It’s 8am on a Tuesday morning, and as I grope around trying to silence my alarm clock, the all-too familiar aftermath of a freshers’ night out begins to set in.

As I prise open my eyes, drag myself out of bed and open the curtains, I suddenly realise: I didn’t even go out last night. Why, then, am I feeling so horrendous? A strong dose of Olbas Oil eventually brings me to consciousness: this isn’t a hangover. This is freshers’ flu. Everyone’s heard stories about it, and everyone knows that it’ll catch them someday. But despite that, I’d embarked on student life convinced that it wouldn’t get me. Oh, how wrong I was.

Fighting the urge to retreat back into bed, wrap myself up in my duvet and wallow in self-pity, I eventually drag myself to my morning lecture, where it is evident that this beast of a bug has claimed several other victims. The study of In Memoriam is paired with a constant commentary of sniffing and spluttering, and I leave wondering if a similar elegy might soon be written for me.

Nevertheless, bolstered by a double dose of Sudafed and armed with a jumbo pack of man-size Kleenex, I soldier on, determined to make it to my afternoon supervision. Despite a short cycle ride inducing a near-lethal coughing fit and my voice sounding like a misplaced baritone, by the end of the day, buzzing on caffeine-enhanced Lemsip Max, I’m beginning to feel a little better.

Perhaps, then, it wasn’t the horror of flu that had overcome me. Maybe it was the inevitable consequence of my room’s prehistoric central heating system? Could it be that the slightly suspect out-of-date milk I’ve been pouring on my cereal each morning was the cause of my stomach’s unease? Off to bed I go, confident that, come morning, I’ll be back to my former self.

Alas, my hopes are in vain. I wake up – or rather, the piercing sunlight steals through a crack in my curtains and thrusts itself upon me in cruel derision – feeling like death incarnate. The already unbearable pounding in my head is intensified by a rapidly amplifying drone of ESSAY-DEADLINE-LOOMING that no amount of Beechams’ All-in-One can quell. There’s nothing for it but to go for it head(ache)-on and work through the pain.

Three boxes of tissues, six strips of Strepsils and a pot of vapour rub later, the essay is finished and the grim feelings of wretchedness are miraculously beginning to ease. Over the next few days I gradually regain the use of my sluggish limbs, my voice makes a welcome return to its natural register, and the capacity for nasal inhalation is blissfully restored.

I venture out of my hibernation nest and into the lecture site, and as the days pass, the chorus of coughing gradually subsides, and the atmosphere of contagion lingers with a somewhat subdued sense of doom. That is, until the heating in the lecture block breaks down…

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