Experienced my first disaster yesterday. Discovered that one of several bottles labelled ‘Ammoniaca’ is really gibberish for ‘hydrochloric acid’ and NOT something you should throw around with gay abandon when cleaning mould-spotted walls.
The resulting toxic fumes forced us to quickly dress up and go out for dinner and a glass of wine, while it aired out. I’m now wondering what else needs cleaning with the stuff!
I call my sister-in-law, Diana, on Skype.
“How’s it going?” she asks.
“It’s a lovely sunny morning. The weather is slowly getting better and I’ve just resumed running after simply ages. This morning I ran almost all the way to the French border.”
“You seriously ran?”
“Actually ‘run’ is a euphemism for ‘walk, jog, walk, jog, walk, coffee, croissant, walk, jog’. Can’t rush this process of regaining one’s fitness.”
Diana is unimpressed. “Now run to the Italian boarder…..those croissants get my attention! That would be my kind of a run.”
“Nah,” I reply. “Bit too far, even for a pro like me. How about I sail there instead? Oh yeah! I am doing that. Next week I think.”
Diana is not amused.
Later in the morning I wander over to the Fortex office to speak to the girls there. It’s lonely with just me and Bill on the boat and no other female company, and besides I need advice on how to get some medical treatment for my eye, not the black eye that I had from the Easter Egg, but the other one which has since developed an allergy to all the makeup I have been wearing in an attempt to cover up my black eye. I also have a touch of thrush from the long flight over here, which is refusing to subside.
“Do you know where I can find a female doctor?” I ask Tonia and Beth.
There is shocked silence.
“I don’t know of any female doctors in Monaco,” Tonia says. “Women don’t work ‘ere. They stay at home. We only work because we Italian. Perhaps try the ‘ospital?” she suggests. “There is bus stop over road for bus that goes there.”
The bus eventually pulls up at a medium-size ‘ospital that seems to be built on the highest point of Monaco. It is the Centre Hospitalier Princesse Grace (Princess Grace Hospital Centre. I find out later it is the hospital that treated Princess Grace after her fatal car accident). I enter the Emergency ward cautiously, and find myself in a small waiting room with three or four people sitting on the clean seats around the wall. I approach a nurse sitting behind a window.
“Do you speak English?” I ask?
“A little,” she says. “What is wrong?”
I squint at her through swollen, red eyes.
She’s kidding right? She doesn’t know what’s wrong? Maybe she thinks all Australians look like this.
“My eyes,” I say. “I need to see a doctor to get some cream for my eyes.”
“Yes. Hmmm…. yes. Your eyes.”
Things are starting to look up.
“Do you have any female doctors?”
She looks confused. “Sorry. I do not understand. Wait. I get someone who speaks English. Please fill out this form.”
I take a seat and start filling out the form. After a while a young woman approaches me, smiling.
“Can I help?”
“Um, yes. Is there somewhere we can speak privately?”
She continues to smile. “No.” Then she looks at me expectantly.
Hmmm…. “… well I need to get some antihistamine cream for my eyes,” I say, pausing. I am so embarrassed. “Are you sure there is nowhere we can speak privately?”
“No. There is nowhere,” she says cheerfully.
“I also have some problems downstairs,” I say gesturing to my lower abdomen.
“You want to go downstairs?” she asks.
“No. I have some problems down there,” I say, hearing a slightly frantic note creep into my voice.
By now my obviously red face and stuttering explanation start to attract interested looks from the other patients.
“Are there any female doctors here?” I plead.
“Of course,” she says and leaves me.
About an hour later my name is called and I follow another young woman into a consultation room. Seriously? Do any women over the age of 25 work in Monaco? I wait. It is eerily quiet and I feel nervous. After almost half an hour the door finally opens to admit a tall, broad-shouldered blond Amazon dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope slung casually around her neck. I do a double take. She is so tall and so broad shouldered she might be a man in drag.
“Problem?” she asks in a heavily accented deep voice. I am sure she is a he.
I point to my eyes.
“Ahhhh….” she says wisely and immediately starts writing on a prescription pad.
“Also….” I stumble. God how I hate these sorts of things. “I think I have thrush.”
She looks at me intently then shakes her head. “No understand”.
I point to my lower abdomen and pretend to scratch.
She raises her eyebrows then gestures to me to remove my jeans and climb up on the examination table where she carefully parts my knees and takes a look. I wonder whether a man in drag is still technically a man or whether the ‘draggness’ overrides his (or her) enjoyment of perving on women’s private places.
“Ahhh…..” she says. “You have… you have…. um…I cannot remember the English.” Suddenly her face lights up.
“You have mushrooms,” she declares, obviously very pleased with herself, then immediately recommences her scribbling before tearing the top sheet off with a flourish and handing it to me.
“Pharmacy,” she says nodding to the long list she’s written.
Talk about thorough. I am given three separate treatments for the thrush—a cream to apply internally, one to apply externally and some tablets—plus eye drops and two different eye creams. I buy three thrush prescriptions and just one eye cream, from the pharmacy next door, then catch the bus down to Monaco.
Back on the boat I find Bill and the boat’s handyman trying to man-handle a new washing machine through the cockpit companionway, which is about an inch too narrow.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re replacing the washing machine,” Bill replies.
“Oh. Is it broken?”
“No,” he says.
I am confused.
“Soooo, why are we replacing it?”
“Just in case it does break while we’re out sailing,” he says in a tone which is far too matter-of-fact considering the circumstances.
I look more carefully at him and he shrugs.
“Let me get this right,” I say. “We’re replacing a perfectly good, fully functioning washing machine with a brand new one, because, why? Just because the old one ‘might’ break down in the next five months?”
“Yep. You got it!”
I feel a twinge of concern.