The health centre
The first joy is that of being able to report something fairly concrete. João and I arrived home roughly three hours after we left. During that time we spent about an hour both having bits of our lives fed into the Social Security’s RNCCI system. RNCCI stands for National Network of Integrated Continuous Care, one leg of which is the “respite care” to give the tired carer a break, and give João a bit of convalescence and a break from the tired carer. If you are up to reading officialese in Portuguese, you can find a document here (p. 8 ff.), which I found once I got home today. The online interface into which we were squashed is called GestCareCCI. All our pertinent details were meticulously entered into the computer by the male nurse.
It turns out that the doctor (who we saw briefly afterwards) does the CCI rounds, and visits people in their homes regularly once the 1–3 months of convalescence has taken place. Apparently, if I fear that CCI (in Loulé, the next town, not too far away) are taking too long to phone me about the “next step”, I can pop into the Boliqueime health centre and the nurse will make a follow-up call on my behalf.
There was nothing much akin to joy in thanking João on the way there for being such a good sport. There was nothing much akin to joy in telling her that she had been brave after the ordeal of all those questions, most of which I had to answer on her behalf because she could not. I cannot say I enjoyed hearing her say, when asked, that she did not have anyone to confide in. What did bring me joy was the doctor’s understanding when I asked her forgiveness me for my moment of impatience on Thursday. I was also very happy that the doctor recognised João from the one and only consultation with her about four months ago, and that it was obviously that João liked the woman.
While waiting to see the nurse, I made conversation in English with a very tall German man in his fifties who did not understand the system and could not understand why, if he had been contacted to come and collect a prescription why he could not also see the doctor without an appointment. The receptionist explained quite kindly in her best English, but his primary response was that he was going to commit suicide. He told me that he is schizophrenic, lives alone with his dog, and apart from an 85-year old mother, has one brother in Germany who does not want to talk to him any more. Apparently no one would help him in Germany because he did not have a permanent home address, so he came to Portugal. He did not realise that he had to declare his German pension income to the tax authorities in Portugal, so now has a mountain of fines to pay. I did try to say something encouraging in German, but then when I heard about his brother, I rapidly recoiled into English once more. He reckoned jumping off the top of a 25-metre building in Quarteira where he lives ought to do it. I thought not. He said again that he thought it would be high enough, but you could tell from his face that he was already beginning to doubt it. The upshot of our conversation was that the nurse who attended to us saw the German fellow first and, with his superior people skills, calmed the man down enough for his to leave the centre, prescription in hand, and somewhat, if temporarily, appeased. That was my sign that the session with the nurse was going to be fine.
While waiting for the doctor, my backside almost froze to death. I took it outside where the village street sweeper, with whom I am on friendly terms, was busy. An athletic-looking Brazilian woman was having a smoke nearby. I stood in the middle of the cul-de-sac with my back to the sun. This inevitably led to the street-sweeper (who makes the most beautiful craft work out of all sorts of things in her spare time) repeating the oft-quote local wisdom that the sun is dangerous in spring and you can catch a cold in this weather. She went on to say how she could not understand why people leave the sunny Algarve to go skiing in the snowy mountains. I chirped up that I would not mind trying skiing on snow (and kept quiet about my partially dodgy knee) since I had water-skied once upon a time. I imagined that the balancing part of the skiing action would be similar. That’s when the Brazilian (now also standing in the road with her back to the sun) and the streetsweeper both broke into animated conversation almost simultaneously about the most startling thing: neither of them had ever managed to master the art of riding a bicycle.
I could not pursue this; the receptionist was signalling to me that the doctor was free. So I trotted inside like a kid.
I see the European Commission Directorate-General for Translation has just published a new English Style Guide (91 pages, plus a 100-page Country Compendium). Now, there’s a balancing act if ever there was one.