I am sorry to say, my friends, that the hair post scheduled for this week has been unavoidably detained. I have been in bed most of the week, sick with a bad cold, sinus infection, sore throat, unceasing and annoying cough, and whatever icky winter illness you can think of… that’s not Covid. Thank goodness.

I’d been fighting a sinus infection before we left for South Carolina, and two days into our trip found I had a sore throat at the end of each day. “Must be the pollen,” our hosts said. “It’s a really bad year for pollen. Everyone’s complaining about it.” And indeed the pollen was pretty bad, coating everything, cars, outdoor furniture, even my iPad cover, in yellow powder. But by Friday I was pretty sure it wasn’t just the pollen. And I spent the last day and a half of our trip in bed. Then poor Hubby had to drive back with an invalid for company. Two long days of highway driving next to a whining, coughing, moaning, or sleeping wife. Road trip hell. Ha.

Since we’ve been back, I’ve been to the doctor, started on antibiotics, and an inhaler, slept mostly sitting up, coughed up a lung each night, and gargled with so much salt water that I’d probably have pickled my tonsils… if I had any tonsils.

Sick room chic back in the day.

Consequently, I have not done any prep for the hair post. And I do want it to be good. So I’m postponing it until next week. I also want to write about our trip. The non-coughing part. And talk about our changing priorities as travellers and how we are grappling with post-pandemic travel and what that might look like for us. But I need to think more about that one, and my thinking has not been good for the past few days. So that one will have to wait too.

You know, I was sick a lot with bad colds as a child. That is until I had my tonsils removed when I was two years old. My sisters used to tell me that I spoiled many planned family events by getting sick. As in “Oops, we can’t go now; Susie is sick again.”

The other night Hubby and I waxed lyrical about childhood illness memories. He shared stories of his mother’s dreaded home remedies when he was a kid. I tell you, that woman would try anything. And I told him about the year of the sore throat when I was in university.

I had a bad throat all one winter in university. I gargled with salt and warm water constantly, but it did not go away. Turns out that beer and cigarette smoke were not conducive to healing a sore throat. But I did NOT want to miss any social occasions, so I gargled and soldiered on. So to speak.

I told Hubby about New Year’s Eve that year when I stayed over at a friend’s house in town because we were going to a party. My friend’s father was a judge and they lived in a big house in the city, one of those beautiful historic homes that line the streets of the old part of Fredericton. I remember being impressed that I slept in a guest room furnished with antiques. I’d never slept in anyone’s guest room before. Up until then, when I stayed over at a friend’s house, I always bunked down in my friend’s room.

Anyway, both my friend and I had sore throats by the time we came home from our party. And since her parents were still out at a New Year’s Party of their own when we came home, we carried glasses of salt and water up to the bathroom and tried to gargle side by side at the basin. Great hilarity ensued and most of the salt and water was spat out as we tried not to choke. Gargling does sound pretty funny.

But what I remember most of that New Year’s stay was the conversation I had at breakfast the next morning with my friend’s mother who I had just met the night before. I remember she asked me if I was Ray Burpee’s daughter. I said that I was, and she said she knew he’d passed away the previous fall. Then she smiled and looked pensive: “I remember Bunny from school, you know. He was so handsome, and charming.” she said. “He was a few years older than me. And I had a huge crush on him when I was in grade nine or ten. All the girls in my class did.”

“What a kind woman she was,” I said to Hubby, a bit tearfully. “I don’t remember the rest of our conversation, but I have never forgotten that bit.” “Why, Suz?” he responded. And after I thought for a minute, I said, “You know, that was the first time I’d ever met someone outside my family who knew my father. Or who spoke to me of him. She was from Fredericton. She and her husband probably knew everyone in town. Thinking about it now, I’m sure she knew what had become of my father. His struggles with alcohol. His failures. But she didn’t say anything about all that. She just shared a lovely memory of him.”

And now her memory has provided me with a lovely memory. Of her kindness, mostly.

Okay. As my mum would say, “Enough about that.” Coughing makes me maudlin.

Time for my gargle. And then a nice cup of tea. And a treat. Hubby came home from the grocery store this morning with fresh hot cross buns. He does know the way to a sick girl’s heart after all.

See you next week, my friends. With a hair post… I promise.

P.S. If you want the back story to my gargling memory you can read some of it here. I do tend to witter on about family and memories.


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77 thoughts on “Apologies from the Sick Room”

    1. I second this. Engaging writing, even from the sick room. Take care and feel better soon. Enjoy the hot cross buns. 🙂

      PS The part about the sleeping in a guest room with antique furniture made me see you as a young Anne of Green Gables!

  1. Oh dear! No fun being sick away from home — not that being sick is ever fun, but it’s especially hateful when travelling. Take ALL the pampering you can get and rest up! Hope you’re feeling better before too long.

    1. Thanks, Frances. I still remember your getting sick o that solo trip you took a few years ago. There’s nothing worse than that, I think.

  2. So pleased I clicked through to the linked post, which I found moving. Thank you and take care of yourself!

  3. I’ve always had a wonky throat – tonsillectomy as a child too & sinus / throat problems as an adult so can really sympathise . I can remember being given lots of ice cream in hospital after the op & I’ve not liked it much since ! I’m sorry you are feeling so rough & hope it didn’t spoil your holiday too much . That wonderful beach & sunny warmth looked so nice . Give nurse Stu my sympathies too 😉

  4. Dear Sue,get well soon!
    It must have been horrible to be ill during your holidays
    Your childhood photo is so sweet-little lady with a strong  character.
    I had tonsillitis quite often before the school and remember getting Bemycin (I’m allergic to Penicillin), little dragees coated in chocolate ( I even remember the scent,they had B vitamins,too). It was nice (although one of my friends gobbled a lot of them-his,not mine- at once. Everything ended well),I loved to be at home and,usually,to get a new book or two
    So,you have the best company (Stu) and, I hope, a lot of cosy books

    1. My niece loves that photo… calls it classic Auntie Susie with the soup can. 🙂 Currently reading another CJ Sansom and glad I’m not sick back in Henry VIII times.

  5. Stay cosy, enjoy the buns, drink the tea. We will still be here. Actually, that sounds a bit…chilling…but you get my drift.

  6. Hmm. Why would you go to SC with a sinus infection…seems inconsiderate. I’m sure your hosts were thrilled.

  7. Hope you feel better soon. In the meantime enjoy the treats from hubby and dive into some good books. (That I hope you’ll tell us about one day.) I always feel very conscious of my grammar and poor writing when I respond here. I’d hate for you to shudder so please just laugh!

  8. Family remedy – lemon and honey to sooth the sore throat.
    My grandmother and my mother used to make mustard plasters for chest cough, speaking of family home remedies. Not sure if they actually worked but who knows??

  9. Oh Sue, vacations and traveling when sick is the worst. So sorry your much needed break did not work out. I bet that drive home seemed like forever. Your reminiscing reminded me of the little room at my grandparents huge house that was just for me when I visited. I loved that house, an old Victorian with two stairways and a walk up attic. I digress, take all the time you need to get feeling better and we will be waiting for your next update when you are ready.

    1. The drive back was no fun. You’re right about that. I had my “own room” at my grandmother’s house too when a child. It had been my uncle’s room, the youngest of my mother’s siblings, before he left to go away for school. But it was mine when I stayed. I felt so grown up unpacking my suitcase.

  10. I always look forward to your posts as my Sunday morning treat. So sorry this one shows you being ill but I can relate. I, too, live in SC and just got over “the crud” as have several friends. I try to live a healthy lifestyle and am rarely sick but every 3 or 4 years get the sort of respiratory thing you described. I also use the salt water as my Mom taught me. Seems like it always takes about three weeks and a Z Pack to get over it. Other antibiotics don’t seem to work but the Z pack does so now I just ask the doctor for it. So sorry it spoiled your trip and hope you are better soon. Take care.

  11. Hello there,
    Even when you are sick, you write beautifully. Getting better is all that counts and we will be here for your next post whenever it comes. It is snowing here in North Carolina and last week we were hitting record high temps. It was nice hearing from you on this cold snowy morning.

  12. Clearly your cold & cough & whatever other bug you have has not impacted your prose which is always wonderful. Rest, get well, and feel better. I look forward to hair next week.

  13. As with many things, it seems that getting over an illness seems to take longer as we get older. No more going out to party when not feeling well! I hope that you feel better soon, and thanks for your thoughtful post even when “under the weather.”

    1. I am grateful every morning to be able to settle down in the sun room with my tea instead of having to go into work before I’m completely better. Hubby and I had a discussion of the times we went to work sick because it was exams, we couldn’t find a supply teacher, we’d already missed too many days in a row and the classes were falling behind. etc etc. Shudder. Thank goodness those days are over.

  14. Get Well Soon, Feel Better Fast….please. So sorry your winter holiday wasn’t all it could have been. Very happy to hear your husband is a good man and takes care of you. Please take your time getting well, no hurry or worries about your next post. Waiting in anticipation will be half the fun.

  15. Sue, I’m sorry you’re sick. Feel better soon! Being ill hasn’t affected your writing… I was very moved by the way you described your friend’s mother’s kindness.
    What a nice gift to give a teenager; her acknowledgement of your loss, an uplifting memory about your Dad, and her example of how to be generous.

  16. Being sick on a trip is TERRIBLE. One either soldiers on despite the misery or takes to bed. And of course with today’s COVID worries, a positive test can ruin long-awaited fun. I do hope you feel better soon. I’ll be interested in your thoughts on future travel during this time. We love to travel, but the anxiety of these times is enough to make me hesitate to plan much.

  17. Hope you feel better soon. It’s even worse when you’re sick while on vacation!
    What a nice thing that mother said about your dad. What a nice memory. It’s interesting what other people remember about others that have died. Especially when people die young.

  18. This post definitely falls into the “above and beyond the call of duty” category. I feel a little guilty about how much I enjoyed it considering the herculean effort it must have required to write anything beyond a sentence or two.

    So sorry to hear that illness marred your winter getaway. Hope you’ll be feeling much better after resting for a couple more days.

  19. So sorry you are sick, Sue. Apple cider vinegar in a glass of water to gargle is very helpful for sore throat. Gargle once and spit. Gargle again and swallow. Repeat. Dilute the vinegar so it’s not overly potent! Wishing you a speedy recovery from Texas.

  20. Oh my, getting sick while traveling is not fun. Rest well and feel better!
    It’s a lovely story about your father, and a good example that people can choose to be kind.
    You and your friend gargling at the sink together reminds of a time when I was 14 and at church with my best friend. We were being given communion, kneeling at the front of the chapel, when she somehow found it funny that I didn’t finish all the grape juice the pastor had given me. It proceeded from there into hopeless (silent, at least) giggling. I can only imagine what we must have looked like to the rest of the congregation, our shoulders lurching up and down as we barely managed to refrain from bursting out laughing.

  21. Sue….first of all I wish you a speedy recovery and also thank you for your blog. I clicked on to one of your older blogs…’We don’t always get what we want’! Well, as I read that blog it brought so many memories back for me. Like you, I believe I had a privileged up bringing. Being 2nd youngest in family of 6, my past memories of my growing up with my 5 siblings in the West of Ireland bring back such great memories. While I don’t think my parents were wealthy, my Father managed to send us to fee paying schools, 4 of my siblings went to boarding schools in Dublin while I and my youngest Brother stayed at home. I was only saying to my partner that I never heard my Parents discussing money! We certainly weren’t spoilt, we got cast off to wear…but it was the Love and Security that surrounded us as a family a d that in itself is a privilege! Sue, your blog made me want to write a book….just so much to say and reflect on during my growing up.

  22. Lovely piece of writing. I wonder were you unwell that year, throat wise, because it was your body’s response to grieving? Losing a parent, regardless of our (or their) age, or indeed or relationship with them can hit in the oddest of ways. And often physically.
    Hope you feel better soon

  23. Oh that’s such a drag…looking forward to a trip and then getting sick!! I can’t imagine the drive back to Canada…which would have been a joy with all the snow we have had in Eastern ON. 🙁
    My husband and I were discussing the joy of Vicks as the cure all of our youth. My mother used Mentholatum in a green jar. Smeared that on the throats of the sufferers and then wrapped those throats with cotton gym socks safety pinned on. If the disease was in the sinuses then good, old Mentolatum melted in boiling water poured into the bathroom sink…we each got our fifteen minutes of inhaling time, heads shrouded in a bath towel tent.
    My younger brother and I had our tonsils removed at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto. We were given some cock and bull story about staying at the hospital as if it was going to be a vacation. We were seriously traumatized. My grand mother appeared the next day fully decked out in FURS. Watching her telling the nuns that HER grandchildren were going home where they would be better cared for by her self and an RN ( our aunt) was worth the fact we couldn’t talk. ( She was our hero! A true Gramazon who never met a nun her 5’8” couldn’t stare down! Good thing they didn’t know this woman was handy with a rifle AND a fishing rod) I do remember my father being very quiet on the trip over whilst my mother was chatting up our ‘sleep over’ in the ‘59 Buick. Turns out my father was worried sick as his own mother had nearly bled to death after a kitchen table tonsillectomy!!!
    Thank goodness tonsillectomies are rarely done any more.
    Hope you are feeling better soon!

  24. So sorry to hear you’re under the weather. It’s the worst when you get sick and you’re away from home and your own bed. I hope this ends soon and you’re back to feeling yourself.

  25. Hot cross buns. Hot cross buns. One a penny; two a penny. Hot cross buns. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) Very sorry you were sick for your trip and are still not well.
    When my grandmother was alive she used to cut raw onions into quarters and put saucers of them around the house whenever someone was sick because “they draw away the germs”. Her cure for whatever ails you was to wrap up in a wool blanket and drink a small glass of blackberry brandy to sweat the germs out (which then apparently drifted over to and into the onions). She always kept a bottle on hand for medicinal purposes only.
    Hoping you’re back to your healthy self soon.

  26. Don’t you just hate when a well thought out, much anticipated trip is ruined when you catch something from the change in climate? So glad you’re recovering. It has happened to most of us at one time or another.

  27. So sorry to hear that you were sick for part of your vacation – the drive home must have been a nightmare for both of you! I’m now longing for hot cross buns, not that I know a really good place for them anymore. Even the grocery store ones are better than none at all however.

    Hope you are back to your usual energy soon!


  28. Sympathies over the sore throat and sinus problems. Not nice at the best of times but rotten when away from home. Glad you are being well cared for with hot tea and “huns cruns buns” as my daughter used to call them. What a lovely comment by your friend’s mother about your father. Kindness does make an impression. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  29. So sorry to hear you were not well for your trip Sue. Travelling while sick is the worst and I have been in that situation more than once. I had to chuckle when I read Jenny Amy’s comment about Mustard Plasters. My Mom used this on us at the first sign of a chest cold but I have no recollection whether or not they worked either. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about post pandemic travel Sue as my Husband and I also aren’t sure what that looks like for us going forward. We did try a couple of small trips this past year within Canada but sadly they did not reignite the lust for travel we used to have. Sending healing thoughts your way Sue and appreciate your effort of posting while ill.

    1. Hubby’s mum used mustard plasters too. My mum stuck with warm, melted Mentholatum on our chests, and then pinned a facecloth folded into a triangle around our throats.

  30. Your posts are always so thought-provoking and send me off into unexpected directions! Sorry you are ailing … your writing certainly isn’t! Vicks and Vernon’s ginger ale will always transport me to those childhood sick days. Thank you for sharing the story about your friend’s mom and her kindness. What an angel she must have been! Take care and heal quickly!

  31. Sorry to read that you are sick. What a shame that you were sick on your travels and remain ill. Darn it. I’m glad that it isn’t Covid, but it sounds awful nonetheless. I hope that you recover soon and that you are back to your energetic self.

    We had some strange cold remedies when I was a child. I believe that boiled onion, honey and whiskey were one combination.

    I’m looking forward to reading about your perspectives on traveling. My husband and I have done almost nothing for three years and we are trying to pull together a plan for moving forward.

  32. Sue, I’m so sorry to hear that the end of your trip was spoiled by illness. There’s nothing worse than travelling while you’re ill, when all you want is your cozy house and your own bed. I’m glad that you are resting and taking your meds and that your thoughtful hubby came home with hot cross buns. Yum!
    Get well soon.

  33. Sue, hope you’re feeling better! I caught a bad cold on a recent trip and am finally not living with a box of tissues. Spurred on by your January column about friendships, I’m hosting an afternoon tea for my former professional colleagues next month. My theme is a final tribute to Queen Elizabeth before the coronation. I need advice from your Commonwealth readers- how can I serve multiple pots of tea? I can handle the finger food. But I’m stumped on tea service. How many blends should I offer? Tea bags or loose tea in balls? Any other tips? Help!

    1. Well, my preference is always for loose tea. Made in a pot. And I always prefer a black tea … but that’s just me. Lots of people love Earl Grey which is lighter and more aromatic than say English Breakfast which is my favourite. I think I pick a middle of the road loose black tea… some sort of orange pekoe or maybe even Earl Grey if you want. You could also have a couple of types on hand and ask your guests which they prefer, then make two pots. At fancy afternoon teas in restaurants we always choose our tea. Have the kettle boiled, get input from your guests and make one pot of black and one other. I have a few small one-person pots and offer guests who don’t want the blend I’m making their own special pot. But then again I always have a big selection of loose teas on hand because I’m such a tea granny. People who don’t want caffeine like lemon-balm, or green tea, or something like that. Happy sipping!!!

      1. Thanks so much. Sue. I’m immediately more confident. Invitations going in mail tomorrow. Sherry for sure! Had not heard that before. I would not be doing this without the inspiration from your column. Can’t wait to get out all my lovely china and silver. And, of course, visit with my friends. Now, what to wear!

  34. Hi Sue … so sorry that I’m late here but hopefully you’re fully recovered now. Just awful feeling so unwell on holiday and especially on your journey home 😭 Speaking from experience you have my sympathy!
    Take care …
    Rosie x

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