I've not been well this week. It started mid-afternoon on Saturday, when I first gave a little sneeze, and within 30 minutes my head was pounding, my breathing was tight and a hideous colourless liquid was pouring liberally out of my nose.
"You should go to bed," said my wife after a short while.
"I don't want to go to bed. It's boring."
"You don't understand. I want you to go to bed. In fact, I'm begging you to go to bed. You are just sitting there like a great depressing lump, with a blanket over your legs like an old woman, shouting at your children if they make a noise above a whisper, and radiating germs around the living room. Go to bed."
"Well, OK. But it's just further for you to have to walk when I need you to bring me things..."
"Just go to bed. Now!"
I go to bed. It is not as restful as I might have liked.
Within a few minutes, the Youngest arrives at my bedside, her arrival heralded by the customary crashing of the door back on its hinges. She looks at me curiously.
"Mummy says you are ill"
"Yes. Yes, that's right. I am."
"Yes. Indeed. Poor Daddy. Poor, sad, tired Daddy..."
"Mummy says it is juzmanflu."
I ponder this for a second. As is the case with much of what my youngest daughter says, it makes no sense unless you mentally play it back slowly, syllable by syllable. I realise she means "just man 'flu", which suggests that my wife has been discussing my illness in disparaging terms with my daughters. I can all too readily imagine it to be something along the lines of "Daddy is such a wuss, he thinks he is really ill but it is just man 'flu..."
I am quietly enraged by this. "It is not man 'flu" I tell her. "It is much worse. Tell your mother it is...um, tiger 'flu. Tell her it is Samurai tiger 'flu..."
"OK" she says readily enough, and scampers off.
She is not going to go and tell her mother that, I think despondently. Not only can she not say 'samurai' properly, but I heard her go into her bedroom rather than downstairs...
Sure enough, she reappears a second later.
"Here is a picture of an angel" she announces.
"Ah, that's nice." I say. "Is that to make me feel better?
"No," she says, confused. "I am just showing you. I drew it at playschool".
"We all had to draw around our hands to make the wings and around our foots to make the bodies..."
"Very nice..." I manage.
"Do you like it?"
"Yes, yes, it's very good."
She snatches it back. "I am just showing you," she repeats. "You can't have it."
"Why don't you go and show Mummy?" I suggest, through gritted teeth.
"She has seen it already."
"Well, why don't you go and show her again?"
"OK" she says, and scampers off. This time I can hear her scrambling footfall down the stairs. I breathe a sigh of relief and settle back on the cool soft pillow, closing my eyes.
Minutes later my wife enters the room. She bangs a cup down on the bedside table, and sits down much too heavily on the edge of the bed, given the delicacy of my condition. (My wife is a lovely woman, who is a better person than me in almost every respect and who has a myriad of excellent qualities, but frankly she is never going to be renowned for her cat-like stealth).
"I brought you a hot blackcurrant drink" she announces.
She gazes at my face with a peculiar mix of concern and frustration that is easy to interpret: it is the look a person gives to someone they love, but nonetheless whose illness is a matter of immense irritation and inconvenience to them. It is clear she is weighing up my condition carefully.
"You don't look ill..." she says.
"My head feels like it is being twisted off" I say.
"And my throat hurts and is all gunky. It feels like a fox shat in it."
"It hurts when I look at bright lights. It hurts when I talk to you."
It is clear she is not convinced about the severity of my condition, and that currently her annoyance is winning over her sympathy. It is time to wheel out the big guns.
"And the snot - you would not believe the amount of snot I'm producing right now..."
(My wife hates snot. She can cope with almost everything in the world, except for the common-or-garden bogey. She wipes our children's noses at arm's length, while looking away and retching. The very thought, even the word itself, can make her dry-heave. To her it's Kryptonite, only much runnier.)
"I don't want to know!" she says quickly, rising. "I will take care of the kids today and leave you alone...."
Oh, that's good, I think.
She pauses at the door. "...but I want you to know: you will owe me. Big time."
Oh, that's bad, I think.
She closes the door. Peace, I think. Just me and my agonising headache and the tiny rivers of vileness streaming from each nostril.
I drift off, feeling sorry for myself. I am not asleep for long, when the door crashes open again. Both daughter stand framed in the doorway, holding what looks worryingly like musical instruments.
"We have come to play you a 'get well' song!" announces the Youngest.
"You can join in, if you like!" adds the Eldest enthusiastically. She begins blowing discordantly into a plastic mouth organ, producing random notes and screeches at a volume that the guards at Guantanamo would probably consider a bit much, even for a psychological torture session. Youngest plays a single maraca by bouncing it alternately against her head and the bed frame. The noise is indescribable, so I won't bother trying.
"Get well!" screech my children. "Get well sooo-oon! Get well, Da-deeee! We hope you feee-eeel better! We hope you get up out of your bed sooooon!"
I am certain that the plates in my skull are beginning to vibrate against each other in a way that suggests imminent stress fractures. Fortunately, Britain's first musical torture squad stop performing before any parts of my head actually start popping open.
"Do you feel better?" asks Youngest.
"No.." I say, honestly. "No, not really..."
They immediately begin again, only louder.
"Feeling much better now!" I shout, frantically. "Much better now!"
Sadly, they can't hear me over the noise. I resolve I will go back to work at the earliest opportunity, just for the rest...