Sue Limb: From cougar to cougher

'I don’t like to boast, but for the past month I’ve had the most amazing, impressive, prize-winning,

'I don’t like to boast, but for the past month I’ve had the most amazing, impressive, prize-winning, five-star cough' - Credit: Archant

In search of a humid atmosphere Sue Limb have been driven to stick her head down inside her own vest and inhale the steam coming off her cleavage

I don’t like to boast, but for the past month I’ve had the most amazing, impressive, prize-winning, five-star cough. It’s not just a symptom: it’s more like a visitor – the sort that invites himself, asks if he can stay a week, and somehow a month later he’s still dominating the conversation with both elbows on the table. Coughs are so egocentric. They never listen. With them it’s just me, me, me.

The dog is unnerved by my cough. I suppose it does sound like barking. For all I know, I may be saying things in doggish. My helpless, hacking ‘Ak-ak-ak-ak AAAAAk-ak ak!’ might mean ‘Get out of this den and don’t come back until you can offer me a whole antelope, still warm and twitching!’ I may be immobilised with a virus but I’m still the Alpha Bitch around here.

Normal, enjoyable everyday activities become cough-triggers. Laughing is downright dangerous. If the Two Ronnies should suddenly appear on TV, dressed up as dinner ladies and playing a range of pots and pans like a xylophone, I hastily leave the room, rather as my dear old Dad used to do if anyone kissed anyone on TV in the 1960s.

Talking is difficult. Sometimes a cough will try to insert itself halfway through a sentence, and I have to kind of choke it back and transform its violent, explosive energy into the words. Something along the lines of, ‘Please could you PAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHH the salt and pepper?’

The air needs to be just right: warm, and moist. We live in a draughty, freezing farmhouse in which the central heating system long ago became merely decorative, so our main sources of heat are log fires and wood-burners, which dry the air out to a Saharan aridity. Hot dry air sets the cough off, and in search of a humid atmosphere I have been driven to stick my head down inside my own vest and inhale the steam coming off my cleavage.

The only thing that helps is a hot bath. I could easily spend whole days suspended in wonderful warm wetness. In fact, I fantasise about an amphibious vehicle – a kind of Jacuzzi on wheels –in which I could whizz around the supermarket, enveloped in lavender bath oil, and able to select delicacies and greet acquaintances without coughing.

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Even very modest excursions are a bit of a challenge. My family urge me to go out and experience what they call ‘fresh air’ – preferably, I suspect, on the edge of a cliff. I can tell that The Final Solution is being discussed behind my back. But the cough has left me so weak, I need Bear Grylls just to get me to the bathroom: a three-day trek.

As for sleeping, I used to think I could only sleep lying down. Now I can only sleep sitting bolt upright. I have built a scale model of Ben Nevis out of pillows, and every night I prop myself up against it and, as vertically as possible, drift off in search of Morpheus. My chap must feel it’s like going to bed with an Easter Island head. ‘Not tonight, dear, I’m carved out of volcanic rock and staring at the horizon.’

I’m sorry to go on about my ailment, but just in case you are also hacking away on the sofa, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Maybe we coughers could get together in a kind of horrendous choir. It could lead to a reality TV programme – maybe a kind of competition with regional heats… I know! Mastercough!

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This article by Sue Limb is from the February 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Sue, follow her on Twitter: @sue_limb

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