“I think I need to go to a doctor, there’s something weird happening to my stomach when I do a sit-up. Look at this,” says Ronan lying on the bed beside me and does a sit up. A pointy ridge rises down the centre of his belly as his stomach muscles tighten. “Ronan what the hell is that? It looks like an alien baby is about to burst through your skin.”

“Ha ha Rosemary’s baby! Get it?!”

“Seriously, that looks serious.”

“Yeah I googled it, I think it’s a herniated aorta.”

“Don’t be ridiculous your aorta goes to your heart.”

“It also goes down the centre of your stomach, do you not know anything?”

I’m immediately on my phone googling “Where is Aorta?” and I get a small town in the Netherlands. So I cut to the chase and google Aorta abdominal hernia. ‘For God’s sake Ronan that’s life threatening, when did you notice this?”

“About a week ago.”

“And you are only mentioning it now?”

“I thought it would go away.”

‘What? You thought your aorta would go away?” I’m already texting our Italian friend and neighbour Anna to ask her to help us make an appointment with the doctor and I explain why. She is on it immediately and has an appointment made for later that morning.

As we are not yet full residents in Italy we have not been assigned a doctor and thankfully we have had no cause to go to one up until now, other than me with my frozen shoulder. She’s an older no bullshit doctor, who doesn’t speak english so Anna has to come with us to our medical appointments until we get better at Italian. When I asked payment on my last visit, via Anna, the doctor said “You can owe me lunch at your family’s restaurant”, to Anna. Seems like a fair deal, I drag my Italian neighbour to be an unpaid translator and she then in turn gets to pay for my treatment by giving the doctor a free lunch.

“She is a very good doctor,” Anna had explained on the way for my shoulder visit. “I have gone to her all my life”.

I did previously question Anna’s judgement of the doctor’s worthiness when she told me the three-choice prescription she gave to Anna for stress. “You need to take up meditation or get a strong man to help you with the farm or take up smoking.”

So Ronan goes to the doctor and illustrates the problem by doing a sit-up. Her first reaction, “Why you do sit-ups? You are too old to be caring about a six pack.”

“Because I want to stay fit?”

She tuts. “It is not your aorta, it is your stomach muscles, they have detached and separated. You need to stop doing sit-ups, you will never have a flat stomach because of this. But I will send you for a scan anyway.”

“What causes it?”  asks Ronan. “Often pregnancy… but in your case probably lifting heavy objects.”

A penny drops for me. “Oh my God… could that have happened to me during pregnancy? Does that explain why I haven’t been able to get a flat stomach for the last 24 years no matter how hard I try?”

She looks at me. “yes probably… It is too late now for you.”

We leave the surgery both written off as wrecks doomed for Tellytubby Land for all of eternity and with another promise of a free lunch from Anna. She still hasn’t taken advantage of the last one, I’m expecting her to arrive someday at the restaurant with a list of guests and the dates of our medical appointments beside each one she is owed dinner for.

At least we know that Ronan isn’t going to explode.

The private medical clinic for Ronan’s scan is just down the road. It’s a fantastic facility, modern, clean, no waiting. His scan confirms the doctors prognosis, no more sit-ups are prescribed and no heavy lifting, which I know Ronan will ignore. The technician has time so he offers to scan Ronan’s kidneys, liver and whatever else he finds – it’s like when we go to the vet, she gives the pets a full checkup while there for no extra fee. And like our pets, Ronan has a clean bill of health. So we buy a gelato on the way home to celebrate Ronan not being pregnant with an alien baby and both of us never having to do sit ups again.