Here is my contribution to this week’s Fun Photo Challenge from Cee
17 September 2016
Lady Helen had avoided doing any boat related activities without The Earl as she had a phobia of travelling in anything that does not touch terraferma. Only with him to protect her would she board a sea bound vessel. But on the day before they were to depart for home she thought “Hey the Mediterranean in a calm sea isn’t it? What could possibly go wrong. The ride would be smooth and the weather amazing – I can’t leave Italy without seeing the Amalfi Coast – I can do this.”
So after a fortifying breakfast and seeing to her ailing husband’s needs she bravely set off on her own. She got to the harbour just in time to get the 9:30 ferry. It was only 15 minutes to Cetara and she decided she would go there and then come straight back.
When she saw the tub she was to board she almost changed her mind. It looked like what the butcher, baker and candlestick maker would have chosen. Tiny didn’t begin to describe it.
But board it she did and she befriended an Italian Mama and her daughters one of whom was also named Helen. The latter offered to take a photo of her doing her brave deed.
She was the only passenger disembarking at Cetara and a handsome crew member helped her off.
What a stunning little village. She explored for about an hour and took loads of piccies.
Okay so the ride was a little bumpy but it wasn’t that bad so she messaged The Earl and said she would go on to Amalfi. It was supposed to be 35 minutes but she got the slow boat that stopped at every port. Well – that was probably a good thing because she got to see the ports close up from the sea. Although this was a bigger boat it was less stable and the ride was rough.
Amalfi was amazing. She explored for a couple of hours and visited the cathedral. She decided against swimming. The beaches were cute but very stony and she would have had to buy flip flops to walk on the stones and also pay to hire a lounger.Being used to the long white beaches of Struisbaai and Fish Hoek she thought it wouldn’t be worth it.
The wind got up in the afternoon and the calm Mediterranean looked somewhat choppy. She thought she might take a bus back to Salerno but it turned out that it would take an hour and a half and she’d left The Earl for too long already. So she risked life and limb to take the fast ferry directly back to Salerno – only 35 minutes. Fortunately it turned out that that particular vessel was more stable than the one before and she hardly felt a bump. She was back at the hotel before 2 o’clock.
The Earl had slept most of the time she was away which was good as sleep is a wonderful healer.
At 6:15 they met Filippo for farewell drinks. He had to leave for a family dinner and so she and The Earl went out for chicken wraps and so ended their sojourn in Salerno Italy.
Before coming to Italy Lady Helen had had her nails done with acrylic overlays. They lasted very well but it was now time for a fill or even a fresh set to be done. She searched the Internet for a nail bar In Salerno – nada! All she got were reports that in Italy they don’t do acrylic and even gel was rare. And there was no mention of a nail Salon anywhere in Salerno. Reception were no help either. She considered removing the overlays herself but could not find the acetone needed to help do the job.
Then after visiting the medical museum she wandered down a narrow alley and peeped inside a window where she spied a nail technician in action. O Joy – she popped in – “Mia unghie?” she said and showed the young girl her deteriorating nails.
“Si – tre” – she pointed to her watch. “Venticinque Euro.” Three o’clock? That soon? Indeed she would be there. €25 would be worth it.
She returned at the appointed hour and only then did she notice the grubby towel and nail ovens covered in dust. The technician grabbed her hand and attacked the acrylics with the buffer then used a mini sanding machine till she winced when it got too hot. The girl giggled and was only slightly more careful. Then she started the gelling and to set it one had to place ones nails in a mini oven to bake. Lady Helen had had this done a few times and never had it been a traumatic experience but after a minute she pulled her fingers out and yelled “Caldo!”(Hot) The girl giggled again and indicated that she should put her fingers back in. Lady Helen tentatively obeyed and it seemed to have cooled but this went on a few times during the session. L.H. knew that a fancier salon would have been three times more expensive so she endured the slightly rougher treatment and hoped for the best. The end result was perfect so the tiny bit of rough treatment was worth it.
While all this was going on an ugly/cute little dog parked himself at her feet right next to her camera and guarded it throughout the treatment. The Italians love their dogs and many take them to work. Even at their hotel there was a dog at reception.
The nail bar was also a parruchierre (hairdresser) – not very modern but it was quite busy so couldn’t be that bad. The sound system pounded out Italian rock and everybody was very laid back. You’ve gotta love the Italians.
While she was exploring she also found a little hole in the wall establishment which had rotisserie chickens. She told the singnor that she’d return to get one after the nail session – he indicated that he would be closed but she could come after 5. Of course – not open during siesta time! She did return and he had her hicken waiting for her!
So dinner was delicious pollo and insalata with plenty of olives and buffalo mozzarella
a glass of vino di Bianca for L.H. and a cold birra for The Earl.
And the Good news – SoS International rang to tell her that their hotel accommodation would be fully covered by their insurance and they would also pay the penalty on The Earl’s changed air ticket – but not on hers! “I fail to understand their logic,”she said to The Earl. “Do they expect me let you fly alone so I can catch the original flight with the Gooselinis? Go figure!” But she wasn’t too annoyed. It could have been worse.
3 September 2016. Fourteenth day in San Leonardo Hospital.
The Earl continued to improve and became less reliant on Lady Helen.
The physiotherapists didn’t work on weekends but in spite of this The Earl continued to do his exercises on his own. The staff found it very funny that he walked down the passages and worked out at the bar unsupervised by a therapist. They weren’t used to hyperactive patients.
Just over a week after his surgery he felt confident enough to let L.H. go off sightseeing on her own. Before The Earl was hospitalized they had tried to get to see the Medieval gardens but the first time they were closed and the second time he never made it there but got to ride in an ambulance instead! So that was her first port of call. It cost her all of €3 to get in and there wasn’t a great deal to see but it was lovely just to walk around and enjoy them. The gardens are walled and terraced and date back to the 12th century AD. The first owners were the Silvatico family. In the 14th century Matteo Silvatico created a garden that would be the forerunner of all future botanical gardens in Europe. The interesting thing about him too, was that he taught medical students the names and uses of plants and showed them how to use their healing properties.
The views over the bay were also spectacular. She would have liked to have had a drink at the restaurant and to sit and take in the peace for a bit longer but the cost of refreshments were ridiculous so she decided to move on.
St Matthew’s Cathedral was not too far away so she popped in there and found the experience quite spiritual. The architecture, paintings and sculptures were beautiful. But the crypt is what did it for her. She felt tears pricking when she walked in. The walls and ceiling were beautifully frescoed and told the biblical stories. It was quiet and peaceful and all the visitors seemed as awed as she was. She sat and reflected for ages before moving on.
It was once again a beautiful day in Italy – everyday in Italy is stunning. L.H. walked along the Lungomare and then decided to treat herself to lunch. The restaurant she chose was one she’d seen before but not tried. It looked smarter than some of the others they’d been to yet the prices weren’t bad at all. It was semi-outdoor and cool.
She splashed out on a insalata di pollo (Chicken Salad) not expecting much – but she was quite blown away. It had plenty of delicious chicken, cheese and good olives and it came with a basket of pane (bread). She could barely finish it. With this she had an excellent glass of white wine which compared very favourably with the expensive Springfield – Life from Stone – she drank at home – but this one was certainly cheaper.
Of course she couldn’t resist finishing the whole meal off with a good cup of Italian Coffee even though it was Americana. To die for!
The Earl messaged her to say that he’d almost burst into tears because the staff from his company had sent him a huge bouquet of flowers! And he didn’t even own that business anymore! He was certainly a well-loved boss.
He also said he missed her and wanted to know when she would be back! So of course she dashed home as fast as she could.
His first words were – Where’s my gelato – so she popped down to the canteen and got him a tub of coffee gelato which was very good.
He’d had a good morning, finished reading a book and had started another.
His neighbour’s family came in to chat – in Italian but they managed to communicate with signs and Itranslate and the few words L.H. could say and understand. They expressed concern for their plight and showed great interest in where they were from and how long they would be in Italy. The Earl was only too pleased to be able to show them phone photos of where he lived and what amazing fish he caught in South African waters!
Both The Earl and Lady Helen were grateful for the care and friendliness shown to them by almost all the Italians they met. Without the kindness of these lovely people it would have been so much harder to cope.
Lady Helen slept fitfully and woke up early the day after the surgery. Dr P phoned her at 8 o’clock. The news was good. The operation was very successful and The Earl was still in recovery but would be moved to the sixth floor later that morning. She could come and see him at 11 o’clock. He then allowed her to speak to her husband.
“Hi my darling – bring me some chocolate gelato!” he pleaded. The doctor’s voice could be clearly heard in the background – “no, no! Lemon Gelato only!” A clear indication that her Earl was better.
She wondered if she would have any problem getting past the mafia at Ground Floor Reception as she had every other day since he’d been in San Leonardo. So she prepared herself for battle and practised the Italian sentences for “Dr P says I can go up to the sixth floor to see my husband. Phone him if you don’t believe me”. At said time she approached the desk with a look that she hoped was intimidating. She prattled off her sentences. He eyed her suspiciously, picked up the phone and she heard him bark off the query to whoever was on the other end of the line. Then he pointed to a chair – ‘Sedersi li’ — sit there. —‘Dr P sara venire’ — Dr Panzo will come.
So she waited a minute or two and then the great man himself escorted her to the hallowed halls of ‘Piano Sei’. The Earl was in a semi-private ward and when he saw her he observed the emotion on her face and said softly. “Please don’t cry!”
Dr P said – “Everything is going to be alright. Your husband is making a good recovery” But there he was with tubes coming out of his chest and in his neck and nose and looking so vulnerable. But his colour was good so she knew she needn’t worry.
Gelato, though, was not an option! All he could do was have tiny sips of water. It was nil per mouth for the rest of the day. The staff were told very firmly that she could stay for a while and that The Earl would be moved later that afternoon to a private ward and once there she could come as often as she liked for as long as she liked. The staff did not look happy but didn’t dare contradict the Lord of the Ward.
She stayed for 40 minutes and then left The Earl to sleep.
She’d discovered the way the lunch vouchers worked and got an excellent lunch which included fish, vegetables and pasta for just five euros. She could have had pane (bread) too but it would have been just too much. The water was also included in the price.
He was not a happy chappy when she returned at 3:30. A bully nurse had hurt him when they moved him from the semi to the private room. They’d been rough with him when they put on his pajamas and he was full of anger and frustration. His chest hurt and he was coughing painfully. Of course to he who is full of tubes and not feeling great all these were major problems. LH. spoke to two of the staff in very poor Italian and told them that he was upset and to please be gentle and that one of them had hurt him. They looked surprised but certainly go the message. L.H. was sure they were all very kind and caring and just doing their job. He’d asked them in English to please let him sit up on his own but they hadn’t understood a word and probably thought he’d said please help me up. L.H. also suspected that The Earl was experiencing a bit of post operative depression. Nothing was right. She didn’t hold the water cup to his lips correctly, she didn’t straighten the bed properly, the tubes were definitely not working properly and she was please to call a nurse to sort it out. A wonderful male nurse came to to the rescue and spent ages trying to explain how everything worked and that put The Earl’s mind at rest. As a noble electrical expert he needed to know how things worked.
Some things did cheer him up though. Chantal and Jeremy put a smile on his face with their hilarious Whatsap voice message. Princess Lolz’s favourite daughter message had him asking her to bring him over a roast leg of lamb. Granddaughter Shannon brought a twinkle to his eye when she sent a message from boarding school filled with hearts and loving get well words and he even joked with Tommy by replying to him with these words – Sorry I can’t fish with you at the moment – I left my finger lappies in Cape Town!
L.H. was exhausted after spending four hours with him even though he slept part of the time. She was relieved to get back to her room to have her solitary meal washed down with a yogurt tub of wine.
After The Earl’s episode he and Lady Helen decided to take things easy and while the Captain and his Admiral went to do some chores in town they took a slow walk to a nearby pharmacy to get blood pressure medication which the Earl promised to take for the rest of his life!
The following day The Earl was still not feeling up to anything strenuous because on top of everything he’d bruised his foot and found it painful to walk. Also his medication made him drowsy and he just wanted to sleep. He insisted the rest of the group do a trip to the castle without him. “Take lots of photographs,” he commanded.
This required that they take a bus so they set off reasonable early, stopped at a popular coffee shop and had coffee and chocolate croissants for breakfast and then waited – and waited – and waited. Three hours later the bus arrived! The castle is atop a very high hill and they would have walked but were advised against it as the road was quite dangerous.
The bus was full of Italians who soon picked up that the Inglese were headed for the only tourist attraction en route. And when they approached many voices called out – Castello – Castello – otherwise they would have missed their stop and been taken heaven knows where!
The Arechi Castle dates back, according to some scholars to the third century AD, while others believe the earliest parts were only built in the sixth century. It is situated at a height of about 300 meters above sea level. It has breathtaking views over the city and the Gulf of Salerno. The castle assumed great military importance in the eighteenth century, with the Longobard Prince Arechi II who, although didn’t introduce major changes to the fort, made it the cornerstone of the defense system of the city.
They enjoyed exploring and taking photographs and really wanted to walk back home but fear of the dodgy road made them wait another couple of hours for a bus. However, the time was spent beneath the shady pines relaxing and chatting to other tourists. Meeting people on vacation is also part of the fun.
The most exciting part of the excursion was the bus trip home – the road was steep and narrow and hair raising to travel in the hands of the crazy Italian Driver who had no fear! It was better than a roller coaster ride!
The Earl was delighted to have his Lady safely back with him. He bragged about his improved fitness telling her, “I’ve been walking up the hill without having to stop and rest. I think I’m Italy Fit now.”
Lady Helen was delighted to hear it but on their first long walk together she noted that he could no quite keep up with her. “I really was better,” he said “It’s just that you’re walking too fast!” And so she slowed down – she slowed down a lot!
On her third day back they set off to visit the Medieval Gardens. The Admiral and The Captain did not accompany them as they’d done it on their own on a previous excursion. They hadn’t gone far when the Earl had to stop. “I have a chest pain,”he gasped. Let’s rest a while. “I just need a few minutes” But the pain did not subside. Lady Helen began to worry. “This is worse than before,” she said. “I’m taking you to the doctor.”
“No!” He said. “I’ll be fine. Just walk slowly.” But even at a snail’s pace he could not cope so Lady Helen insisted they go to the emergency room. “There must be one where we see those ambulances parked just around the corner.” It was a minute away from where they were. The minute they arrived she rushed into the building and said to the first person she saw – “Mio Marito ha male petto” “My husband has sore chest” A woman who must have been a nursing sister was called and immediately ushered ithem nto a small room and indicated for The Earl to lie on the bed. A doctor appeared out of nowhere. He took his blood pressure and attached a heart monitor to his chest.
Lady Helen began to explain that she didn’t have their passports or medical insurance on her but she couldn’t quickly run home to get them. The nurse shook her head and just wrote down The Earl’s name. “No passaporto – no pagare” No passport – no pay” Was Lady Helen understanding correctly? She didn’t think so.
Then some paramedics appeared and started wheeling the bed out to the street. Lady Helen did not know what was going on. They prattled away in Italian to her and all she picked up was “ospedale” “ambulanza”
“You’re taking him to the hospital in an ambulance? But it’s just a chest pain!” They ignored her and indicated that she should sit up front next to the driver while a doctor and paramedic accompanied The Earl in the back.
As they screamed down the busy streets of Salerno, Lady Helen gazed in awe as the cars made way for the speeding ambulance. “How many euros is this going to set us back?” she wondered. She had no idea where they were going not how they were to get back. It was a 15 minute ride before they arrived at outpatients, The Earl was wheeled out and Lady Helen followed but was barred at the big red door and told – “Solo pazienti – aspettare qui” “Only patients – wait here.” She stared at the red door for a full minute before coming to her senses. She must phone The Captain. After two rings he answered, “Hello – Lady Helen – talk to me” But the words wouldn’t come – finally she managed to stutter out the story and he asked, “What’s the name of the hospital” “I don’t know,” Lady Helen cried.
Then held up her phone and called out to those in the waiting room – “Ospedele – nome – per favore” hospital – name – please” A young man approached and said, “San Leonardo”
“I don’t know how to explain how to get here,” said Lady Helen “But it’s not far by ambulance.”
“Don’t worry, ” said The Captain “We’ll Google it. Keep us informed.”
Lady Helen waited anxiously for half an hour but nobody came to give her any news about her husband’s condition. Finally she could handle it no longer and went to reception. The receptionist could not speak English. “Voglio vedere mio marito” “I want to see my husband” The receptionist sighed, picked up a phone, prattled a few words in Italian and then pointed to the big, red door. Lady Helen approached the door which was soon opened by a man who spoke excellent English. He allowed Lady Helen in and took her to The Earl. There he was looking perfectly comfortable and pleased with himself.His pain had gone, he was on a drip and he was feeling on top of the world. They’d taken blood and were monitoring his blood pressure and heart. “We have to keep him for a few hours and then we will discharge him.” said the man. “There’s no need for you to stay. Come fetch him later on.”
“Where do I pay?” asked Lady Helen. The man looked surprised. “Nothing to pay.” he said.
Lady Helen couldn’t believe it – they were not Italian citizens or even members of the EU yet as tourists the emergency treatment was free of charge. It gave her a warm, fuzzy feeling and a sense of relief that her Euros were safe!
Now she had to find her way home. She approached an ambulance driver and in her best Italian asked directions to the bus stop. He wanted to know where she was going and when she said The Lungomare, Salerno, he suggested the train instead. The station was a minute away and the ride there only 20 minutes. Nervously she found her way there, got help from Tren Italia personal how to use the ticket machine and then hopped onto the train. It was not necessary for The Captain and The Admiral to come to her rescue after all.
They did not discharge The Earl that day but kept him overnight. He caught a taxi home early the next morning and declared that all was well! It was just high blood pressure (200 over 100) and he needed to get his cardiologist at home to send him a script for the medication that he was supposed to be taking but wasn’t!