This is what I wrote for the writing group, the topic, as I mentioned previously, was ‘Plague’:
“Are you feeling alright, Polly?” asked Mum.
“No, she’s half left!” said Andrew, as annoying as usual.
“I’m fine, Mum.” It was my favourite day at school, and we were doing our plays in history this afternoon. Me and Frances and Lesley had been practicing all week, and if I wasn’t there then Anthea would take my part. It was luck that she had been away when we had been put in groups because otherwise she would have been with us, and since she was more of Frances and Lesley’s friend than I was, she would have taken the part of the Vicar which I got.
Mum put her hand on my forehead and I tried to think cold thoughts but Mum can tell when you’ve got a temperature and I knew I had.
“I’m fine Mum, honest,” I lied.
“Honestly, not honest,” she said automatically as she rooted in the cabinet drawer for the thermometer.
“Are you going to put it up her bum, Mum?” said Andrew.
“Don’t be silly, Andrew,” said Mum and I could tell she was worried about me because she didn’t really tell him off for being rude and saying bum.
Actually I did feel really rotten, I felt hot and cold at the same time, sweaty and shivery and my throat was tingly. Mum shook the thermometer and then put it under my tongue and I really concentrated to try and not be hot. I had to go school, I had to be in our play, I’d written most of it, and I was the best person to play the Vicar which was the main part.
Dad came into the kitchen and saw me sitting at the table, the thermometer in my mouth and Andrew secretly spooning extra sugar on his cornflakes.
“What’s the matter, Plum?” he asked me, but of course I couldn’t say anything.
“Polly’s not feeling well,” said Mum and took the thermometer out, “She’s not going to school, she’s got a temperature of 101 so she’s going back to bed with a couple of aspirin.”
“I’m fine Mum, the thermometer isn’t working properly, I didn’t have it properly under my tongue,” I tried to protest but my throat had become so dry I couldn’t really speak.
Mum put her arm round my shoulders and pulled me to stand up and actually I did feel a bit wobbly and peculiar, even as I kept croaking that I was alright and I wanted to go to school today of all days.
“What’s special about today, Plum?” asked Dad and in my croaky whispery voice I told him I was in a play for history with Frances and Lesley and if I didn’t go they wouldn’t be able to do it because I was the Vicar. I didn’t mention Anthea. “I’m sure they will wait until you’re better and back at school,” he said, but of course they wouldn’t wait, we were going on to a new topic, the Great Fire of London. “I’ll ask Aunty Gladys if I can use her telephone and ring the school and tell them you’ve got the pling.”
The pling? What was the pling? I’d never heard of the pling. Was it dangerous and deadly? Would I die? I wanted to ask him but I did feel really terrible now, and Mum was holding onto me and guiding me down the passage to my bedroom, dad just behind us to go through the door into Aunty Gladys’s flat.
Mum came into the bedroom with me and I was so shaky and trembly with the pling that she had to undress me and help me put my pyjamas on. I heard Dad say ‘hello Mrs B., can I use your telephone, to phone the school. Polly can’t go in today, she’s got the plague.’
The plague???? I had the plague???? I thought he said I had the pling? He definitely said pling, but maybe pling was just a baby word, or maybe it was a word from when he was in the army, like he says charpoi for bed and gyppo for gravy, and latte for milk… Maybe pling is the army word for the plague!
Mum rolled me into bed and pulled the covers up. I felt really ill now and couldn’t speak at all, my throat hurt so much. I was so hot and sticky and yet shivery and cold at the same time… the plague… I’ve got the plague…
We’re doing the plague at school; our play is about the villagers of Eyam and the great sacrifice they made by stopping anyone going out of the village or coming into the village. I was going to be the vicar, William Mompesson, I had the starring role and now I had the plague just like he did, and everyone knows what happened to him!
I felt my underarms and my neck, and yes, I could feel lumps! I could feel the buboes!
Mum came back into the bedroom with a glass of water and the brown aspirin bottle. Aspirin wouldn’t work against the plague, surely – but maybe they didn’t have aspirin in those days, it was almost three hundred years ago.
Mum helped me sit up and I took hold of the glass – my hand was shaking, actually shaking… I couldn’t bring myself to say the word.. plague… I just couldn’t say it.
“Mum, how long does the pling last until you…” I couldn’t say the next bit either.
“Sweetheart, you’ve got German measles and you’ll feel a bit feverish and poorly for a couple of days, and then you’ll begin to feel better, and you’ll probably be back at school next week. Now you snuggle down and try to sleep and I’ll come back in a little while and if you feel like it, I’ll read you a story.”
“So I haven’t got the pling?”
Mum laughed. “No, you definitely haven’t got the pling!”