Sorry about that. I've been doing it a lot recently. But look on the bright side. I am now an expert on coughs and coughing.
No, really. Ask me about coughs. I'll happily wow you with my insane levels of expectorant-related knowledge. It's the sort of thing you pick up when you've been doing anything for five weeks, I suppose.
I mean, it's not as if I wanted to be a coughing guru. Back in mid-September, which is when I must have signed a contract to become a full-time cougher, I never thought I'd still be making a noise like a bull sea lion all this time later.
It's not just the technique side of things. I now have lots of cough theory floating around my head, too. After all, when it's 3.30am and you've taken yourself downstairs - on the not unreasonable basis that at least one person in the house should sleep - there's not much else to do than to read up on the subject. The Wikipedia entry on coughing is a good place to start. It'll be my specialist subject on Mastermind.
I know what causes a cough itself, the various mechanisms involved, even a rather natty colour-code you can employ on the end product.
I'm sorry, were you enjoying your soup just now? I guess Coughology isn't for everyone.
Even Katie has become a bit of an expert. She can tell when there's another one on the way, and tenses up appropriately. There's the sharp intake of breath, the cross-eyed look, then a bark like an overweight German Shepherd that rattles the window frames, lifts the curtains and dislodges small ornaments.
She's a lucky girl, and no mistake.
My poor work colleagues are beginning to suffer, I'm sure. In an open-plan working environment, there's nothing worse than The One With The Cough. It's the middle of the flu season anyway, so the office is already doing a passable impression of a Victorian home for consumptives. But my respiratory system provides the rumbling undertone. Why I haven't been quietly poisoned in a team meeting is anyone's guess.
Frustratingly, and despite the combined efforts of several doctors, we haven't yet pinpointed a cause that can be combated. I am a latter-day enigma as far as modern medicine is concerned. We know what it definitely isn't (before you start putting two and two together), but other than that we're all a little stumped.
And here's a tip - never use the Internet to self-diagnose. So far, I've travelled the sputum highway from viral bronchitis to beri-beri, with a detour to Collapsed Lungsville along the way. It's a good job I wasn't sleeping anyway.
Cough medicine, by the way, is worse than useless, which should be obvious to anyone with a passing knowledge of human biology. How can something that you swallow sort your breathing apparatus out? Taking cough mixture is pretty much the same as pouring bleach down your drains and expecting it to clear your chimney.
As a direct result of my consumption of gloopy, syrupy Covonia over the last month, I reckon I can look forward to diabetes in my near future. I also know the difference between a non-productive and a productive cough:
- Non-productive cough - dry, tickly, wheezy. Red face, bulging eyes. Ladies, form a queue.
- Productive cough - completes that report you needed to do for work, while hanging out the washing and putting next week's shopping-list together.
I've tried steam. I've tried menthol vapours. I've tried swearing very loudly. Actually, Katie has helped with that last one. Maybe I'm just destined to be one of those blokes who has a cough? There always used to be one man in every room that fitted the description, back when everyone smoked. Perhaps that's going to be my lot in life?
Oh well. It's a living, I suppose.