obliging Sherpas.
Very soon after that your brain goes into recess and a grey fog descends. If you are lucky, in the midst of this mental pea-souper, a synapse will send out the occasional hopeful pulse - rather like a rescue flare sent up from a ship foundering at sea.
While the dim interior of your skull is thus illuminated a few thoughts occur to you. Where is the? Why is the? I wonder if? How come? In the foolishly optimistic moment before the flare dies out and all coherent brain-activity ceases, you really believe that you might be able to relieve the fog-bound boredom with a little light reading. Then you realise that no reading it quite light enough.
The pictures of glossy food are even worse. You’ve never been so nauseated by images of glistening crispy-skinned roast chicken, pools of rich gravy, melted chocolate and whipped cream. If you felt stronger, you’d be up and marching on Parliament and writing Letters to the Editor to demand that all magazines should be printed on matt paper and include only pictures of dry toast, boiled eggs and glasses of flat Gingerale. You used to wonder why flat carbonated beverages where favoured for the ill. Now you know. Popping bubbles are too NOISY.
Sensible and kind friends keep in touch by text - that least taxing of mediums. Some are even brave enough to leave offerings of throat lozenges and casseroles at the front door. You totter from the bed (still no oxygen, no Sherpas!) to answer their interrogative are-you-still-alive knocks at the door. In comparison to your feeble self they are positively bursting with rude good health. You are grateful that they suppress the impulse to rear back in horror at your ravaged Ancient Mariner appearance while crying “God save thee, ancient Mariner / From the fiends, that plague thee thus!” However, as they wave you a speedy recovery from a safe distance down the driveway, you can hear them muttering “I fear thee, ancient Mariner!/ I fear thy skinny hand!/ And thou art long, and lank, and brown”.
In spite of it all, you bravely maintain your faith in the analgesic, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and anti-psychotic properties of tea. In a fevered moment you even entertain a fantasy that there might be a way of ingesting the beverage intravenously.
Thankfully I share the house with a living creature who is unfazed by my raddled visage, immune to human contagion and unable to quote Coleridge. I mean of course the dog. While I’m playing a depressed grey-faced Eeyore munching on thistles, the dog is channelling a Jack Russellised version of an irrepressibly bouncy Tigger. Her fur shines. Her tail wags. She scoffs everything in her doggy bowl - even those ludicrous little bone-shaped morsels of dog chow. She’s interested in everything that moves. Or my case, doesn't move.
While I'm lying inert, doing my best Tuatara impression, the dog manages to find the slow - very slow - blink of my eyes absolutely fascinating. She sits on my chest the better to observe this small sign of life. The dog’s got big dark circles around her eyes - think Elizabeth Taylor doing Cleopatra but without the Egyptian headgear - and this gives her gaze a certain manic intensity. Especially if it’s directed at you from point blank range, while you are flat on your back. But I think it’s only this unwavering and slightly unnerving stare which helped me survive Fifty Shades of Grey.
Firstly, however sick I was, I felt obliged to hoist myself from my sickbed each day (No safety ropes! No crampons!)and take the dog across the road to the park. Paroxysms of coughing while standing upright under a wide blue sky once a day made survival seem an almost attractive prospect.
Secondly, that stare kept me from carelessly slipping into a coma. There was just enough ambiguity in it to convince me to stay conscious and keep the dog fed, watered and exercised. I feared that she might otherwise be tempted by hunger and boredom to begin gnawing gently on my comatose form. She would no doubt have started politely enough by nibbling on fingers and toes, but one thing can so easily lead to another. Like awfully distressing headlines in the Nelson Mail.