Hidden away in a cupboard inside my parents’ Balham flat was a large tome entitled The Home Doctor. Mum was a hypochondriac, so here were 400-pages of opportunities for imaginary illnesses.
However, growing up – and hiding in the cupboard – in the ‘60s, I would look at only one of the 400-pages. Towards the end of the book there was a page with a chart detailing all the ‘child’ illnesses; their incubation period; signs and days of contagion. If it wasn’t for the dread of seeing blood, I’d have been a leading pediatrician by the time I was 10!
These were the days before Calpol, Sudafed or Imodium (which sounds like a Roman god).
The ‘60s alternatives had been invented in the Middle Ages. Two teaspoonfuls of Kaolin & Morphine (forerunners to Bonnie & Clyde) would be enough to make you stay away from any toilet for several months. The precursor to Calpol was gripe water (which tasted like Ouzo – of which we had a lot of in our flat as both parents were fans of the film Zorba the Greek) – and contained alcohol to allow little Johnny to sleep.
If you had a cold – there was no Lemsip – you needed a bowl; a towel; access to boiling water and a few drops of Friar’s Balsam – it wouldn’t stop your cold, but it’d make sure you stopped moaning about it.
Another horror was Milk of Magnesia – like drinking chalk – and that’s meant to settle your stomach?
Of course, back then, the most used anesthetic was cocaine. My dentist was in Clapham and fear that, should I want some now, rather than going to the grand old house where I went, you probably have to wait outside Clapham Common Station and wait for Stephen Ward to turn up.