Christmas is the one time of year that I plan for and look forward to all year round. It gets me through the depressing months when the days are getting shorter and it seems to be dark the whole damn time. Christmas is the time when I can almost understand that lovely, cosy indoors feeling that people chuck about as a reason to like winter. It's also the one day of the year that I can usually get through without having the urge to kill Stig or one of my children. There's nothing like family time at Christmas, watching their faces as they realise "He's been!" and knowing as they open their presents that a year of planning, every bit of penny pinching, every freezing shopping trip to get them that that perfect gift was worth it just to see that look on their faces.
This year however was not a beautiful day of family love and serenity. It was a scene of carnage, vomiting and Heinz tomato soup. After I'd spent a fortune, meticulously shopped for every kind of Christmas snack or drink you could possibly want, baked enough to put Gregg's out of business and wrapped presents like a woman possessed, we all got swine flu.
I was quick to realise that this is no mediocre illness, no poncy winter cold. It's a vicious, knock-you-on-your-arse bastard, which basically involves being unable to get out of bed without wanting to die. We were just moaning blobs of perspiring, shivering crud. This lasted for about a week-and-a-half leading up to Christmas, so I naively assumed we would all be OK in time for the day itself.
For those of you who have never experienced it, be warned. There comes the stage where you have convinced yourself that getting out of bed is possible. Perhaps you are stupid enough to think that you can get dressed and open presents and cook a full Christmas dinner when you have Swine Flu, but you are a delusional idiot and you have been conned by the virus.
We assembled in the living room for prezzy opening, and as the smell of the turkey beginning to cook invaded my nostrils for the first time, I entered phase two and threw up all over the clothes I had struggled so desperately to get into not half an hour earlier. The rest of the day was spent heading back and forth from the loo because the simple act of moving triggers the piggy-flu vomit reflex. Heinz tomato soup, we have discovered, is a perfectly adequate Christmas dinner in the right circumstances.
I say that we all had it; Jamie actually had it last year and managed to survive the repeated bathroom exodus of her vomiting family completely unscathed. Her immune system clearly retains information in the same manner as her brain does. She never forgets a damn thing you say to her, never misses a trick, and never succumbs to the same virus twice it seems, mutated or otherwise. The consequence of this is that Jamie is the authority on swine flu, bird flu, Hayes House flu and any other ailment remotely related. You really don't need an eleven-year-old standing in the bathroom doorway, pontificating on the severity of your symptoms while you barf your life away.
"Well of course I was only sick once or twice mummy, but it was quite severe, almost projectile" she mused "and it was really only because of that Tamaflow stuff, it wasn't very helpful you know, perhaps you would be better off taking paracetamol..."
"Thanks Jamie, that really helps. Do you mind?"
"No, not at all, would you like a bobble to tie your hair back?"
I was experiencing true mixed emotions now, between adoring her for being so lovely, and wishing that she would just piss off and let me throw up in peace.
"No thank you darling, but some privacy would be nice"
I'd have been yelling at her if my head wasn't so far down the toilet that there was no point in trying to speak. I had reached the point of no return. My tomato soup was coming back and there was nothing me, her or "Tamaflow" could do to stop it. I wasn't so sick though that I didn't briefly ponder why her version of the anti-viral drug sounded like a range of sanitary towels.