I am as sick as a dog today, I really want to be left alone to lie in my bed and sulk, I don’t want lots of hugs and sympathy from Mrs Sensible, and I don’t want strange Italian medicines or to visit the doctors to make sure it is not terminal. It is not necessary to take blood, urine or any other sample to establish that I have a bad case of man flu.
When Mrs Sensible is ill she requires 24 hour around the clock loving and affection, someone to fetch, carry and generally be there to hold her hand. It is a huge and basic difference between us and more importantly how our mothers dealt with illness. Her Sicilian mother (who is just wonderful and has adopted me) would sit with my wife and make her sweet honey tea, feed her little bits of food to keep up her strength and generally love her better. On the other hand my mum would banish me to my bedroom with a bottle of lucozade and an aspirin. And as soon as I was well enough to sit downstairs in front of the telly, I was well enough to go back to school.
I don’t think the way Mrs Sensible and I deal with illness is just conditioned by our mothers but because she is Italian and I am English. Before I moved to Italy I had never heard of the many illnesses that befall Italians. The Italian illness that immediately springs to mind is cervicale (stiff neck), the slightest wind even in high summer can trigger it. Leaving the house with damp hair will not only get you into trouble with mama and nona but you will certainly contract cervicale. Prevention is the best cure hence all Italians wear scarves even in the summer.
During July a small spider bit my leg and I think I developed a small allergic reaction to the bite, similar to the reaction I develop to tiger mosquito bites. My leg swelled and a little boil appeared. The boil kept popping and growing a little bit. Mrs Sensible told me I needed to go to the hospital emergency department. I laughed and declined, I explained that you only go to the emergency department if a paramedic has just cut you out of a car crash or if you sever a tendon in your hand while cutting gollywog tokens from Robinsons jam jars, something my dad did in 1984.c
Later that week a colleague at work noticed I was limping a little, and after looking at my leg and tutting she told me to andare a pronto soccorso ospedale. So I went and the doctor and nurse who saw me did not mutter about time-wasting but quickly and efficiently cleaned my leg they then took numerous blood samples, gave me a course of antibiotics and told me to return to the emergency department the following day!!!
On my return to the hospital I received my blood results and once again my leg was cleaned disinfected and re bandaged. The doctor gave me a copy of the blood results and an invoice for 25 euros. Not bad really. It seems Italians will have a blood test every three to five years whether they need one or not, very much like the English renewing their tetanus jab.
Every summer we go to Sicily to stay with the family, which is just great because they just love me to bits. My new-found family will take my side in an argument and will scold my wife even though they haven’t a clue what we are arguing about. The slight downside with staying with the family in Sicily is although the temperatures reaches above 40°C Mrs Sensibles mum and dad will still try to persuade me to wear a vest under my tee-shirt and to always wear slippers in the house. Wearing a vest I am told will protect me from colpo d’aria or roughly translated a puff of air. It seems even if the air is hot colpo d’aria will bring on a bad case of cervicale the ailment most Italians suffer from.