Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Country Comforts

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Land of Counterpane

That has been one of my favorite poems since I was a child, especially when I was sick and in bed, as I am now. (And, no, it is not The Man Flue, I have an ear infection and a fever, thank you very much, but I’ll soldier on despite the pain.) Appropriately enough, I do have three pillows at my head, but unfortunately, my toys these days consist of a BlackBerry, a WiFi enabled laptop and a box of tissues. Useful, to be sure, but not as much fun as leaden soldiers.

As a rule, I attempt to avoid illness, especially now when I know that, in my misery, I will not be able to surround myself with the familiar comforts of home.

As a sick-bed must-have, Campbell’s Chicken Rice Soup is number one with a bullet. Dress it up with extra rice, some garlic salt and there is no better cure-all this side of a Jewish Grandmother’s kitchen. Tragically, it is unavailable here. I look for it all the time (always nice to have a few cans in the larder, just in case) but have never found it. This, naturally, has led to some experimentation with native ingredients. Bad idea.

Nyquil is also among the missing. As is a qualified pain reliever. British aspirin, in addition to being doled out in packets of sixteen tablets, has the curative properties of tap water, and the various aspirin substitutes are not far behind. I think it must have something to do with what we are brought up with-—the drugs we take as children must get into our chemical structure, making us immune to foreign drugs. This is why I always have a large bottle of Aleve on hand-—it is the only drug that seems to work for me, and I have to have it shipped in from the States.

To be fair, there are a few indigenous comforts I am learning to adopt to ease my convalescence along. The main one is tea, simply because they have better tea over here and there is nothing like a nice cup of tea when you are feeling poorly. Add to that a steaming cup of Lemsip at bedtime and you can forget about American drugs. For four hours, at least.

But I know I’d be up and around by now if I just had a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Rice Soup.


  1. Anonymous1:00 AM

    Robert Louis Stevenson - The Land of Counterpane
    "That has been one of my favorite poems since I was a child" -- so you obviously always were a closet Brit, even in your youth, good for you. Sorry about the unavailability of Campbell's chicken rice soup in the UK, but maybe you could give Baxter's Cock-a-Leekie Soup a try or even Heinz Oxtail Soup, both probably weird concoctions for anybody who didn't grow up with them. Just a suggestion, probably an unwelcome one -- but we try, and as my husband says, I can be very trying at times. Lemsip is great, but if the Brit aspirin doesn’t work for you try Paracetamol. But what do I know, I grew up being given Codeine for fever decades ago when it was normal to buy Codeine over the counter in the UK, plus I like weird things like Cock-a-Leekie and Oxtail Soups. It’s a wonder I lived to this ripe old age (must have been something to do with all the cockles I ate when I was young – no we won’t even go there!!)
    Get Well Soon,

  2. Anonymous9:05 AM

    Took me awhile to figure it out, but Night Nurse (ask the chemist)is the same as Nyquil.

    Hope you feel better, soon.