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I should be stalking our hall at night, lamp in hand, like a jaded Florence Nightingale

By Kerry McLean

I hold my hands up. I've brought this on myself and my family and I have no one else to blame. This tale of woe began two weeks ago when I was chatting away on my afternoon show on BBC Radio Ulster and, in response to someone telling me there were a lot of cold and flu bugs doing the rounds, I foolishly uttered the words: "Well, those bugs can just jog on because I have no time free for anyone in my house to be sick until the new year."

What was I thinking?! Why on earth did I say that? Making that statement was like waving a great big red flag in fate's face and fate has responded like the proverbial bull in a china shop, throwing everything she's got up her sleeve at us and, boy, but she's got a good aim. In the last 14 days we have had temperatures, tonsillitis, bumps, cuts, colds, vomiting and runny noses. All the usual junk I carry around in my handbag has been displaced by tissues, hot lemon drinks, throat lozenges and a digital thermometer. I'm like a walking, talking pharmacy.

I feel like I should be stalking our hall at night, lamp in hand - a particularly faded and jaded Florence Nightingale doing her rounds. I have charged from room to room in the wee small hours, mopping brows, dolling out medication and repeatedly changing bedclothes. Not to go into too much detail (and apologies if you're reading this with a sandwich in your hand) but there was even a night when, after multiple changes of my bedsheets thanks to a bokey baby, we ran out of clean linen and resorted to sleeping on towels and covering ourselves with a spare pair of velvet curtains I had shoved into the bottom of the hot press. The glamorous side of parenting, eh?

However, I don't know why I'm surprised. It's the same every year as we approach Christmas and at least this year there's a chance we'll have the worst of it out of the way before the big day itself.

I know we're not alone in our festive fight against sickness and I live in fear of going through what happened to my friend Teresa two years ago.

She was running late with her final preparations. Presents were bought for the children but no one else and she was consoling herself with the thought that she had three days off in the run-up to Christmas Day. Surely, she thought, enough time to get the shopping finished and the food bought.

Again, an example of pushing your luck with fate! Unfortunately, in that final week, two of Teresa's three kids came out in spots. Chicken pox was running amok in her house and worse still was when Teresa woke up on her first day off to discover those same tell-tale itchy blisters on her back and face.

With a pregnant sister and elderly parents who couldn't remember if they had the disease, she had no choice but to put her house into lockdown. No one in and no one out until the all-clear came.

What followed was a testament to a mother's organisational skills and the usefulness of social media. Friends and family members were dispatched to pick up a present here and a bag of sprouts there and drop them back to Teresa's front door where she stood, mouthing her thanks through the window. The festive season was saved and she says that, in a weird way, it was one of her less stressful ones.

For once, Christmas had come to her and she hadn't needed to fight through the crowds to round it up.

As I write now, we've had a full two days of relative health. The odd cough and sniffle and a red nose or two, but sure, that just looks in keeping with the season, like we've our own little Rudolph's running about the house. Fingers crossed it stays this way and I'm very thankful all our ailments were nothing too serious.

I mean, it could have been a lot worse and we could have an outbreak of man flu. Now, that really would be scary…

The Kerry McLean Afternoon Show, BBC Radio Ulster, Monday to Thursday

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