Having been rather busy over the past few months with Countryfile, Secret Britain, The One Show and One Man and His Dog, the inevitable has happened. The moment I slowed even a little, a heavy cold descended. It’s a presenter’s worst nightmare, especially when you’re about to do a voice-over. And with Countryfile, we presenters are up hills or out to sea no matter what the weather or how we are feeling. A schedule of 44 programmes a year means we have to grin and bear any illness. In the words of the rock band Queen, “the show must go on”.
And it’s not just with Countryfile. A former editor of Blue Peter and I always laugh at a lambing film I made back on my family’s farm for the show. Not only was he squeamish about the graphic content of the film, but I also had a stinking cold. As I sniffed my way through the explanations of what was going on, he was becoming more and more nauseous.
When I was growing up in the north-east, my mum would say the westerly winds blowing across the Durham Dales would send any cobwebs or colds well out towards the north-east coast. But as I currently live in Hertfordshire, as far from the open sea as you get in Britain, the sea breeze can’t help me. So I’ve been taking a look at the natural remedies people have used over the centuries to cure the 200 viruses that cause the dreaded common cold.
The Egyptians swore by garlic to keep up the strength of their pyramid-building slaves, and the Romans would feed it to their soldiers before sending them into battle. It’s known to boost the immune system and contains allicin, a potent antibiotic. But if you’re not that keen on garlic, onions are a close relative and have similar properties.
Apparently if you use onions and leeks in your cooking when you’re not well, they can help aid recovery. But I find several coats and a bit of my wife’s foundation around my nose, along with a nightcap of a hot toddy really are the best solutions for looking remotely normal during filming.
When it comes to tried and tested cold and flu formulas, we have a lot to thank our grans for. For example, there isn’t a grandma in the land who doesn’t believe a bowl of chicken soup will cure anything. But what about healing preserves? While I was presenting The One Show recently, I met 72-year-old Christine Munro, a lady who has won countless awards for her jams, which are traditional with a twist, inspired by recipes passed down from her own grandmother. As I write this, her ginger marmalade is generously spread on a doorstep piece of bread – just what the doctor ordered.
Ginger is another of nature’s helpers, containing nearly a dozen antiviral compounds. It’s even a pain reliever and mild sedative that encourages rest. It’s definitely worth sampling too, as the old adage ‘feed a cold and starve a fever’ is a remedy that works for me.
But with my next Secret Britain voice-over session looming, I’m now sitting over a bowl of boiling water and mentholated vapours with a towel over my head and breathing in the steam. Wish me luck!