I KNEW I was getting a cold when I became very angry at Sir Elton John.
A vintage Top Of The Pops was on the television – it was one of the rare episodes that BBC4 is able to show from that period that does not include a suspected or convicted sex offender – and I was remembering what life was like when I was 10 years old, back in 1982.
(It was a very different time, younger readers. We had a right-wing female PM, who kept making things worse where I lived, and the Labour Party was led by a scruffy no-hoper and had been taken over by militant Trots, who kept making things worse where I lived.)
Sir Elton came on – he was just Elton John then, because we did not give popular musicians titles in those days, unless you count Duke Ellington and Screaming Lord Sutch. He was singing I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, and I sang along, because I was alone in my flat and nobody could judge me.
Then Mike Oldfield came on with his hit Moonlight Shadow. You will remember it, it goes “4am in the morning/ Carried away by a moonlight shadow”. “Hang on,” I said to nobody. “It’s either 4am or it’s four in the morning. It can’t be both. That’s cheating to fill out a line.”
And then it occurred to me that Sir Elton – the former Elton John – had cheated on a much bigger scale. He and his lyricist partner Bernie Taupin, who should not escape the blame, had written an entire song called “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” without explaining at any point Why They Call It The Blues.
I Googled the lyric and went through the song line by line. Oh, there’s pathos in there, readers. He explains in detail to a young lady that he’s off for a while and that she might have to wait for him. (I suspect that he’s not giving her the full story at that stage, but that’s by the by.)
If he had written a song called I Guess That’s Why I’m Feeling A Bit Cheesed Off, that would have been acceptable. But he did not do that. It was false advertising. I mean, I can extrapolate from it. He’s feeling blue. That’s why they call the blues the blues.
But why do we refer to being sad as feeling blue? He and Bernie Taupin do not explain that at all. I was not feeling blue, readers, I was seeing red. This was a cut and shut of a song. They’d come up with a title first and then bolted on some gloomy lines. How dare they? I mean, HOW DARE THEY?
And it was at that point I realised there was something wrong. Nobody should be that angry about a song that does not directly insult them, eg “Gary B Superstar/ Says He’s On A Bus But He Drives A Car.” The last time I was this grumpy about something trivial I was coming down with something.
I was right. Since then I have had a very mild cold, a slight cough, an insignificant ache, a tickly throat, a woolly head. It’s not enough to keep me off work and enough to make being at work a trial.
There is nothing worse than being slightly ill, with the possible exception of being dangerously ill. When you are slightly ill, you are expected to do everything you normally do, but if you complain you are immediately castigated for being a wimp, a hypochondriac, or, worse, a Sufferer Of Man Flu.
This is a pejorative term used by women to suggest that men complain about having a cold while they just get on with it. And it’s complete nonsense.
Women absolutely complain about having colds. It is just that, unlike men, they don’t complain about it at the time. They have their complaint primed and ready to go.
When a woman says to a man, “Look at you with your Lemsip and your bowl of hot mentholated water and your summoning bell. When I had a cold, I didn’t complain,” that is her complaining about having previously had a cold.
It is a weapon in the battle of the sexes, a way for women to get back at men for millennia of sexism and oppression.
And I guess that’s why they call it Man Flu.
See, Sir Elton? THAT’S how you do it.