Misery, but not in a Stephen King way

By Susan Roberts

It really is the most miserable thing in the world to be sick when you’re on holiday. I mean, you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, freed from your desk, away from the office schedules and that ringing telephone, and yet you are too ill to tear yourself away from your bed, your new schedule of medicines and that damned ringing alarm on your phone which reminds you when it’s time to take the next pill. Some holiday!

While lying in your bed feeling sorry for yourself, you have plenty of time to think about how the warning signs went up a few days before you left work. That little tickle started at the back of your throat one night, followed by the blocked sinuses the next morning and by lunchtime on your last day of work you had a pounding headache. Ever optimistic, you thought you’d be fine after a good night’s sleep, and you might have been – if you had only been able to get that decent night’s sleep – but that tickle turned into a chest-racking cough and by morning you were barely able to croak down the phone at your doctor’s receptionist to tell her that the mucous had turned yellow…

Okay, too much information! Let’s just say that it’s miserable to be stuck in bed when you should be doing all those things you’d had planned for your leave.

I remember being twelve years old, on holiday with my parents and sister at a large family hotel down the south coast, and I was sick and had to spend a few days in bed. Oh, the misery of hearing the laughter of other children swimming three floors below, seeing the reflected sunlight from the pool water dancing on the ceiling above my head, and being too sick to even stagger to the Picturewindow to glare jealously at the rest of the family enjoying themselves. Sheer misery, and not in a Stephen King kind of way.

The family took it in turns to do what they could to help, brought me books and magazines – my dad even found an article called How to Spend a Day in Bed which was all about how to sneak a day off work, pretend you were ill and wallow in glorious sloth-like behaviour, doing nothing but eat, read and sleep all day. It was fun to read it, but it didn’t exactly change my perspective on my own situation. Not then, anyway. Not when I was twelve years old.

However, it is nearly forty years later, and my perspectives have changed somewhat. I still remember the tone of that article, if not its complete contents, and I have to admit that a day spent in bed can actually be quite fun. (Okay, not in the way that I write about in my romance novels – let’s keep it clean here.)

As a part-time writer, all my writing has to be fitted in between my odd working hours. To get a whole day off work is a bonus and when that happens, I love to spend it writing, sick or not. It starts in my bed, with my laptop on one of those hard-topped mouldable cushions made by that fabulous place on the Midlands Meander. Once the first pot of tea is finished, and I start to feel hungry, I transfer myself and my laptop to the dining table, where words continue to fill my pages while I fill my stomach. Walloping two birds with one stone, so to speak.

My friend Julianne Alcott swears that a shower is a good source of inspiration, so when I need a pick-me-up I hop into my shower and emerge not only cleaner, but bursting with new ideas. It’s often only when it gets too dark for me to see the keyboard that I realise I have spent the entire day glued to my laptop, writing to the exclusion of all else. What a wonderful way for a writer to spend a day off!

The main character in Stephen King’s Misery – also a writer – didn’t have much fun as a captive in his bed, and if one uses that as a benchmark for the worst kind of day one can have in bed, then anything else is going to seem like a lucky escape.


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