34 – communication trials and tribulations

In an effort to keep in contact with both family and friends we regularly drove down to the seaside town of Gaeta where we had discovered a place which offered internet facilities.  As well as being a bar, this small, rather seedy establishment also sold lottery tickets and served as a bookmakers.  Therefore whilst trying to connect to the internet  we had to endure several TV sets blaring out commentaries of the latest horse races.  Other keen punters continuously fed hungry slot machines, which churned out ear piercing sound affects and aggravating tunes, to add to the general cacophony. 

We purchased an Italian mobile phone and SIM, however soon to our cost we found that it didn’t function well at Tre Cancelle, which infuriatingly was not blessed with a good signal, being surrounding by hills and small mountains.  In fact,  the only place we could get it to work was in our bathroom.  Even then the signal seemed to be badly affected by adverse weather conditions. We were advised to try and use another mobile phone provider.

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In Fondi we found an international telephone centre where we could make cheap calls and send faxes.  Curiously this was run by a bunch of Indians who also rented out Bollywood videos.  It wasn’t until much later that we realised that there was a large Indian community in the Fondi / Sabaudia area who are mainly employed as agricultural labourers in the local farms.

We contacted Italia Telecom, to see if we could get a land-line connected.  Eventually some of their engineers turned up to check where the nearest telephone lines ran.  There was a house further up the hill, which seemed to be generally uninhabited, but appeared to have telephone wires connected to it.  The engineers scratched their heads, and said they would have to go back to the office and consult some maps of the vicinity.  We heard no more from them.   A few weeks later we received  a message saying to expect some engineers shortly.  Then we received another call to say that they wouldn’t be coming for another week or so.  Then a  call to say that an engineer was coming to install telephone apparatus in the house.  Then another call to say that they wouldn’t be coming yet.  Confused !!! Yes we were, and so it appears were they !!! We just hoped that a phone line would materialise before too long. 

Then a totally different set of engineers turned up out of the blue, once again looking for the nearest telephone line.   Eventually we were informed that to connect us they would require to run a line across three pieces of neighbouring land, and that we needed to obtain the owners’ permission to erect a few poles. We were also told would have to pay the cost of the new connection and running the new line, which would amount to a couple of thousand euros. 

One set of neighbours were very sympathetic and helpful, as they understood the importance for us to have a land line connection, especially with two ailing parents.   The second piece of relevant land seemed to be for sale, but we had no means of contacting the owners.

The third piece of land, bordered our own and was jointly owned by a local resident, an elderly spinster.   We had had the “pleasure” of meeting the aged Signora  one morning, when she had driven up from the town to check on the olive workers who were tending her trees. She gave the impression that she considered herself to be rather superior to ordinary “country folk”.   We  approached her to introduce ourselves, her response was decidedly icy and curt.  She seemed none too keen on having new foreign neighbours, in facts her expression was so sour, she looked as if she had just sucked on a lemon. Sometime later, I mustered the courage to telephone her, to ask her politely if she would consider granting permission for Italia Telecom to erect a pole or perhaps two on her piece of olive grove, however despite my humble pleading, having explained in detail our desperate requirement for a landline connections, she refused point blank to even contemplate the possibility, saying that our problems had nothing whatsoever to do with her, and she proceeded to firmly slam the phone down of me.  Grazie Mille !!!

We talked to the next set of Telecom engineers about the possibility of redirecting the wires down the roadside, however we were informed this was totally out of the question due to the proximity of high voltage electricity cables.  We discovered that there was a new Bed and Breakfast establishment situated further down the valley which was also requesting a phone line, but this also was dependant on resolving the stale mate controlled by “ Signora B ”. ( Note – 7 years later the situation remains the same.)

At long, long last we were finally able to get one of our computers repaired and we were very fortunate to not  have lost any files. However just a few days later we experienced a sudden, violent thunderstorm, and there was a lightning strike very close by.  The simultaneous flash and clap of thunder was so loud and frightening that our  dog Louby jumped up and yelped in fear – we thought at first that she had been struck.  Of course, the computer had been switched on at the time, so ….. yes, back to the repair shop, for a new power supply unit !!! 

So the only alternative left to us was to try to organise a connection to the internet using  2G mobile phone connection and then a connection to the computer via Blue Tooth.  Satellite connection was another possibility, but prohibitively pricey.  At this time Broadband internet services had not reached Itri.


Chapter 36  – getting to know the hospital well

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