Faking sickness in order to get a day off school was a balancing act that required complete commitment. You needed the acting skills of an oscar winner, the negotiation skills of a CEO and the tact and subtlety of a world leader.
You had to convince your mother you were sick enough to stay at home,, but not sick enough to involve medical professionals.
Once you embarked on the campaign for a day off sick you had to endure hours of questioning and phyisical examinations but if you committed to your role and were successful in your campaign, the rewards were abundant.
1 TV In The Bedroom
You tried to keep the sweet smile of victory off your face as your mother brought the black & white portable television from your parents room into your room.
The TV moving event generally happened early into the sick day, so you had to be careful not to suddenly “perk up” , lest your mother decided you had made a miraculous recovery and would get you to school before first break.
2. Breakfast in Bed
On a tray – a tray– just like in the movies. In your bed.
Hovering close to death had its perks. Again, you had to be careful not to be too eager, appearing sick was essential. Under no circumstances should you finish the breakfast (on a tray). Leaving the breakfast unfinished demonstrated a lack of appetite. It was equally important to nibble the breakfast , taking VERY small mouthfuls whilst groaning in agony. This confirmed the presence of “a sore throat”- an illness that could lead to a second day off if you played your cards right.
3. Treats from the School Run
A) Your age
B) How risk averse your mother was ( or how much gin she had consumed that particular morning. Raising children is hard)
Option 1 was the best by a country mile. You stayed home alone, promised not to answer the door and she would see you when she got back from dropping the other brats off at school-assuming your “sore throat” didn’t you finish you off in the meantime.
Option 2 was acceptable, though less desirable. Mrs. Foley from next door would be called in. Your mother would lead her to your death bed, and the sick day you had acted your ass off for would be thrown into jeopardy as the wise neighbour would feel your temperature , inspect your throat and, hopefully, keep her mouth shut about the fact that there was clearly nothing wrong with you before agreeing to stay with you until the School run was ran.
Option 3 was a hideous spectacle of humiliation. You’d be forced to put your dressing gown on and attend the school run. This option meant you had to find some way to hide from your friends as the car approached the school gates. Thankfully it was in the days before seat belts so climbing under the passenger seat of the car was feasible right up until the time you were old enough to enjoy option 1.
Whichever option was deployed, your mother would always pick you up a few treats at the shop on the return leg of the journey as she popped in for 20 Benson & Hedges (fags and gin were the staple diet of an 80s housewife)
If you put in an oscar winning performance and had managed to convince your mother that your death was imminent you might bag yourself a brand new Malory Towers or Famous Five book.
If she bought you a Wordsearch puzzle book then you knew , that she knew your convalescence was a sham, and your day off was granted, not because of your talent to fake illness, but rather because you mother just couldn’t be arsed to argue.
Aside from the obligatory reading material, an essential from the shop was a big bottle of Lucozade, complete with plastic wrapping.
A black & white Anne Diamond would talk you through the importance of adding shoulder pads to your must-have torquoise jump suit before discussing the pros and cons of euthanasia. Then it was on to the good stuff. Back to back sitcoms from the 60s- Laverne & Shirley, Green Acres and if you chose your sick day wisely you might be lucky and get I Dream of Jeanie. The fun stopped at 1pm for the news. A wise child would use the 1pm News bulliten to feign sleep. With a bit of luck your mother would pop her head in, see you sleeping from the sheer exhaustion of having “a sore throat” and be assured that she made the right decision keeping you off school.
Real sleep at this time was quite impossible though. As Moira Stuart continued with her bulliten you knew the climax of the day was getting closer….
5. The Lunch-Time Episode of Neighbours
Yes…..the pinnacle of the day. The Summit. You sat up in bed almost giddy with excitement. Aside from the fact that Neighbours was 25 minutes of earth shattering, ground-breaking drama your excitement was fuelled by the fact that you would find out whether Daphne and Shane kiss a full 4 hours before your friends in school (but 18 months after your Australian Pen Pal).
6. Afternoon Delights
The Neighbours Cliffhanger would have left you in a complete state of shock, so some R&R was called for. The afternoon was spent colour coding your collection of erasers, rearranging your posters, catching up on your one sided correspondence with Jason Donovan (stalking wasn’t a thing in the 80s) and admiring yourself in the mirror wearing your mothers CLIP ON earrings.
At some point post Neighbours but pre- end of school the wise and ambitious child would start laying the groundwork to ‘do the double’ – a second day off. It was no good having a jolly old time all afternoon only for the “sore throat” to return in the evening.
A good portion of your free afternoon had to be spent writhing in agony on the bed, drinking lucozade by the gallon to no effect and demonstrating that you were to ill to even contemplate doing the lovely wordsearch your mother had picked up for you on the school run.
More often than not the day ended in misery as some “lovely girl in your class” had given your mother your French homework, ( I’m looking at you Amanda Davis) and the early evening was a wash out because you had already seen Neighbours.
But it was worth it. The work and skill involved in getting a day off was matched by the sweet, sweet rewards of a successful “I’m sick” campaign.
What was the highlight of your days off school?