I've known my husband for eight years. For seven of those eight years, he has managed - with a spectacular sense of bad timing - to contract an illness by Christmas Eve. He's had a head cold, the 'flu and a lung embolism. He's spent Christmases in bed at my mother's house, his mother's house, our house and in hospital. This year, I was woken on Christmas morning by the sound of my husband worshipping the porcelain goddess - somewhere on our Odyssey to and from Frankfurt airport, he picked up a technicolour dose of stomach flu and spent the day running back and forth to the bathroom. I spent the day running after him with a bucket of disinfectant.
The thing about my husband is that he doesn't simply become ill - he collapses. He collapses into a sleeping coma and is useless for days. Nothing - no amount of conscientious nursing or annoyed poking - will remove him from his stinky bed. And it's impossible to discern the degree of seriousness of his illness: he deploys the same level of drama (whimpering, tossing, moaning, heavy breathing) for everything from the common sniffle to pneumonia. I simply can't tell how ill he is until he keels over - then I know that he's actually sick, as opposed to just looking for a bit of sympathy.
After two or three days of uninterrupted sleeping - in this case, this morning - I'll hear a stirring from the bedroom and the creaking of the floorboards. The bedroom door opens and my woolly-headed husband appears on the threshold, his jammies wrinkly and his hair standing on end. There's a triumphant grin about his chops, a kind of "Haha! I beat the plague!" He then plonks himself in front of his computer and checks that cyberspace has survived without him. In the meantime, I put on the Christmas dinner - the one that we should've had yesterday, instead of my plate of spaghetti.