"I will not hear of it, no! After all the planning we’ve done, postpone it? Not a day before we’re supposed to leave!” Mrs Deledda whispered angrily to her husband as they waited outside Doctor Martin’s surgery. “It might be something serious….like cancer, you can’t ignore cancer! You can’t pretend it’s not there. I’ve never had such a fright in my life. We’ll postpone the holiday and go next summer. We’ve been waiting for years, one more won’t make much difference, will it!” retorted Gianni, her husband of thirty-five years. Giovanni Deledda, Gianni to friends, came to England at the age of twenty to improve his English. His homeland, Sardinia - a beautiful little island in the Mediterranean, offered very little at that time to young people like himself. His father’s family had been shepherds for the last ten generations.
They were honest, hard workers but Gianni wanted more from life than trekking way up into the Gennargentu mountains; however beautiful they were, to find fresh pastures for his family’s flock of sheep and goats. He was the sixth son in a family of fourteen children. Two of his brothers were in the ‘business’ and were quite happy getting up at dawn to milk the flock, prepare the ricotta and pecorino cheese and then trundle into the mountains for the whole day. They’d always been a close family and it had been terribly hard leaving them. His father, mother and two of his sisters had accompanied him by steam engine to the port city of Cagliari, on the south coast. He could still remember that hair-raising journey down the mountains. The locomotive had pelted down the narrow tracks, braking only at the last moment to screech around the loopy bends. They’d all got off in Cagliari looking a bit green. “Son, take this money. You’ll need it more than we do. Honour your family.” his father had said putting a leather pouch in his son’s jacket pocket and wiping away the copious tears flowing down his wrinkly cheeks. His mother and sisters weren’t able to utter a single word. They just stood holding onto each other, waving to Gianni as he stood on the empty deck of the midnight boat on its way to the mainland. They knew he wouldn’t be back for a long time. Gianni hadn’t stopped waving until they were all well out of sight. He’d closed his eyes and breathed in the sweet bitter smell of the wild heather and myrtle bushes - so typical of his homeland. “I’ll be back.” he promised. He arrived in London in 1966, found a job quite easily, made lots of friends and then….he met Barbara. Colpo di fulmine, they’d say in Italian and a strike of lightning it was. Barbara was fascinated by his dark looks, Latin temperament and enchanting accent. He was attracted to her strong sense of humour and her independence. They got married a year later and had a child every year for five years running. “Come on amore, please don’t let me down. I’m certain that if we don’t go this year, we’ll never go. Your family in Sardinia have worked so hard to get everything finished in time.” Barbara said in a softer huskier voice she used when she wanted to get her own way. “You fox!” he half grinned “Let’s wait and see what Doctor Martin says and then we’ll decide, ok amore!” His hands were sweating and he felt his heart miss a beat. How could she only think about a holiday when a life was at stake? he thought trying to take his eyes off the ugly plastic clock hanging on the wall right in front of them. It’s loud ticking constantly reminded him of a time bomb about to explode and shatter their lives. The panic, the flashing blue lights and siren of the ambulance the night before were still overwhelmingly vivid in his mind. “What does he know about all the things we’ve had to give up all these years?” she hissed indicating the doctor’s surgery. “Five kids to bring up, a mortgage and never a holiday! Well, apart from that weekend down in Brighton in 1980. It rained the whole time, even though the sun did come out just as we were leaving!”. She was sulking now and it amused Gianni to watch a woman of fifty-five pouting like a spoilt six-year-old. “Now I know where Sofia got her tantrums from.” he said putting his thin arm around her chubby shoulders. Sofia, their youngest daughter, was about to have her first baby. It’d be awful for the baby not to have both grandparents….his attention went back to the plastic time bomb ticking away merrily. We’ve been waiting for three hours now, he thought, something must be terribly wrong. He stood up to stretch his legs and escape the clock. “I’ll go and see if I can find an espresso coffee machine, do you want anything?” “A taxi to the airport would be nice,” she muttered “but if that’s not possible, I’ll have a cuppa…..and a biscuit too.” “Only one? Oh yes I’d forgotten, you’re on a diet aren’t you!” he teased walking away from his wife as she shot him a defiant look. He threw his hands dramatically towards the ceiling and then down onto his shaking head. “ Mamma mia, women!” he despaired. “Doctor Martin will be back shortly.” a nurse informed them just as Barbara finished off the custard cream. “He has gone to get the last of the results, so please take a seat in his surgery.” she added, smiling sympathetically. She opened the door to an immaculate office, an enormous mahogany desk stood majestically in the centre of the room. “I’m sorry you’ve had to wait so long…but…well….they double checked all the tests.” continued the nurse as she opened the curtains. Golden rays of sunshine bounced off the desk and gave the room a reddish hue. She then went out hastily, leaving the door slightly ajar. “Double check? Now I’m really worried.” said Gianni cracking his fingers noisily. “Why did they have to double check?” “Look at this desk, must be worth loads! I bet he doesn’t have trouble going away on holiday every year!” she moaned. “Stop doing that, you know it irritates me!” she added slapping his hands. “They always double check....just to be sure.” “Sure about what?” he asked sotto voce, still conscious of the clock’s insistent ticking. Barbara turned her full attention to her husband. “I’m sorry, I know you’re worried. I am too, it’s just that we’ve been looking forward to this holiday for months. I mean a couple of weeks won’t make much difference. It’s not as if we’ll be there for a month. Besides, if we don’t go now I’ll forget all of the Italian I learnt at evening classes. Come sta signora? Bene grazie, e lei? Vorrei un kilo di patate per favore. See, I remember.” Her face lit up as she pronounced the words perfectly. She’d studied Italian very hard for the past two months, going to evening classes three times a week. Gianni always had an Italian meal waiting for her when she got home and they went over the pronunciation between mouthfuls of tagliatellealla carbonara and lasagne. “Why don’t we leave now, we’ll come back immediately after the holiday...eh? A few weeks won’t change things….much! What do you think?” she asked him taking his slender hands into hers and placing them on her round rosy cheeks. “Dai amore, think of all that pasta…and real espresso coffee. We deserve it, come on let’s go.” She stood up ready to leave. She was right, he thought, all those sacrifices. They’d seen each one of their children through university and helped them all out financially too. Now it was their turn to enjoy some of life’s pleasures, even if it meant sneaking out of the doctor’s office before he told them the results. “You promise we’ll come and see Doctor Martin as soon as we’re back?” he asked standing up to join her near the door. “Of course, immediately.” “Won’t he think we’re a bit rude leaving without speaking to him first?” “Well he knows about the holiday. We told him that we were supposed to be leaving tomorrow…..well, I did anyway.” Her hand was on the door knob when Doctor Martin came marching in. “I’m very sorry to have kept you waiting for so long,” he said, “please take a seat. Well, Mrs Deledda, your tests were double checked and nothing serious has shown up. The diet you’ve been following for the last couple of weeks is a bit too drastic I think. I know you’re anxious to pack your suitcases, so I’ll let you go. As soon as you’re back from Sardinia, come and see me and I’ll arrange a consultation with our dietician.” The couple left his office hand in hand. Mrs Deledda was nearly jumping with joy and her husband looked as if he’d kiss everyone in sight, he even gave that old plastic clock outside the surgery a strange, triumphant look! You don’t see many couples so close these days, Doctor Martin thought - must be the prospect of a holiday. Lucky people……he hadn’t had one for years.