Spice girl


I thought I’d found my soulmate, I really did. This time, I thought, we’ll be together forever. You know when it just floods your whole mind so you can’t think of anything or anyone else? It colours every part of your life? It seems to fill your chest and make your heart flutter? Yeah, well, by the time that happened, on Monday, I thought enough is enough and went to the doctor. Yep, she said, ‘that is one lovely big chest infection you’ve got there’, and sent me off for antibiotics and a steroid inhaler. Tomorrow will mark our fifth-week anniversary, but I doubt we’ll make it to six. And as with the end of every liaison, I am relieved it’s over.

Still, I can’t be too negative. A good relationship teaches you things about yourself that you didn’t know. It should open up new aspects of your personality and encourage you to try new things. I’ve learned, for example, that if I go introspective, bowed down with the dreariness of life and have a cough and headache for five weeks, I should seek help. As for trying new things, well, that really has been a revelation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…. GINGER. A miracle of a root, a soother of aches and warmer of bodies. A delicious, invigorating, comforting cure-all that should be on every menu.

See, when I first fell ill, in the first week in January (Christ, was it really that long ago?), a friend suggested mugs of hot water, slice of lemon, whizzed-up chunk of root ginger. I couldn’t be arsed to get the food processor down from the hall cupboard, whence it was banished, unused, soon after it was purchased with fond daydreams of making quince paste, so I just cut up the ginger into julienne strips, poured on the water, drank it down and ate the ginger afterwards with a spoon.

A lovely, warming brew, I thought, antiviral, brings on a bit of a sweat, will help fight lurgy, plus it’s delicious and oddly energizing. Actually, I thought it would probably have bugger-all effect on my system but just tasted nice, until I had a cup just before bed and couldn’t sleep for hours, despite being bone-weary with coldybug. Then a few days later I had too much of it again and gave myself nausea and the runs. Golly, went my thinking, that really is quite the stimulant. And then, astonishingly, after about a week, I noticed that my legs had stopped stiffening up and aching every time I sat down for longer than 10 minutes.

This problem had been worsening over the last year, until the end of the Cotswold walk last autumn when, although I hardly admitted it to myself and certainly didn’t tell anyone else, I thought I’d have to give up walking. Stretching, massages, hot baths – nothing eased the aches for longer than an hour or so. Until The Unlooked-For Miracle, I’d had absolutely no idea ginger could do anything to muscles. And it can’t be placebo because I was concentrating too hard on detecting any effect on my noisily orchestral thorax, rather than anything further south. But one day in the office I stood up to fetch something from the printer and noticed that I hadn’t needed to trigger ignition with the words oof or ow. A minute’s mental wander back in time and I realized that legs had been gip-free for, what, days? Dunno exactly because all attention was focused elsewhere. So, having out-and-backed to the printer, transported by celebratory grands jetés, I turned to Great-aunt Internet for advice. Yup, she said, ginger is totes amaze for muscle recovery and joint aches, and a lot better for you than ibuprofen.

Inspired by this intelligence, I have started walloping into the turmeric and cinnamon too (delicious in porridge with honey stirred through it and milk) and am hoping I have fortified myself for a summer of walking. Still and all, I ain’t gone totally natural. When the chips are down, when your thorax sounds like a youth orchestra tuning up and the world has become bleached of meaning, antibiotics and steroids are your only man.


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