The Communications Clinic
The Communications Clinic
April 27, 2020

Terry Prone: Legitimate drugs were needed to counteract herbal sleep remedy

Day 28

Not to make life more exciting or anything, but last night I poisoned myself. Instead of learning from the last flawed attempt to ensure sleep by chemical intervention, I did it again. This time I took L-Tryptophan. This herbal remedy surfaced around 15 years ago, it was then withdrawn, and now it’s back, noticeable because it wears Covid-19-type yellow labelling.

I took one capsule. Sleep ensued. Eight hours of it. Followed by vomiting so spectacular and sustained that my living quarters speedily deteriorated to a point where they made the average Victorian slum look like a penthouse on Central Park. As night drew in and I weakened, I considered making a 999 call, but decided I was too disgusting even for paramedics.

In the old days, people used to say you’d never confess a sin bad enough to shock a priest, because he’d heard worse. I figure paramedics have seen worse than me, but it’s a theory I’m not sure I want to test, right now.

Day 29

I crawl to the bathroom. It’s not much of a crawl, because everything’s pretty close to everything else inside a Martello tower, but even that small crawl is abject. Abject, I decide, is what I deserve.

In fact, abject is the very least I deserve. I could have ended up taking up an A&E trolley and the attention of expert personnel at a time when hospitals are full of patients fighting for their every breath, just because I was stupid enough to take something nobody prescribed for me instead of living through a couple of sleepless nights. What kind of a fool does that kind of thing in the middle of a pandemic?

As toddlers say: Me, Me, Me.

Day 30

Legitimate drugs come from the pharmacy. I take them and hope. Anything other than breathing; to wit, reading, texting, or standing even in a crouch, brings on rolling, roiling waves of nausea. I am dehydrated and freezing.

My son sends a text offering to visit. No point, I think, I can’t get downstairs to wave at him through the windows. Anyway, I am fully occupied counting the hours since last puke. The text I send him is tiny, negative, and incoherent.

Eyes closed, a little later, I register knocking on the window of my bedroom. There he is on the flat roof outside, having brought his own ladder to get onto it. Which is kind of heroic, except I’m terrified he’s going to break his neck going back down and I’ll rightly be blamed.

However, he makes it back to terra firma, telescopes the ladder and off with him.

Later, pretty sure now that the pharmacy-recommended drugs have worked and leaning heavily on a kitchen surface, I recall Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows, after he got out of prison, savouring his first meal.

“Hot buttered toast and tea,” he keeps saying. Honestly, after the last three days, I’m with him. Nothing is as luscious as a slice of toasted, buttered white bread and a cup of tea. Nothing.

Day 31

The day starts well. The scales says I have lost half a stone. I’d fist the air except: a) I haven’t the strength, and, b) would fall over and, given the week so far, break a hip. Me and Henry the Hoover start cleaning.

Little bursts of activity followed by collapse. (On my part. Henry is steadier.) Once I get the inside of the house pristine, again, I sit down to enjoy it.

That’s when the day ends badly. I discover a seagull with a (hopefully) lethal dose of the runs has circled the building, sparing no window. It’s like a deranged graffiti artist let loose with a bucket of dirty whitewash.

Day 32

Somewhat cheerier. A week ago, in this column, I mentioned that, in decluttering, I found 1999 Brown Thomas gift tokens and wondered if BT could be persuaded to honour them. Today they contacted me and say it’ll be a pleasure.

This gives me something to look forward to, post-pandemic (PP in future) and also makes investigation of crates of old files more enthusiastic; who knows: I might get rich.

Today I find a half-page from an evening paper, dated December 17, 1976; it’s the section devoted to young people. I was the editor of this Junior Section.

In this particular cutting, I am attracted to a stylish line drawing of Paddy Hillery, then just ending his time as our EU commissioner. The drawing, according to the caption, is by a 15-year-old with an address in Galway named Sean Moncrieff.

I consider contacting the broadcaster to tell him that he owes it all to me.

I may have given him his first break. OK, not a big break. A small, cheap break — the prizes I was allowed to send out were miserable. But a break’s a break.

Then I remember that the only time I’ve met this man face to face was when he was having a smoke outside a studio and I accosted him to tell him his novel, Dublin, was a stunning piece of work.

He silently gave me a look that suggested I was overdue for a good stabbing and I slunk away, obscurely ashamed of what I knew not.

So I won’t ring him to tell him I have a little bit of his winning past. But if he wants the yellowed cutting, all he has to do is raise an electronic hand.

Day 33

Talking remotely with Pat Kenny about restrictions easing, I worry about the use of “complacent” to describe us citizens in solitary. It’s such a double-chinned smirky smug word, always applied to others, never to oneself.

It takes the actions of a small minority and smears the blame in the present and future tense on the rest of us, in order to get us to stay good. Staying good is never greatly encouraged by pre-emotive insult.

Day 34

In the first weeks of the pandemic, missing a major radio news bulletin or Six One news was unthinkable. Now, I am radio/TV avoidant for the most part, so am slightly puzzled by an unexpected text from a close friend.

“Enough, already, with the uplifting stories,” it says. I figure it’s directed at media rather than me personally. She has a point, though. Determined appreciation of people making meals, masks or visiting elderly cocooners gets tedious. Moral uplift is like yeast in dough in the proving process. It needs to be knocked back for its own good.

Today, the world comes to terms with Donald Trump suggesting that injecting bleach might be a great way to cure Covid-19.

The American president is a gift to us all — any time we feel stupid, inadequate, shallow, vulgar, thick as a plank, or ridiculous, all we have to do is look at him and know he’s way ahead of us.