Thirty minutes to go until I leave the house.  My room is cleaned and aired, in case my roommates have any guests who want to use it while I’m gone.  I’m packed as neatly as possible – one of the advantages is that I’m flying home, where all my favourite ancient clothes are, for mooching around the house, so I don’t need to bring much with me.  I took the winter woollies, as I figure Berlin is over the worst of winter, and will bring back teeshirts instead.

Just as you are careening along with everything under control, life can throw you what the Americans so colourfully call a curveball.  Last weekend, I caught a cold, and gave it the usual gallons-of-water-and-early-nights treatment. However, it just wouldn’t shift, and as the week went on, it got worse.  On the way home from babysitting one night, my ear suddenly blocked and I’ve been deaf on that side ever since.  Oh we never appreciate our faculties until they disappear.  In my head, it sounds as if there’s a factory churning, and I have to tilt my head in the direction of whoever is speaking.  However, it wasn’t so bad as to stop me from babysitting, but I had thought I’d have a week of meeting people who are heading off into adventures, and instead, I was in bed early every night.  On Wednesday, Alexander (7) was sitting on the couch, and I leaned over him to ask him if he could help me clear the table. With that, he jumped up with enthusiasm, and his (very hard) head hit me right in the left eye.  Zora (9) dashed off for a bag of peas from the freezer, and I went into the downstairs bathroom to look at the damage.  I could see a bruise rising into a little egg which made me murmur “fuck!” under my breath (I thought!).  The children thought it was the funniest thing –  they danced around chanting “Lulu said the F-word! Lulu said the F-word!”.  All I could think of was flying home to Ireland with a black eye, but after a while, I could see the funny side of it, and it wasn’t too bad by the next day – It looked as if I’d put kohl on just one side.

When I went out next day, I forgot about the black eye, and it’s strange to see people’s reactions in shops – they think you’re either a victim, or maybe dangerous yourself, and keep you at a safe distance.  On the train, I was looked by very sympathetically by lots of younger women, who assumed I was a poor old beaten-up wife, but I felt it was rather healthy that they had such empathy with older women. By the time Friday rolled around, I began to wonder if I’d ever get better, and would I be okay to fly, so I went to the doctor.  Claudia, the children’s mother, recommended her doctor, and they said I could come to the open hour and just wait.  Eventually, I got in to see Dr. Hamm (“Yes! Hamm, just like the meat!”), who welcomed me with open arms.  He had just booked to go to Co. Kerry for a holiday in August, and spent the next quarter of an hour talking about Ireland.  I gave him a gentle nudge, saying actually, my throat and ear, ahem ahem, and he swabbed my throat, explained the procedure (using a kit not unlike a pregnancy test – if two stripes show up, you have strep throat, if only one, you’re clear).  No, he said, you have no strep throat, so you don’t need an antibiotic. He recommended nose drops for the ear, and was totally chipper about flying. He gave me such a lift, I suddenly felt a million times better, and a view of Ireland cleared through the clouds, it was totally possible to be healthy again. Bon voyage chez nous, Lulu, or turas sábháilte, as we say in the ould sod.