Our intrepid adventurers have thrown caution and sensibility to the wind and entered a portacabin on a camp site/Gothic horror film set in Turin, Italy, sometime in the past. In this gripping episode we encounter a trauma hospital in Egypt and two formidable Italian cooks.
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The creepy theme continues... (this is also on Symi)[/caption]
The room was long, with many large Formica tables that had slightly raised lips on the edge. The kind favoured by schools, oil rigs, prisons. Around each table were eight or so plastic chairs of the orange, church hall variety, the ones that have an odd shaped hole at the base of the back for no discernible reason. Perhaps it’s to let your back breath as you slip down the chair in warm weather, or perhaps to chill your kidneys when it’s cold. Anyway, cheap and uninviting as they were, they were nothing compared to the walls.
I was once invited to look around the trauma hospital (A & E) in Luxor, Egypt in my, then, capacity of ‘interested tourist.’ I was with a nurse friend and she was invited by a doctor to view the facility, but she didn’t want to go alone. We were made to change shoes at the door and the only reason I could see for this was to make it easier to step over the patients sitting on the floor. After half an hour of viewing what was essentially a third world disaster building, we were invited for a cup of tea and a cigarette in what I assumed was the staffroom. The only place to sit was on a table so I jumped up and accepted my small glass of red hibiscus tea, dangling my legs and looking apprehensively at the walls. Something dark had once run down these walls, like the creeping black gunge of ‘The Amityville Horror’ fame, or whatever makes those the nasty stains in public toilets. Something very unhygienic had taken place here and I asked, ‘Excuse me doctor, is this the staffroom?’
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Red on the walls[/caption]
‘No sir,’ he replied proudly, ‘this is our operating theatre.’
Well, it was not dissimilar to the portacabin in the graveyard outside of Turin. Say no more.
The unusual stains on the walls (damp, we told ourselves for reassurance purposes) were highlighted brilliantly by the glare of the few working overhead strip lights, which gave enough illumination to allow us to make out the far end of the room.
There was a counter running right across, with glass fronted cabinets and fridges, a large Coke fridge stood to one side with a vending machine next to it. On one wall, near the fridge, I noticed something that resembled a menu and beneath this was a table football game.
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Also read on the walls (in Rhodes)[/caption]
We approached and, through the fog of cigarette smoke and the blue mist of burning oil, we made out two plump ladies. They were both in the last wild throws of middle age, wore hefty rings on salsiccia fat fingers, and had large pearls hanging over their much wiped aprons. It was a strange mix; declining glamour peeling away to reveal exhausted hard-workers beneath. And they were staring at us expectantly.
‘Hello,’ I said.
They nodded and one lady said, ‘Good afternoon,’ so we’d passed the language barrier thing. I didn’t speak Italian but English was clearly acceptable.
I checked the menu and saw that, also in English, was written ‘tourist dinner.’ And then a price that was the cheapest we’d seen anywhere. There was, I thought, probably a very good reason for that, and it was with some apprehension that I asked, ‘What time are you open for dinner?’
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She looked at me as if I had just asked for her bra size.
‘Have you booked?’
Slightly stunned, we both took a look around the room, her words echoing in the cavernous space until they settled into the dust collecting at the skirting board.
She sighed and I had the distinct impression that I had given the wrong answer.
‘Tourist dinner or A La Carte?’
I could sense Bernie beside me holding in a laugh; there came short jabs of breath close by my ear.
‘What’s the tourist dinner?’
‘Barbeque, salad, bottle of wine, sixteen million lire.’ (Or whatever the price was.)
‘May we book then, please?’
‘Have to be before eight.’
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Blimey, this is a long post![/caption]
As she consulted a book behind the counter I stole a glance at my companion; red faced, a tear on his cheek, lips drawn tighter than an oboist hitting a top F. The short jabs of laughter were now underscored with a slowly escaping whimper.
‘Table for two please,’ I added, unable to resist.
Bernie left the room doing a pretty good impersonation of that very same top F. I could hear him out of the corner of my ear, as it were, outside, howling.
‘Seven thirty, table for two tourist dinners.’ It was confirmed.
‘Thank you very much.’
‘Don’t be late.’
I assured her we would not be and left to find Bernie outside, bent double, clinging hold of a tree and gasping for breath as if he'd just run all the way from Zermatt.
‘Well it’s going to be cheap and saves another drive,’ I said.
‘Have you booked?’ It was all he could say for the rest of the afternoon.
Ah, but there is more. To be continued…