It’s Sunday and Barry will be back tomorrow morning. I have flu. Is it the flu, Piggy Flu?  I think so. I have checked on line and I seem to have most of the symptoms listed. I haven’t bothered to call the NHS help line. However kind the person on the other end might be, he or she is not a doctor. He or she will go through the same check list, and come to the same conclusion as me. So there is no point. 

The phone rings. I look at my watch. It is five o’clock on a Sunday evening. Maybe Michael has picked up my message.  I have asked him to get me some paracetamol and tissues. 

“Hello” I manage.

“Madelaine? Is that you, “you don’t sound like yourself?  You ill or something?”

It’s Barry. Oh God, it’s Barry. On a Sunday! I can’t help but wonder if it’s completely legal for bailiffs to call their quarry on a Sunday.

“I’ve got the flu”

“You sound awful. You rung the doctor?”


“The NHS line?”

The line is manned by people who just ask questions and tick boxes.

“But you’ll get the Tamiflu .”

“I don’t want Tamiflu. It’ll make me sick.”

“You don’t know that.  You mustn’t believe everything you read; lot of scare mongering out there.  I don’t like to think of you all alone with the flu. Lucky I called.”

I am fine, Barry.  I promise you I am fine.

“What you need is hot lemon, some ginger and honey and don’t forget to put it a lot of pepper”

““My Mum always used to put twelve grinds pepper in a hot toddy. Almost blew me head off, but it does the trick.”

I am searching for something to say, apart from the obvious that I have lemon and ginger and pepper,  even honey, but I feel too ill to go downstairs to make it .  And I certainly can’t tell him about the sinking house today. I don’t feel well enough to face the fallout.”

Fortunately Barry hasn’t noticed I haven’t spoken.  He is on full throttle.

Is someone looking after you…then?”

Flu is a bit antisocial, isn’t it?  People don’t really want to visit. A broken leg, or a near death, as long as it’s not catching, is fine.  But the flu is a definite ‘no go’.

“What about that no good husband of yours?”
I told you Barry, we are divorced!  And anyway the daughter is staying with him. I don’t want her to catch this.

“No. You did the right thing. As long as he’s not taking advantage of her, getting her to baby-sit so he and the “skater wife” can have a night off. I mean she’s only 10. Wouldn’t be legal”

“Skater wife?” What is Barry talking about?

“You said she had the hips of an ice skater, being that she was gymaholic and all.”

Did I tell you that?  I can’t have done. But then maybe I did. How close is this relationship?

“You don’t sound on top of it, Madelaine.  Tell you what, when you give me the morning call tomorrow,  to bring me up to speed on the completion date and all that, if you are not sounding better, I am going to insist you call that NHS line.”

So this is not THAT call.

“Course not. Just wanted to check up on you, see how you were. And obviously you are not doing too well.”

Nor are you going to be doing too well, Barry, tomorrow morning, when I tell you that there is no completion date because there is no sale.