Watermelons are rampant here at the moment, they are ginormous, carrying them to the cash desk is like an Ironman challenge but they are the most refreshing object to munch on in the current 36 degree days we are having here in Italy.
Before lockdown happened when Ronan and I would go to the local supermarket, we often saw a little old couple together. The gent would pick the fruit up with his plastic gloved hand, gloves have always been provided in supermarkets for handling and choosing fruit and veg in Italy it’s not just a covid thing, anyway this old gent would pick up the piece of veg and smell it, inspect it and if it passed the test it would be placed in the basket while his wife patiently waited for each verdict. He was back again after Lockdown and this time he was tapping water melons. It piqued Ronan’s curiosity, “What do you think he is listening out for?”
“A little hello from inside perhaps?”
“Do you think a hollow sound is good or a dull sound is bad? Or would hollow be bad and dull would mean good?”
“I don’t know, just buy a bloody watermelon.”
That was about a month ago, and last week Ronan was back at the supermarket in our town and as usual for this time of year, there were a lot of German and Dutch tourists doing their shopping. In the fruit aisle there was a big crate of huge watermelons. Ronan being Ronan couldn’t resist. He goes along tapping each watermelon and holding his ear to it trying to figure out, or be given some divine sign, as to which would be the best watermelon to buy.
A tourist comes up to him and starts speaking Italian, Ronan doesn’t know what he is saying so asks “Can you speak english?”
“Oh yes great, I am sorry for my poor Italian.” The tourist says to Ronan, who doesn’t speak a word of Italian. “Can you choose one for me?” he says pointing at the watermelons.
Instead of picking one at random and exiting stage left as quickly as possible, Ronan spent a couple of minutes going from watermelon to watermelon tapping each with his ear close to the crate, and giving his new found expert opinion on why one sounded better than the other in his best Italian speaking english accent. “This one, you should choose-o-this-a-one-a,” he said confidently. When he looked up there was a small crowd watching. The tourist was very grateful and Ronan nodded and backed away, having a little laugh to himself.
When he had finished a quick shop and was at the pay desk, he looked over and there were still several tourists tapping watermelons and listening for the magical mystery sound. Ronan who will be forever now known as The Watermelon Tapper came home without what he originally went to the shop for – a watermelon.
Do you smell vegetables before buying? What do you look for to show they are the right choice?
Watermelon – L’anguria
Tourist – Il turista
Battere le dita- tapping the fingers
Can you speak english? – Parla inglese?
Since we’ve come to Italy, vet visits have become a regular occurrence. I’ve had pets all my life but I’ve never had to visit the vet so much in my whole animal owning life than I have since we arrived here two years ago.
We brought two dogs with us Asha – a large black german shepherd who is afraid of the dark, creaking doors and thunder. And a bicon frise called Looney who isn’t scared of anything and likes to save small creatures from cats.
We have since adopted two Italian black kittens, Spooky and Moonface.
Our first vet visit was with Looney, she couldn’t stop sneezing for 24 hours and pawing at her snout. I searched for an english speaking vet and found Maria just a town away.
Arriving at her surgery I suddenly feel tall. I am 5.2” I’ve never felt tall in my life. Maria is less than 5 foot, smiley and welcoming. She thinks Looney has snuffed a seed up her nose. She’ll need to be sedated for Maria to examine further.
Now, what I am used to in Ireland is the vet either keeping the pet in over night or giving you an appointment for the following day. But not here in Italy.
After telling us Looney will have to be sedated, I find myself holding a drip. It’s happening now and we are part of the assisting operating team it seems. Ronan is excited, I’m not. I’m not good at these things, I’m squeamish as hell. Ronan looks after all cuts, bruises, tiny bells inserted into ears, broken bones, laundry chemicals in eyes, glass eating… all the wonderful things that having kids involves.
So I hand the drip to Ronan and back off. I watch through a squint. Looney is dopey. Maria gets a magic tweezer like tool with a light on the top. Soon she says “Ah yes there it is”. She pulls out the mucus covered seed with long barbs. “It was very far up, it could have been dangerous. These seeds you must be careful of, we have many seeds in Italy that dogs inhale and get stuck in their skin. Particularly these, they burrow into the skin.”
She also pulls out two small rotting teeth.
We have been with her nearly an hour. The sedation medicine cost €30. The total bill cost €40.
With four pets now, we have Maria on speed dial and have been to her for sterilising, a tail amputation, a fractured back, sore paws, ear infections, eye infections, bad breath and teeth.
We were back again last week as we noticed flies around Asha and discovered a cut under her long hair at the top of her tail. It wasn’t pleasant. Off we go to Maria. Asha has been there so many times at this stage that she walked straight over to the scales, stood on it and looked back smiling at us proud of her 55kg.
Maria has her assistant vet with her today. I feel even taller as her assistant is a slight woman even shorter than Maria. Do you have to be a small woman to be a vet in Italy?
Again we’re there as Asha gets sedated and we are put in a room to let it take affect while she attends another patient. When Asha is out cold, Maria returns and gives Asha the best Brazilian ever, she should be a beautician. She cleans the infected wound,. I gag. But luckily we have caught it early otherwise it could have got very serious. She gives us a prescription for painkillers and an antibiotic. She says something about humans being cheaper but I don’t quite understand. Is she telling me she treats humans too on the side but doesn’t charge as much?
While there she gives Asha a full check up of her ears, teeth, eyes. All good.
The total bill is €50, with the sedation included at €40. So for a checkup and treatment Maria has yet again charged us €10 for her time (plus 22% VAT).
Our local chemist doesn’t have the antibiotic, so we go to a neighbouring town. They don’t have it either, but wait. He looks it up on the computer, “It’s a big dog yes?”
“Yes” I nod.
“There is a human form of this antibiotic, it is the exact same but under a different name. I can give you that? You need two boxes, the animal form of the medicine is €49 per box, but the human form is €7 per box. The Italian government subsidise medicine for humans but not for animals.”
Ahhh that explains what Maria was saying about humans being cheaper! … And it’s also why Asha is now a human as far as the pharmacist is concerned.
Dog – cane
Cat – gatto
Injured – ferita (feminine)
Not eating – non mangiando
Infection – infezione
Seed – seme
Sedate – calma (feminine)
Antibiotics – antibiotici