It’s cold outside. Do you know how I know this? Because I’ve been told. ‘Brrrr, it’s cold out there’ has become the new ‘hello, how are you?’ Waking up to messages in the WhatsApp groups expressing shock at how cold it is this morning. Colleagues at work commenting on the cold, strangers in the street giving pantomime performances, rubbing their arms and pulling their face at you with an unspoken understanding.
If I didn’t have skin receptors, I would still be able to tell it was cold, because I’ve been informed by every person that I’ve spoken to today that it is, in fact, cold. ‘Cold out there,’ nods our neighbour in greeting, as we meet in the elevator. ‘Minus 1 degree apparently!’ I reply in feigned surprise. The neighbour’s bushy eyebrows shoot up in well-practised shock. ‘Minus 1! Is it really?!’ We both know it is. 3 floors left to go. ‘That’s what the BBC weather report says,’ I respond, lamely attempting to continue the conversation until we reach the ground floor, because if there’s one thing that Brits are good at, it’s using weather as a topic to avoid uncomfortable silence.
I arrive at work and stand by the heater. I’m dressed like the Michelin man. Or Joey, from Friends, in that scene where he puts on all of Chandler’s clothes. I’m wearing about 7 layers, not including my underwear. ‘How are we all?’ I ask. ‘Cold,’ echoes everyone. Or at least what is left of everyone. Those who haven’t been stuck at home due to train cancellations as a result of the highly predicted thin layer of snow that fell last night. Those who haven’t been struck down by the flu, common cold, or Covid. London never fails to baffle me with its inability to cope in unusual weather conditions. It snows lightly, and everything shuts down: trains, buses, work, people. We could learn a lot from Scandinavia.
The next morning I wake up in our freezing flat. The flat is freezing because we refuse to turn the heating on and pay extortionate energy prices. And also because I’d prefer to have the Christmas tree lights on because, well, joy and festivity and so on, and having both on would be excessive. I make a gurgling noise as I try to speak to The Boy, and realise, in alarm, that I cannot breathe through my nose. I make myself a fresh lemon and ginger tea, and drink a glass of orange juice in panic, but it seems the damage is done. I am infected. No amount of vitamin C can save me now as I descend into the arms of the winter flu.
Forced rest and time off work at this time of year is a strong argument for starting a Christmas movie marathon. I start with the trashy ones, because I want to save the true Christmas classics; the likes of The Holiday and Love Actually, for closer to the big day. What I’m looking for is the super cringey, unbearably predictable, Lindsay Lohan-starring chick flick genre of Christmas movie. After 3 days in my flu-ridden predicament, I have almost exhausted Netflix’s bank of terrible feel-good Christmas movies, and so I move on to the more high calibre movies, beginning with The Grinch, interspersed with naps.
If you have not yet been taken down by sickness, chances are you will at some point, so here I am to help get you through it with my tips having done the research for you:
1. Line up a series of awful yet heartwarming Christmas movies to watch on Netflix. Try: Falling for Christmas (awful yet cute), Christmas with You (irritating but fun), The Noel Diary (Dear John vibes), to get started.
2. Fresh lemon + fresh ginger. Any symptom improvements may well be placebo, but it makes a nice tea. Hopefully you have a partner or flatmate who can pick these ingredients up for you to prevent you from venturing outside, where it is cold. Peel the ginger + prick with a fork to help release some of the juice before adding to a mug of boiling water along with some squeezed lemon + 1/3tsp of turmeric powder (or fresh turmeric) if you’re feeling fancy.
3. The lemon + ginger tea is a great way to increase fluid intake when ill, but a couple of other comforting drinks I’d recommend are: turmeric latte (oat milk, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, dash of allspice, cocoa powder, vanilla extract + squeeze of honey) or a hot chocolate. I recently invested in a Hotel Chocolat velvetiser along with fancy hot chocolate blends – I recommend.
4. Laptop work! One of the benefits of Covid was the shift towards hybrid working. As someone who is self-employed, and a large chunk of my pay is made up by being present at work, online work (mainly online coaching) has helped me to worry less about being forced to take time off. Explore your options, be creative! Write a blog post from underneath a blanket on your sofa, as I am now. If you can carry on working whilst ill then great – just make sure you set times for breaks as you need to be recovering too.
If you have any other tips that helped get you through flu season, please share below!