COLUMN: June 1, 2017

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Not lemony. Not sippable

THE sun had been beating down for days, turning the world around me into a shimmering Mediterranean paradise. The beautiful people filled the pavement cafes with tans and laughter. Diners in Greggs were actually considering the salads.

Even I was wearing a slightly less heavy tweed jacket – next stop, a mankini, no doubt.

And so the land was prepared for me to have a cold. Nobody knows why colds are called colds. I only seem to get them when the weather is sunny, and when the night air is warm and stagnant, and when people do not seem to believe that I might have one.

The full packet of tissues I took with me to work had expired just after lunchtime, the final one looking like a string vest. I had to replenish my supplies.

This led me to a nearby branch of a nationwide chain of newsagents. I will not say the name of this company, but if I just say that you can’t buy a pen in there nowadays without them trying to sell you a family-sized Fruit & Nut for £1, you will know of which I speak.

I found the tissues, and near them was a packet of Lemsip Max Day & Night Cold & Flu Relief Capsules. I was not sure how severe my cold was in the range of colds, but I decided that something called Max would do just the job. There’s no point in pussyfooting around with cold medication. I don’t mind using a sledgehammer to crack a nut as long as the nut ends up cracked.

I took the items to the counter. “Ooh,” said the shop assistant, “Have you got a cold?”

I peered at her through bloodshot eyes, with a throat that felt like I had swallowed a cheese grater for a bet, and a red nose that was crying out for the tissues that lay between us. I looked like somebody miming a cold in a game of charades.

Sarcasm would have been so easy. “A cold, you say? Tell me, what gave me away, Miss Marple? Was it the sense that I appear to looking at you through a very thick pane of glass? Was it my Barry White voice? Or was it the fact that I have just put some aloe vera tissues and cold medication right in front of you? Ooh, it’s a right poser and no mistake!”

“Yes,” I growled, with levels of restraint that should have been beyond me in my weakened state. It was almost superhuman. “I hab a cold.”

I paid the woman and shambled weakly back to the office, my supplies in hand. I staunched the, well, flow with my newly-replenished stash of tissues, and then opened the box of Lemsip Max Day & Night Cold & Flu Relief Capsules.

I would have complained to colleagues about how ridiculous it is to have a product called Lemsip that neither tastes of lemons nor is designed for sipping, but instead I was in a good mood and did a victory lap of the office because I opened the end of the box that didn’t have the folded end of the “how to take tablets” instruction sheet.

But then I went to pop the capsules out of the delightfully-named blister pack, and everything went very wrong indeed. I pushed the first capsule from the back with my thumb, as one does when faced with a blister pack. And I could not break the foil.

I know I was in a weakened state, but surely even I should have been able to push a capsule through a bit of foil. But it was not my fault. The capsule buckled with my pressure, which meant that it did not pierce the surface.

I am not making excuses. I recommend that you try this exercise. Take a large square of cling film, and place a swiss roll on top of it (jam for preference). Then put a large square of aluminium foil over the top, and pinch it around the cling film, as if you are making the least appealing ravioli in history.

Now try to push that swiss roll through the foil. You can’t, even if you use a massive thumb made out of plaster, because the swiss roll collapses.

The point I am making is that the manufacturers of Lemsip capsules might be good at chemistry, but they are terrible at physics. And that remedies should make you feel better, not worse.

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