James Delingpole

This Christmas, I wish you the gift of flu

For a freelance like me, illness is the only hope of time off

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

Have you had the horrid bug that’s going round yet? I’ve got it now and I do hope you get it too. But before I explain why let me describe the unpleasant symptoms.

These include: frequent headaches; burning lungs; watery mucus that makes you feel like you are drowning, later replaced by thick phlegm which makes you feel like you’re being suffocated; a raw, ravaged throat akin to swallowing ground tiger whiskers; a cough so tickly your sleep is like the ‘Albanian’ torture sequence in The Ipcress File; general dyspepsia, torpor, achiness and malaise; irrational, impotent rage over absolutely everything.

The last symptom is so weird it would almost be amusing if you weren’t in such a bad mood. For example, crawling down to breakfast one morning I discovered that some bastard idiot (me, probably) had switched on the Today programme and that everyone and everything on it was hateful beyond measure. This was far beyond the normal, healthy, routine irritation one naturally feels when listening to Radio 4. Basically, I just wanted to kill the entire team: for the way they spoke, the questions they asked, their choice of topics, their appalling intrusion into my head space when all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and die.

Presumably evolutionary biology has a sound explanation for this odd symptom. My guess is that it serves two functions. The first is to make the sufferer so repellent to those around him that they shun his company, thus reducing their risk of being infected. And the second is to ease the community’s pain should he end up dying of his illness: ‘Ah well. He was such a miserable bastard it’s probably better for all of us that he’s in a happier place…’


So why am I now wishing all this horror on you? Because this bug is the equivalent of one of those Blighty wounds they used to yearn after in the trenches: serious enough to require a period of enforced convalescence but not so dreadful that it ended up ruining your life for ever afterwards.

And blimey, are these Blighty bugs a blessing in this hideous new era of ours when none of us get any time off work ever. Yeah, sure, we have our allocated holidays. But how many of us a) take them at all or b) use them for total relaxation? I certainly don’t and I expect it’s the same with you: thanks to the internet and emails and mobile phones, we’re required to be on all the time from the moment we wake till the time we go to bed, at weekends and even on vacation.

Not even Christmas is exempt. In my profession, anyway, it’s seen as a season of joy and bounty — not so much because of the merry family gatherings or the religious connotations but rather because if you’re lucky the Mail will ring you up and ask you to do a quick turnaround feature because the regulars they’d normally commission are away.

By my reckoning the number of totally work-free days I’ve enjoyed in the last two years is zero. And two years, by spooky coincidence, is about how long it has been since I was last properly ill. See what I’m getting at here? If it wasn’t for illnesses like this horrid bug, none of us would ever be able to enjoy any precious ‘me’ moments till the day we die.

Here are some of the things I was able to do on my precious ‘me’ day being ill:

  1. I anaesthetised myself with two huge whiskies — one in a hot toddy, one au naturel — and felt like I was on holiday in Scotland, which is normally the only place I can bear to drink the stuff.
  2. I had a quite incredibly long, hot bath, well over an hour, in which I read, for a change, not a current affairs magazine or a review copy but some fiction which had nothing to do with work whatsoever — Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy.
  3. I thought about going on to my computer to see what the trolls were saying below my latest blogposts and whether anyone was being annoying on Twitter — and then decided, ‘Nah: too much like real life.’
  4. I sat in the sitting room with the Fawn, making a huge and profligate fire, and then spent an afternoon playing Scrabble. Scrabble! Imagine! On the afternoon of a working week. How amazingly decadent is that?
  5. Got to eat supper at a reasonable time for a change because I wasn’t at my desk working. This meant that I could eat my TV dinner in front of Masterchef, then followed on with The Apprentice — and still was in bed early enough to get lots of reading time in before lights out.
  6. Played Carcassonne, while watching The Apprentice, which to be fair is something I do even when I’m not ill. The difference this time was that it didn’t strike me as a frivolous waste of life but a pleasure I thoroughly deserved as a reward for courage and endurance during my sickness hell.

So I hope, now, you won’t think me a kill-joy for wishing on you this vile illness during the festive season. Rather, I hope you’ll understand that it is a sign that I love you and I care. It will get you off cooking and washing up. No one will expect you to be sociable or even to show the slightest gratitude for their crappy presents. You’ll be let off Midnight Mass. You can tell everyone what you really think. Bliss!

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • vanLomborg

    Illness, in particular the common flu, is entirely preventable.
    Three easy steps to prevent contracting it without going for a jab: (1) do not work in an air-conditioned office, decline working there, put a clause into your next contract if your boss thinks you should to ‘show your face’, team building, better control or other such bollox, (2) do not have contact with any school children, even your own – send them to boarding school and keep them there, forever, (3) overdose on Vitamin C and Zinc like a green health junkie. Sorted.

    • Ed  

      Meh. If you don’t want the flu, wash your hands.

  • No doubt one of the consequences of Global Warming will be a drastically lowered incidence of winter influenza in Britain. You won’t even have to emigrate 😉

  • Roughyed1963

    Good choice of book – Mary Renault is excellent.

  • jaz

    “Let me describe the unpleasant symptoms … impotent rage over absolutely everything.” How could you tell? That is just daily life for you.

  • Mnestheus

    As his writing is far too febrile to begin with, I wish Delinpole a cool yule and a speedy recovery.

  • Sean L

    My sympathies, but with proper flu you could never drink a whisky, let alone sit at a computer or watch telly or read. With real flu you’re totally out of it for at least a couple of days. Which doesn’t mean you don’t feel sh*t. Just not as sh*t as with real flu.

    • Sarah Luvth

      !!! I Sarah Post This Testimony Coz My Husband Is Back Thanks To Dr.Ukaka

      I have never seen myself shed tears for anything before, but this very day that my lover left the house with annoyances after we had some fight about him always coming home late i cried the whole day, But after so many days of loneliness i decided to look for solution to my relationship and answer came to me when i saw Dr.Ukaka details on the internet and i read a lot of reviews about him and i decided to give him a call and through the help of Dr.Ukaka my lover came back to me within 48 hours and since then he has never come home late, So you can see how powerful and useful Dr.Ukaka is to the whole world that is why i am going to be putting Dr.Ukaka contact details right now for the sake of those people that will need his help contact Dr.Ukaka via mobile +2348133873774 or you write him via email at freedomlovespell@hotmail.com also contact him for help.website address: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com.

    • jamesdelingpole

      I never once used the word flu in the piece, you’ll note. So what important thing does that tell you?

      • Sean L

        That you’re considering the ‘I’ of the heading attached to your name and image independently of the ‘I’ of the ‘piece’; that you are not the author of that ‘I’; that that ‘I’ is a fiction. Anyway, hope you’re feeling better. It sounded nasty whatever it is. Happy Christmas.

      • Robbydot1

        James, it was in the headline. Hope you’re feeling better now.

    • rightrightright

      James had a dollop of man flu, aka the common cold.

      I read once: If you are stretched out on the sofa feeling rotten with either a cold or flu and a twenty quid note flutters into your garden, if you go and get the note straight away, you have a cold. If you say to yourself ‘I’ll go and get it tomorrow’ you have flu.

      • Sean L

        For sure.

      • Gwangi

        Man flu? An utter myth In fact, the evidence shows that women have lower pain thresholds, take more time off, even retire earlier thru illness even tho men are iller Malingering weaklings!

        Woman flu is the issue ‘man flu’ is an invention of the noisy manhatng feminist industry. Ditto for the supposed superiority of ‘mulitasking’ which absurdly they claim only women can do. (No, but women can’t focus on one single thing like then, the butterfly brains!)

  • Sarah Luvth

    !!! I Sarah Post This Testimony Coz My Husband Is Back Thanks To Dr.Ukaka

    I have never seen myself shed tears for anything before, but this very day that my lover left the house with annoyances after we had some fight about him always coming home late i cried the whole day, But after so many days of loneliness i decided to look for solution to my relationship and answer came to me when i saw Dr.Ukaka details on the internet and i read a lot of reviews about him and i decided to give him a call and through the help of Dr.Ukaka my lover came back to me within 48 hours and since then he has never come home late, So you can see how powerful and useful Dr.Ukaka is to the whole world that is why i am going to be putting Dr.Ukaka contact details right now for the sake of those people that will need his help contact Dr.Ukaka via mobile +2348133873774 or you write him via email at freedomlovespell@hotmail.com also contact him for help.website address: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com

  • Swanky

    Hand sanitizer. Use it. We’ve been disgustingly healthy for more years than I can count — and my husband is a food-boutique gourmet zombie and teaches in a high school. Yes, where there are kids. Kids have worse manners than zombies, as I need hardly describe. Hand sanitizer. In the car. After you’re at the gas pump [petrol], after you’ve touched whatever your fellow citizens/polloi/oiks have been manhandling. If it’s good enough for me and Mick Jagger, it’ll probably work for you!

  • greggf

    “Presumably evolutionary biology has a sound explanation for this odd symptom.”

    Or that the social mood is negative bordering on very negative!
    Elliott Waves and Socionomics might help to explain it all.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Sounds like a bout of man flu to me.

    (Only kidding).

    Hope you don’t recover too quickly so you can have a few more self-indulgent days.

    Then come back in the NY and (a) entertain us and (b) give the LibLabCon sycophants in the media merry hell on our behalf.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Echinacea: start taking it at the end of October and don’t let up until end February.

    I’ve done this for about 5 years now and haven’t had a winter bug in all that time.

  • Perseus Slade

    Just don`t drop the iPad in the hot bath

  • Terence Hale

    Hi,
    Dinner for One. The same procedure as every year. I take a flu immunisation every year after which I get the flu.

  • purpleacky

    Did you tune in to the Lenny Henry edited version?

Close