Monday, 29 April 2013

Chronically ill Tuesday: The Invalid Abroad.

Here is something you may or may not have known about the chronically ill person: they do not want to know about your upcoming holiday plans. I'm sorry to tell you that but nor do they really want to hear about the holiday you just came back from. 
I know that sounds bitter. Because it is bitter.
Because am bitter.
Bitter that chronic illness never goes on holiday. Unless you are thinking of a little white pill called Endone. (And I swear I'm not. Honestly. Okay, I'm trying).
It just doesn't occur to people easily. That you can't ask your illness to hold down the hatches at home, watch out for the cat and take in the mail, while you nip off for a week without it. Just occasionally you can fool yourself, with a little something evil  called hope, that you actually are going to get a break while away, out of town, the opportunity to enjoy some new surroundings without your illness in tow. You may even get into the spirit of things while packing, fantasising about this new environment, where magically everyone is well. And then you are disappointed and, weirdly, surprised that the illness you've had for thirty years now persists in coastal environments as well.
It puts me in the mind of a hematologist I saw in my early twenties before being fully diagnosed. His suggestion that maybe I needed a change of environment. Because not only am I well enough for travel but also idly rich enough to pack up my belongings, board a steam train with my companion, and travel to the sea side where our summer lodgings await, fully staffed with a cook and house servant. Or maybe the staff travelled with us. I'm not sure. However it was done in a Henry James novel. Who did he think I was anyway? Isabel Archer? Who knows, I might have run into Marcel Proust doing his own convalescing while there.
Because if ever you are reading up on the Victorian invalid, existing as they did with reasonable frequency in the Victorian novel, you find that they actually DID travel quite a bit. Often on doctors instruction. Worrying predictions such as "She won't survive another English winter" would definitely be inspiration to head south for a warm break. As someone who remembers reading these Victorian novels as a teenager, when my own illness had already taken grip but before the internet existed, I remember studying with intent these secondary characters - the invalids - in Victorian novels, as one of the few places in culture (or anywhere really) I could recognise some of my own experience. And yet I NEVER got the travel thing. The way they were able to pack up and pick up shop for a warmer environment. Travel. It's just so hard when you are sick. There are days I can barely pack a lunch let alone a suitcase. Plus on the road, no access to the few consoling things that provide comfort. Such as warm baths. Your own bed. A pharmacist who knows you. Food that agrees with you. 
I guess the explanation lies in these being wealthy Victorian invalids. The mind boggles that any family besides Gina Rhinehart's these days (and they're not talking to each other) could pack up an entourage of nursemaid, chef, driver, house servants and companion to accompany you on a tour of convalescence. How much would that cost? Exactly how well off are the disabled likely to be these days? And anyway like I said it's hard enough being sick in your own environment, where everything is arranged to provide the maximum quality of life possible, let alone an exotic one geared to the average healthy schmuck tourist.
So I guess that is it. Until an affordable industry has built up around invalid travel, so that leaving home actually constitutes a holiday, I am afraid I have to apologise and give your European Tour slide night a miss.

Fun ways for the Invalid to get about.


  1. Oh my lovely, I am now in the depths of Catholic guilt - that's the best and deepest kind you know...
    I am guilty of posting photos on facebook- never again...

    I would offer you a holiday to sunny Duffy if we weren't moving soon . A change of scenery (surely that's what they mean although I'm pretty sure you need to get their by luxury train)and your chemist is still nearby - although the bath is a very depressing spew olive green. And you could meet the natives, maybe have the true experience of finding the dog mauled dead cat in your backyard, the joy of getting your numberplates nicked or the bliss of screaming abusive neighbours - ahhh.

    If you ever need a companion to take on holidays, I'm there babes. We can read dirty books together, I think that is implied in all the Austen novels...


  2. Thank You dear Karen.I promise when the time comes for my convalescent tour and am in need of a companion you will definitely make the shortlisted applicants!

  3. I hear you Mia!

    I think what you are frustrated with is not only the limitations of your illness but the lack of tack and humility in others.

    It is not a crime to take a well earned holiday but to boof on about it on random social media etc shows you don't recognise that:
    a) the people that can't afford to go there due to physical and/or economical reasons will be jealous and/or a little sad.
    a) the people that can go only care if they are planning to go there too and want travel tips.

    It is OK to mention that you are going, you don't want concerned friends calling the police to knock down the front door. Just don't go on about your "faaaaaabulous holiday darling!", no one is impressed and you look like a pretentious git.

    Empathy for other people is a noble trait to have. Humility in other areas of wealth are also considering. I don't just mean financial affluence. Consider the people who go on about the joy of their brilliant kids endlessly in front of childless couples without considering their lack of offspring may not be a choice.

    Great post!

    1. Great insights across the board Sonia, thank you. xxxxxx
      PS I hope my blogging success has not got you down..suspected your own blog a bit "dead" at present? I too, need show more sensitivity in certain areas :)

  4. Even though the Victorians had staff, they had to put up with arsenic in their wallpaper... Come and take a holiday with us - I can offer Wayne up as a ready-made butler. He is very house-trained! All those years in a British boarding school actually rubbed-off and he cleans and polishes better than any Victorian butler I have ever read about. I hope 'well-again Wednesday' rolls around soon!

  5. I do agree with you Mia. I think the very idea of considering other people and 'standing in their shoes' is a lost art...
    Social medias have exaggerated its demise because you post something that will be seen by a wider group and your communication is not actually addressing an individual. So I guess most people feel free from having to think of how their words/pictures will affect others in particular. It's actually a very real problem of how we choose to communicate now – a disengagement even as we tell ourselves that we are engaging.
    However, social medias have also freed the recipient who can disengage too and merely click 'like' to show they were there but not even look at the pictures... maybe that's a blessing in situations like this?

  6. Kylie, I love your depth of understanding. Yes to everything. I find on Facebook some people are addressing a very specific circle not thinking how alienating it comes across to the rest of their FB 'Friends'.

  7. Some of my 'friends' holiday pics have totally put me off going on holiday, particularly those that are 'cheaper than holidaying in Australia' because of the poverty of the locals. I'd rather stay home!

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