Following on from my point on festive disappointment, I come to yet another yuletide mind boggler, namely the distinct lack of Christmas sympathy (Schrimpathy) in circulation at The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I'm not talking about the obvious stuff - of course, we all feel terrible that there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime (well, not too terrible. Most Africans, would, after all, shit their pants if it started snowing in their continent for the first time ever.) - no, Band Aid aside, I am starting to notice a real scrimp on the festive sympathies of my fellow mankind. Case in point: MYSELF.
On Tuesday at work, I started to get strangely sniffly. I blamed it on the fact that I'd walked home on Sunday morning. Well, I say walked home. This was not just any walk home. No, this was the mother of all walks home. Or rather, the mother of all pushes home. In fact, as my best friend gave birth to a healthy baby boy 300 miles away, I was wheeling a shopping trolley containing my paralytic workmate two miles back to my house. Ironic, really, that at seven o'clock on a Sunday morning, Georgina and I should both be engaged in pushing exercises. And with an errant wheel and several speed bumps along the way, I think we all know who pushed the hardest. (No offence G, but from what you told me, having babies is a walk in the park. I'll take five at your earliest convenience, thanks.)
But whilst her pushing resulted in the joy of life, mine seems to have diminished my own life by about 84%. You see, trying to control a wobbly trolley with an even wobblier human inside it is a near Olympian feat of strength and agility. Add to that the fact that the only way to calm Alicia down was to sing 1 plus 1 by Beyoncé at the top of my lungs, and it seems only natural that, sweating like a champion, I removed my coat (which gives the wearer the extremely satisfying feeling of being inside an Aga) and proceeded to push on home in nothing but a cardigan and a pair of shorts, screaming the words 'I DON'T KNOW WHEN I'M GOING TO DIE BUT I KNOW THAT I WILL DIE BY YOU' in an attempt at stopping my charge from trying to serve an imaginary punter a hallucinatory pint of Kronenburg from the back of the childseat.
Ironically, I now believe that the lyrics that I so ferociously screamed into the night (or morning, it was definitely morning) may be coming true. And Schrimpathy is unbelievably low this year. You would have thought that, as a waitress whose breasts are renowned worldwide, or at least from tables one to 34, my boss might cut me a little bit of slack when I turn up sans push up bra, minus the makeup, looking like I'd somehow made it into the ring with Mike Tyson, and he had a cricket bat, and I had a sausage. Surprisingly not. 'Where is your makeup?' and 'Are you hungover?' were the questions I received upon walking through the door.
I sneezed in response.
The next day, they sent me home early as, in spite of the fact that I'd actually remembered my breast-enhancing underwear, no amount of cleavage can hide imminent death. "Get better for tomorrow," I was told, "for tomorrow is the Biggest Night of All the Nights."
Get better for tomorrow, I thought. OK. I called my doctor.
"I don't suppose it would be possible to get an appointment today?" I croaked. "I'm really not very we-"
"An appointment?" hissed the receptionist incredulously, in the sort of disgusted whisper I might have expected to hear if I was Fred West, and I'd just asked to hold her firstborn. ""An appointment?"
"Yes, it's just I'm terribly -"
"The next appointment we have is on Saturday the 24 June, two thousand and fifteen. I suggest you -"
I hung up the phone, certain that if I spoke to her any longer, her complete lack of human kindness would tip me over the edge and I would explode and die and kill the schoolchildren walking towards me with a torrent of mucus and phlegm. Oh well, I thought - when you have to wait longer for a meeting with your doctor than you do for a table at Nobu, there is only one answer: self medication.
I went to Tesco and filled my basket with things that made sure I was given a wide berth at the self checkout. Soup, Panadol Extra, orange juice, Lemsip, cough syrup, lemons, ten mini rolls for the price of six, that sort of thing. I got home. Bathed myself. Drank a Lemsip. My head started to pound. Oh God, I thought, I had forgotten about being ill. My nose was running onto my vintage cable knit, and the snot mixed in with tears when I realised I was so ill that I couldn't even hear what Heather was saying on Eastenders. Who can help me, I wondered, when my wondrous housemate Poppie is at work and nobody else in the world loves me?
Suddenly, I knew the answer. My MUM. Mum can always help! Ring mum. Definitely ring mum and she will make everything better, silly! I scrabbled around for my phone and, with tears streaming down my face, I rang her.
'MUMMAAAAAAAAAAAAY,' I cried, 'I'M SO ILL, YOU DON'T KNOW, YOU'VE NEVER SEEN ME SO ILL, I MIGHT BE DYING, NOTHING HELPS, WHAT IS TO BECOME OF ME?'
'Calm down, Ellie. Stop being so melodramatic. You sound like a Jane Austen character.'
'But Mum. I'm not trying to be all Mrs Bennett on you, it's just I'm seriously ill. I honestly might be dying. The Lemsip isn't working, Mum. The Lemsip isn't working.'
'Right well, take a Panadol Extra. I trust you have Panadol Extras?'
'I have a plethora of Panadol Extras. Do they... will they... cure me?'
'No. And don't take them with the Lemsip, you might overdose on paracetamol and that really would be quite bad. Something about internal bleeding. And just remember. If you're anything like your friend George, in a couple of years, you might feel this terrible and have a baby to look after at the same time. So, you know. It could be harder.'
I wailed a monstrous wail and threw my phone across the room. WHY WAS NO ONE FEELING SORRY FOR ME? It's Christmas, a time of goodwill and joy to all mankind, and here I am, lying on the sofa, with a head like an overstuffed turkey, unable to understand why Jane is now mysteriously shagging Masood, who is a good four inches shorter than her. What could be more frustrating than feeling this ill and this unloved and this un-up-to-date with Eastenders?
I went to bed.
It's funny, isn't it, how you can be just great all day - well, as great as you can be when crying on the phone to your mother/ manager/ the receptionist at your local GP - and then suddenly, you get into bed, and you are wracked with the kind of coughs that Elizabeth Siddal probably experienced when dying of tuberculosis after six weeks pretending to be Ophelia in Millais' bath. This was my story last night. I coughed so hard that I didn't hear Poppie get back from work. I poured cough syrup down my throat, and all over my bedsheets, to no avail. Sticky and despondent, I cried and coughed some more. Poppie, the one Schrimpathetic person in my life, came into my room at 3am with a Lemsip, a bottle of water and a glass of milk. She also lovingly explained, over my hacking and wailing, that the lemsip would soothe, the water would hydrate, and the milk would lubricate. More tears welled up in my eyes. I dutifully drank all of the potions, and then vomited profusely.
When I finally woke up, I spent the entire day (yes, the day I was supposed to get better for) lying on the sofa, with breathing that rattled like a snare drum, drinking my orange juice, watching reruns of Who Do You Think You Are and wondering exactly Who all those unSchrimpathetic arseholes Think They Are. If my life was a heavily scripted reality TV show containing a healthy amount of period costume (why don't reality TV shows do that? They lie about everything else, so why not chuck a crinoline in there and be done with it? A hint of Downton and the ratings would skyrocket), they would all be receiving visits from mysteriously Dickensian ghosts tonight. These ghosts would show them a well edited VT of my last 24hours on earth, focussing particularly on me (Tiny Tim) curled naked in a foetal ball on the bathroom floor, crying, with a string of sick sticking me to the toilet seat, whilst Poppie (Bob Cratchit), fresh out of work, bustled about making me honey and lemon drinks in the kitchen, under the light of the full moon. And then tomorrow morning, after a serious epiphany filled sleepless night, they would all somehow get into our block of flats - which you need a fob to access, but who cares, they'd find a way - bearing spectacular gifts such as vegetarian Christmas dinners and a few new pairs of Louboutins and a years' worth of Chanel handbags and a Mac makeup counter and a Harpers Bazaar subscription and a chocolate factory and a kitten and a big banner saying 'SORRY WE WERE SUCH UNSCHRIMPATHETIC SCROOGES, WE HOPE YOU FEEL BETTER IMMEDIATELY TINY T-ELLIE! Ooh, that reminds us, here's a new telly, too.'