On the morning of the 24 August Lady Helen woke to the sound of a message on Whatsap. Her darling sister had woken up at 3:30am worrying about her. Later she found that this was the exact time that an earthquake hit Italy and she messaged L.H. to find out if she was okay. As they were far from the scenes of devastation she was able to reassure her sister that all that was quaking were her nerves with the build up to The Earl’s surgery.
That afternoon Lady Helen sorted out some clothing and packed a small bag. Their guardian angel, Filippo had organised for her to spend two nights in the Hospital Hotel so she could be close to the Earl or the first day or two after his surgery which would take place the following day.
As Murphy’s Law would have it the trains were late – a most unusual occurrence in Italy. Perhaps it was related to the Earthquake 300km away?
There were lots of announcements in Italian and even when they came through in English they were difficult to hear above the noise of the loud, excitable Italians who were freaking out over the delays. Two young boys realised that she was Inglese and politely told her that her train would be leaving from a different platform. They’d read the board correctly but in fact the train had been cancelled so she had to trek back to Platform 7 again and there she waited another half an hour before the next train to Arechi arrived.
Checking into the little hotel, which was run by The Lions, was not an easy exercise. The receptionist was in a wheelchair and her English was non-existent. LH. told her in Italian that she would write her details in the book for her but she would not allow it and copied everything down from her passport. Then she prattled something off that sounded like directions to her room but she didn’t give her the key. So she said, “Chiave, per favore.” (key please) The old lady pointed to the key on the hook behind the desk – and that’s how L.H. found out which number she was in!
Lady Helen then asked her about meals. “Domani,” she kept saying which L.H. knew meant tomorrow and finally worked out that she would only get vouchers for the Hospital restaurant the following day. “Pizza qui,” she said. “Pizz here”
No I can’t eat pizza -L.H. indicated that she had a sore tummy. “Insalata per favore,” she begged. She prattled away rapidly and L.H. finally got the word – negozio which means shop. The old lady pointed and waved her arms in a vague direction quite certain that her ladyship could figure out where to go. Luckily Filippo arrived just before she left to visit The Earl and he told her that the supermarket had a lovely deli and that it would be open till 9 pm.
That evening the visit with The Earl went well and except for a few gripes about loose wires hanging from the television and cleaners who could do a better job if they put some effort into it, he was feeling pretty positive. His tummy was still bleeding so L.H. went to find a male nurse to fix it. She practised the sentence before she called him and when he heard what was wrong he came immediately and dressed the wound again.
Before she left she spoke to the male nurse at the desk again and asked if she could come in to see The Earl before his operation at midday. With the use of his ITranslate and hers they managed to communicate and she was told that she should be there at 9 and that they would will get him ready for surgery between 10 and 11. It would be a four-hour operation.
She went back to her room to drop off all the stuff she’d taken from The Earl as he would not be returning to that ward. Then she walked to the wonderfully recommended supermarket and came back with some delicious Italian food. She had to buy plastic knives and forks to eat it with and she ate from the containers as her lady host had no plate to offer her. However, there was a small kitchen with a communal fridge, tiny microwave oven and a hot plate to cook on. She ate her meager meal of Italian delights and then sat down to write an email to family and friends.