Posts Tagged ‘tonsillitis’

Voiceless – like the little mermaid

November 29, 2010

I spent the weekend without a voice.

Not in a poetic way – I wasn’t speechless in the face of unimaginable beauty, or horror. And it wasn’t political either – I didn’t lose my right to free speech.

I simply lost the physical ability to speak. Whenever I opened my mouth to say something, all that came out were whispers and occasional croaky rasps.

Losing one’s voice is a very frustrating ailment. Communication is reduced to a series of whispers interrupted by bellowing ‘what?’s from the person one is attempting to address. Waitresses and shop assistants yield nothing but puzzled, somewhat put-out looks. And text messages suddenly seem like sublime nectar, a means of speaking without a voice, and swiftly become long, elaborate ramblings, which must seem akin to gobbledygook to the naive recipient.

Over the weekend, as communication with the outside world became more and more difficult, and I found my willingness to persevere dwindling – cancelling going to parties, calling in sick for work – I found my internal monologue growing deafeningly loud.


All this unspeakable dross got so loud that I felt as though a woodpecker on acid was living in between my ears.

Unbelievably frustrated and on the verge of losing my sanity, I decided that there must be someone who could sympathise. Rather than boring my friends with croaky moans, I turned my attention to books and wondered if I’d ever read about anyone losing their voice.

And so I thought of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. The little mermaid gives her beautiful voice to the sea witch as payment for a potion that will give her legs, which she needs to be able to live with a handsome prince. The mermaid fell in love with the prince when she rescued him from a storm, and now she wants him to fall in love with her, so that they’ll live together happily ever after.

But part of the deal with her new-gained legs is that they cause the mermaid enormous pain – ‘each time her foot touched the floor it seemed as if she trod on sharp knives’. At night she bathes her feet in seawater, as it eases the pain of her ‘burning’ feet. But the mermaid doesn’t mind the pain; she bears it to be near the prince, knowing that if he marries her, then she will be able to live a full human life, and that when she dies her soul will be immortal. But the prince falls in love with a princess, who he believes rescued him from the storm. And the sea witch has warned the mermaid that if he marries someone else, then on the morning after his wedding day, the mermaid will die, becoming no more than foam on the crest of waves.

Now the mermaid is definitely in more of a pickle than I am. Being laid up in bed for a couple of days is really not much to complain about compared to feeling acute pain in every step and watching the person you love fall in love with someone else, and knowing that it will kill you.

But what really strikes me about the story is how the little mermaid suffers without her voice. When the sea witch demands it as payment, the mermaid asks her what she will have left. The witch replies, ‘Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your expressive eyes; surely with these you can enchain a man’s heart.’

Well, no. The mermaid’s beauty, her graceful movements and her eyes aren’t enough to win the prince. She is unable to tell him that it was she was who rescued him from the storm. She is unable to talk to him, to tell him quite how much she loves him, how much she has given up to be with him. The little mermaid has become human, but without that most human of attributes – a voice, the ability to speak, to communicate.

And, without my voice for the past couple of days, I really have felt strangely sub-human. I am ignored, overlooked, unheard. Unable to say anything, people assume I am incredibly stupid. If they deign to talk to me at all, it is slowly and clearly, as though they’re addressing an idiot. No wonder that ‘voice’ finds its way into phrases that express such human concerns. The voice of a people, to voice a concern … yes, a voice is an essentially human quality. I want mine back!

When I called in (or, actually, texted in) sick for work, someone suggested that the ghosts of my tonsils had come back to haunt my poor throat after their traumatic removal last March. Gosh, that would be really unlucky. Who’d have known that their spirit would remain, causing pain and discomfort, despite their physical removal?

And this seemed to resonate again with The Little Mermaid. When the mermaid drinks the potion that will give her legs, the pain is described as ‘it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body’. Ouch. I know tonsillitis doesn’t affect one’s whole body, but the feeling is strangely akin to having a ‘two-edged sword’ at least in one’s throat. It really is a kind of sharp cutting feeling, just as though a knife were sawing away in there. And that feeling of acute, sword-like tonsillitis returned for two weeks after the horrid little things were removed.

Really, perhaps tonsil-removal was Hans Christian’s inspiration. Something is removed from a throat, immense sword-like sharp pain is suffered, all in order to capture the heart of a prince. (I can’t imagine a prince being allowed to marry someone with recurring tonsillitis.)

If only I’d read the story so closely before having my tonsils removed, then I’d have realised its true message. Just as the mermaid fails in her mission to seduce the prince, essentially because she has lost her voice, or her tonsils; tonsils, apparently, will continue to be an utter pain even when they’ve been removed.

But it does seem a bit rum that the mermaid never thought to write anything down for the prince. Because writing, thankfully, is one place that not being able to speak doesn’t matter one little bit.

Dexter Fletcher and the nature of coincidence

March 12, 2010

Last night, I watched some episodes of Misfits. I only came across this brilliant series, originally on E4, because the people who work in the DVD shop were watching it when I last went in (before the horrid tonsil-removal) to rent Caravaggio by Derek Jarman.

That looks funny, I thought, seeing them giggling, engrossed in the on-screen action as I paid for the film, making a mental note of the title as something to watch when in need of a laugh. The basic premise, as I discovered last night, is that a bunch of young offenders are doing community service when a freak storm gives them all magical powers. The script is wonderfully sharp, and I found myself in hysterics most of the time – which is actually one of the more painful things to do while tonsil wounds are healing, so rather a mixed blessing.

About half-way through the fourth episode, a familiar face briefly graces the screen as the father of one of the main characters. ‘It’s Dexter Fletcher,’ I hear my boyfriend say in amazement. ‘It is!’ I say, absolutely stunned.

The strange thing is that I’d never heard of Dexter Fletcher until two weeks ago, when I rented the afore-mentioned Caravaggio. The young Caravaggio is a beautiful young boy with very curly hair and excellent cheekiness. (As shown in the picture, which is available from the BFI printstore)

‘That’s the guy from Press Gang,’ my boyfriend said. It took a while to remember his name but, yes you’ve probably guessed, it was Dexter Fletcher. Unfortunately I never saw Press Gang, but from what I can gather from the classic YouTube clips, it was an eighties teen drama (featuring Dexter Fletcher and Julia Sawalha – aka Saffy from AbFab) about running a newspaper. It does look really very funny. I might get the DVDs for my final week of post-tonsil-removal-pain.

Great name, I thought. Dexter Fletcher. It could almost be made-up.

A few days after Caravaggio, we returned to the DVD shop, this time to rent The Elephant Man. We are sitting on the sofa, excited about the unravelling David Lynch classic, when I hear, ‘It’s Dexter Fletcher again!’ And it is. This time, a few years younger than in Caravaggio, he is the sweet little, rather unwilling, assistant to the Elephant Man’s abusive keeper.

How strange, I thought, to see two seemingly unconnected films in under a week and to find this actor in both of them.

So imagine the shock when last night – two weeks later – he reappeared, almost forty years on, as a cameo in Misfits?

For those of you who still can’t place Dexter Fletcher, he’s the one who has that great line in Lock, Stock: ‘guns for show, knives for a pro’. (A favourite during that immortal teenage summer when everyone talked in quotes from that film.)

So what does it mean, this sudden, insistent entrance of Dexter Fletcher into my viewing life?

A friend of mine recently gave me a bit of a talking to about coincidences like this. I’m sure we’ve all been prey to them. It’s like having a dream about someone you haven’t seen for years and then bumping into them the next day, or recommending a book to someone and then finding that same book mentioned in the book you’re reading, just a few days later. An occasion where things overlap which shouldn’t overlap. It leaves one thinking, wow, that’s a bit weird. Spooky. Perhaps there is a shiver running down one’s spine.

This friend of mine explained that actually each event or occurrence instigates hundreds of different thought associations. A dream, for example, is rarely just about one person, it’s about lots of people, set in various places, about quite a few things. So really it shouldn’t be surprising if, soon afterwards, something vaguely connected to that dream happens. In fact, he pointed out, it would actually be weirder if none of those coincidences ever happened.

But … but … I’m not sure I can be satisfied with such a dry logical explanation. Surely there’s meaning to these strange moments? Aren’t they really an instance of the universe trying to explain something, or push one in a certain direction?

This morning, I assiduously spent some time googling Dexter Fletcher. There must be a message here somewhere, I thought.

It seems that after a successful start to his career (incidentally, his debut was Babyface in Bugsy Malone), he had a bit of a blip and spent a while bankrupt, forced to live in his car. He is married to a Lithuanian playwright. And the most recurrent piece of trivia seems to be that Alan Rickman was his best man.

Now, research completed, I just need to keep an eye out for more signs. Any news of gangsters, bankruptcy, cars, Lithuanians, best men, Alan Rickman … then the universe will be continuing to steer me in its chosen direction.

Gosh, my mother has just this second telephoned to see how I’m feeling. Her father’s side of the family are originally from Lithuania. This must be the sign I was waiting for! Perhaps I need to introduce my mother to someone a bit like Dexter Fletcher. Or what about Alan Rickman? Wait, hang on a minute, Alan Rickman was in the Harry Potter films. And my dream last night was that I could do magic and had to save the world. AND the characters in Misfits have magical powers too.

Spooky. Or have I just taken rather a lot of codeine?

Tonsils tonsils tonsils

March 11, 2010

I’m sorry not to have posted anything for a while. I had my tonsils removed a week ago and, as a rather unfortunate side-effect, my brain has been turned into mashed potato thanks to the horrid combination of pain and very strong painkillers.

I will post something just as soon as I have something to say again. In fact it will before I can actually say it properly because my voice now sounds a bit like the Elephant Man’s.

Among the various DVDs I’ve been watching and children’s books I’ve been reading, I noticed that by strange coincidence the evil, dreaded TONSILLITIS is mentioned in both Wes Anderson’s film of Fantastic Mr Fox, and in the beautifully eccentric children’s book A Long Way from Verona by Jane Gardam.  It was almost the best bit of both of them for me, in my rather enfeebled state. ‘Ha,’ I thought. ‘At least there will be none of that for me ever, ever again.’

I do hope my brain gets better soon.