Is there anything more annoying than having the cold? You're not properly ill, so you can't exactly cry off work as that would be a bit pathetic, but on the other hand you feel so utterly ghastly that you want to cry (ghastly is my new favourite word - rediscovered courtesy of Downton Abbey). In my case it also makes me rather grumpy and I am not normally grumpy.
Such is the situation I have found myself in this week. I'm snuffling, too hot, then too cold, I sound like a baritone and I could give an over-excited German Shepherd dog a run for its money when it comes to the volume of the bark I have developed.
It would be bad enough if this horrendous ailment had chosen to plague me in a regular concert week. There are few things more embarrassing on stage than ruining a particularly poignant moment of some heart wrenching slow movement by having a fit of uncontrollable coughing. I still die a little every time I think about a performance of Shostakovich's Eighth String Quartet I ruined by coughing through its closing moments.
I did my best to stifle it, which only resulted in strange, strangled noises coming from my throat whilst my body convulsed and my bow arm lost control. I would have left the stage if I could, but I was hemmed in on all sides. It was, in short, a nightmare.
However, this week, it's even worse. We're recording. You can be certain that, as soon as that red light goes on, the urge to cough will be upon you. I have single-handedly ruined at least one otherwise pristine take today and have never been so glad to get out of the studio. There you are, playing away, when suddenly you feel that little warning tickle in the back of your throat. You try to take deep breathes and stifle the coming splutter in any manner you can, but its unstoppable. In fairness, I wasn't the only one; the viola section are going to have shares in throat sweets and bottled water by the end of this week.
So here is my guide to surviving the cold while recording:
- Water. I, of course, forgot my water on the first day of recording this week and am very grateful to Carmel in the violins who sacrificed her bottle of water to my germy self.
- Throat sweets or some other hard boiled sweet - naturally, you should probably unwrap this before the take starts otherwise you've kind of defeated the purpose.
- Plan your escape route - because sometimes, it's just better to leave.
- Practise your apologetic face!
Incidentally, the water and boiled sweet thing is a good idea for audience members with the cold too. Everyone feels sorry for the poor soul having a coughing fit. After all, it's not like they're having a lot of fun. However, rustling sweet wrappers are a bit irritating. I guess it is better, like a good boy scout, to always be prepared.