Monday, July 16, 2012

A Cold, Whiskey and the Opera Quartet

I've got a cold.  Not so-called 'man-flu' - just a cold.  I thought I'd have a lie-in this morning, but my brain is fizzing so relaxing in bed doesn't seem possible, even though it was comfortable and warm.   And the dog came and joined me and lay in a place that kept part of me just that much warmer.  But I couldn't relax.  

I'd already been in bed all night, and had had a couple of sessions of being distinctly uncomfortable because of the nose playing up.  The first time was when my wife came to bed - I must have been asleep, woke up and shifted position and next thing I knew I couldn't breathe through my nose at all.  Suffocation must be a terrifying thing, and just having your nose blocked isn't comparable, really. It's mainly just irritating.  But it's still a very weird sensation: you have to focus on breathing, which for most of our lives we don't bother to do.  It just happens.  Have you thought about breathing lately?  

Anyway, I got up and thought I'd apply some Vicks - that eventually worked, and breathing returned to normal (at least as normal as it ever is when you've got a cold).  Woke again around five, and there was a lot of clogging going on in the nasal regions, though I was breathing pretty much.  (I've just noticed on the Vicks page that you're not suppose to apply it directly inside your nostrils - whoops!)

The thing is that on Saturday, in spite of having the first symptoms of the cold, I actually got a lot done.  And yesterday I was up most of the day, and though I didn’t go to church or Sunny Side Up, I took the dog for a walk and felt okay.  I’ve had whiskey in the evening the last couple of nights (some whiskey that someone gave me – it had already been opened at that point, but they never drank it apparently) – but I’m not sure that it’s made a lot of difference.  I remember when I was rehearsing for the Opera Quartet that I was at Raymond Opie’s house [see below] and had a shocking cold.  Don’t know why I was there particularly, but anyway, Ray, who was a bit of a drinker, insisted that I have some whiskey (and I think there was something with it – sugar?) and so I did.  I went to sleep not long afterwards in a chair, and woke up sweating but feeling fine.  But I’ve never been able to get this method to work since! Though another friend of mine recommended a bit of whiskey in a hot milk drink before bed.  That worked the first time, but after that the body obviously decided that it wasn't going to be fooled by that again.  

Just had a look at a page on the Net that supposedly answers the question of whether whiskey has any effect – the general response is that it doesn’t, though there are all sorts of variations in the answers.  Some say it’s worth having it with water and sugar, some with lemon juice, some suggest brandy instead, and so on.  And several insist there’s no cure for the common cold.  And then further down the page you get others who say it’s a great cure, particularly if you get under the covers and sweat it out.  Some say definitely not because it dehydrates you – they recommend lots of water instead.  Well, it just goes to show.  No one agrees on anything, except their own experience.  

There's another page headed Whisky Boys (which shows its bias). It recommends whiskey, honey, lemon, cloves, hot water, etc.   In spite of the detailed preparations it discusses it admits it's more of a pleasant drink than a curing one!

Apropos Raymond Opie.  He was a well-known New Zealand operatic tenor, who, by the time I met him was getting on in years, although he could still sing well.  Along with three other singers, Lucas Bunt, the baritone, and general organiser (and permanent driver), Kathleen Johnson, the soprano, and Corinne Bridge (all four of them mentioned here) and myself as pianist, we formed the Quartet, (yes, I know a quartet is four, but the pianist didn't count in the title) and toured secondary schools throughout New Zealand, in a fairly exhausting trip that took us from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South.  This was back in the mid-sixties before I went to England to study at the London Opera Centre.  

The five of us travelled in a station wagon with advertising for our sponsors, Rothmans, plastered all over it.  It was a bit ironic, since Rothmans was a big cigarette company; you can't imagine that happening now!  We presented a 45-minute recital of operatic songs, duets and quartets, and were generally well-received around the country.  We'd do two or three performances a day, and travelled as well.  Occasionally we did a full concert for adult audiences.  At the performance in Milton - about forty km from Dunedin - the lid over the keyboard fell down and hit my thumb.  I continued playing but by the time we'd finished I was in agony, with the bruising under the thumbnail swelling dramatically.  We must have been heading back to Dunedin, because we called in at my house and my mother dealt to it by putting a hole in the nail with a hot needle to relieve the pressure.  At least that 'cure' worked!

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