My mother has new meds, which came with a bunch of attendant meds for their side-effects. Even typing the word “meds” makes it sound like all-singing, all-dancing US pharma that works, rather than what it is: an array of drugs that offers slight amelioration of untreatable conditions. She was sure as hell not capering about texting “meds” to people; she was complaining about the unusably stiff syringe that came with them.
The pharmacist’s advice was to get someone else to help, so there I was, helping. My best advice was to use a different syringe altogether, the one used for her cat’s antibiotics, which we tried. None of the marks down the side made any sense, even if you could read them, which she could not. Dispiritingly, neither could I. It turned out that the cat’s applicator was not measured in millilitres, but by weight of cat; for a short time, her best idea was to work out her weight in cat-kilograms, as though they were like dog years and there was a formula. We abandoned that, not because it did not make sense, but because it required maths at GCSE level.
Instead, we got the unusable syringe and tried to decant its measure into a teaspoon, then match the measure in the cat syringe. Only we were not using the medicine, in case we wasted it, and we were not using water (I don’t know why not); we were using wine, which I squirted into my eyebrows (the human syringe really is unusable) but she managed quite daintily to measure, then drink, in 2.5ml increments, from a spoon. It took a few goes.
She asked me why I was so cack-handed. I feigned astonishment at how quickly blame had shifted from the syringe to me. We finally got a working equivalence, two cat syringes to one human syringe, then went back to the leaflet to check the amounts and read: “Not to be taken with alcohol.” But, really, how much alcohol is enough to worry about? A mere 2.5ml? What if you weigh 17.5 times more than your cat?
Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist