Waiting, waiting, waiting to speak to my oldest sister Claire, in Verona, Italy. She is and always will be five years older than me.
We made a 7.45am/11.45pm appointment but she emailed me to say that she can’t find her phone number, it’s a long story and the bar she and her husband go to has a lock-in until 3am in which case she won’t be at home anyway. (She was the studious one who never went out.)
I did begin to wonder whether her life had suddenly taken off when she joined Facebook as Ms Scarlet and sent me a link to see her local Italian rugby team dancing.
Four hours later we speak.
Claire is lying prostrate on the lounge floor, waiting for the phone to ring.
She seems very excited as she picks up the receiver and I’m not surprised. This is someone who had the home phone wedged between shoulder and ear to the tune of four hundred pounds a month in the old days, and now she doesn’t even know her own number.
We haven’t spoken for ages. We email and she occasionally looks at Facebook. I persuaded her to join but the only Fb friends she has are my husband, Karen Halsey 5/365 and me. The rest of the time she is mingling with people with animated expressions who are simply mirroring hers.
She sounds so much like my Dad apart from the Australian inflection. He never had that and neither do I. She has spent six months here in the lucky country, mainly when she became the personal nurse that my dad always hoped she’d be, for him.
I tell her that it is good that she is in at number 7 because that was the house we grew up in. Also at Sunday School and church over the road, 7 loomed large. It’s my lucky number.
She says that she is living her life the wrong way round. I would see her tutting at the breakfast table in her panda slippers when I dragged myself downstairs in my teens and early twenties and now she’s out all night drinking Prosecco, which I thought was ham, and (shout this bit) she doesn’t seem to know what day it is.
She’s rolling around the Italian countryside in a VW campervan, stumbling on rock concerts in fields, eating wild chicken cooked over a fire and she used to lecture me on settling down.
It is exhausting talking to her so I give her my phone number and I tell her to call me more often. She asks me to read back what I am going to write.
“I think I’ll just share a photo of my notes, everyone will see how pleased I was to talk to you”