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I am sorry for the radio silence recently: I was working last week in Guernsey (and when I am away for work I have only my work laptop with me, not my Sam Macbook), and then I came home with a shocking cold that knocked me out for the weekend.

Of course, being the Sam obsessive that I am, I started wondering whether I could mine my discomfort for authorial realism, and my mind turned to what it would have been like to have caught a cold in 1827.  But did they actually have colds as we know them, or is that a modern result of international travel?  Did they recognise a “cold”, or did they call it something else?  And what did you do before tissues – did people blow their nose into the gutter, as is still acceptable in much of Asia, or were they already aware that that was spreading the problem?  But before I launched into a wholesale research project, I reined myself in.  Apart from the obvious academic interest, would it be time well spent?  In other words, do I actually want anyone in “Plank 4” to catch a cold?  And although I do plot ahead to a certain extent, I’m afraid that level of detail is yet to be decided.

If I were a full-time author (ah, lovely daydream…) I would let myself wander off down all of these possible paths, just in case – after all, no research is ever wasted if it increases your familiarity with your era.  But as I have only two days a week, absolute maximum, to spend with Sam, I have to be more disciplined.  So for now the Regency cold will remain a mystery – but if the prospect of Sam with man flu and Martha rolling her eyes becomes irresistible, you can be sure I’ll be reading those medical journals.

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