A Sick Fantasy

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Every time I am sick, I have a fantasy. It involves having other people do my work for me and that could only happen in a life far from the one I live as a hands-on, do-everything-for-myself, ordinary person. Illness does not suit a restless body like mine.

In my fantasy, I live in a gothic manor house built of stone and sitting in its own rolling acreage. The boundaries are so distant that no fencing is necessary. The air is always fresh and nature is respectfully soto voce because I’m sick.

The house has a central hall in which a great oak staircase rises to a mysterious upper floor. I have never been there yet because that is where the bedrooms are and people sleep. My fantasy is about what you do when your active life is impeded, when it is a struggle to do the everyday things like walking the dogs, feeding the cats, all the cleaning and cooking – the inescapable obligations of mundane minutiae. Ah, the tedium.

This is where my fantasy staff step in. Meet Jenkins, the butler, Sam, the groundsman, Mrs Dibbs, the cook (known as “Cook”) and Nelly, my ladies maid. They are the core staff required by my fantasy. The rest of the service personnel, like the rooms upstairs have not yet been required even though they are in the background. In my illness-addled state, it gives me comfort to know that the laundry has been steaming away, that all the linen is drying quietly and that my crisp bedding has already been turned down by the upstairs maid. I think my bed might be a heavily carved, half-tester in meticulously vacuumed and buffed surroundings, with not a spec of dust riding the golden shafts of late afternoon light streaming through the leadlight mullions. I’m not yet well enough to go to bed.

I am in the hall, considering walking the dogs but it is too much. I ask Jenkins to open the front door, which is very heavy.

“Go find Sam!” I tell the dogs. They run off. Sam lives around the back in the service quarters and he will bring the dogs back, exercised. He will let them in through the kitchen.

I tell Jenkins that tonight we will be having dinner in the library and to ask Cook to make soup. Even though my husband is not sick, he has to have dinner with me in the library. Cook knows that when I ask for soup, it means she also has to prepare a full dinner for my husband. She knows exactly what sort of vegetable soup I want and, no doubt will produce that required full dinner as well. However, as I am the one who is ill and this is my fantasy, the full dinner bit is another mystery detail.

The library is the best bit. It is lined with bookcases and softly lit by a lamp or two. There are winged armchairs to cradle your aching head and handy bits of furniture to hold piles of books and your laptop. There would be a small TV on one of the shelves so that you could watch The Beverley Hillbillies when you had your soup. It would be so relaxing. The cats would have been put to bed, the dogs fed and when you were well enough to climb the stairs, you only had to give the word for Nelly to run you a bath. There are no droughts and water restrictions in fantasies.

The only better fantasy would be one in which I am well but if I was well, I wouldn’t need a fantasy, except for the one in which time stops and I do all those countless things that I want to do when I’m well…

Blazenka Brysha

3/11/09

Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, the home of Horace Walpole, painted by Johann Heinrich Müntz, in the 1750s. Walpole thrilled genteel 18th C English readers with his gothic novel, The Castle of Ontranto, which can be downloaded free from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/696

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