Milking it

two bar fire

Diphtheria is not only tricky to spell, but you never wanted to catch it as a kid; I never did, but did contract most of the other children’s diseases during the 60s.

My mum used to have a book which had a table listing all potential ailments: their symptoms, how long they lasted and the incubation period; the latter column being the one most used – you’d be innocently sent to a children’s party where your parents knew some child there had chicken pox –, you came away from the party with a balloon in the shape of a penis, a piece of cake and a highly contagious disease!

In my Balham flat I remember my dad having to get up in the night to put calamine lotion on me in front of our two-bar fire. (I assume it must have been winter, unless he was deliberately getting me to lose weight as I had a ride on the 3.30 at Newmarket the next day!)

I had measles as a baby, chicken pox at six, mumps when I was seven, German measles (it was the only German thing allowed in the flat) at eight. At nine, I contracted a mild form of Scarlet Fever.  The treatment for this was to dab the inflamed parts with milk.  I had an aunt who did this whilst smoking one of her 40-a-day Embassys; I was concurrently cured of Scarlet Fever whilst enduring passive smoking.

But prevention being better than cure, I was force-fed sprouts as a kid, as my mother told me this would stop me getting consumption; Black Death and Marsh Ague (winds from the River Wandle could have brought them, apparently!)

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