Inside I found my patient prostrate on her bed and feeling rather miserable, luckily I had bought with me suitable meds and shortly after an IV injection she was feeling much more comfortable. Outside we could hear loud shouts, high spirited swearing in Italian as the boys kicked the ball around. I leaned out of the ground floor window and called to the cat, squeaking at it as it sidled up between the wooden benches outside the window. Mercy, that was the wrong noise to make with Italians around! The boys thinking that I was calling them (an obvious conclusion I guess if you're an Italian male and a girl starts squeaking in your line of sight). Seeing that I had accidentally captured their attention, I jumped back from the window, but too late, the Latinos had caught the scent and en masse accumulated just outside on the patio, only to then enter one by one, hopping up on to the sill and crowding out the poor patient's room. Imagine a whole team of rather buff Italian security guards suddenly materialising in your bedroom and you, far from your most glamorous self are there under the duvet wondering what the fuck they want. I was giggling, my patient far more used to the Italians, lay there as they made a fuss of her telling her that all she needed was a really good cappucino, that she looked pale and should have a large glass of chianti. A couple of them had jumped onto the bed, the others berating them for putting their dirty trainers on the duvet, the rest crowding around the end of the bed. So predictably and sweetly Italian, when they found out I was the doc, there were several requests to be examined....! :) I said that I'd been jabbing the patient with a sharp needle and that they probably wouldn't want a turn at that. Then, with equal aplomb, the team filed out of the window, one by one, back into the sunshine of the courtyard garden, promising to invite me to one of their (in)famous pizza parties. You'll probably think I'm being terribly judgemental but that's exactly as it happened, a script writer couldn't have made a better scene for national stereotyping than that which occurred naturally.
Since arriving in Kabul I'd changed rooms and now have Bear's old room. Lyle had kindly given me my hideous floral monstrosity of a bed and the super hard mattress that goes with it. I'd braved it for a couple of nights but by night three of sleeping on a king sized board I was a bit tired and a teeny bit grumpy. Lyle being the super star that he is took pity on me and like a fairy godmother granted me my dearest wish: a squidgy nest of a bed. Mind you we had to work through several experiments first, a doubled over large piece of Chinese nylon, a dodgy fleece blanket from Ikea (pretty sure that they don't have an Ikea in Kabul but you never know), a checkered bedspread that someone had found in the back of a cupboard, but sadly none of these layers made a difference and I was still the princess and the pea.
Next we tried a new foam mattress but the thing that Zabi brought from the shops for me was worse than the original one, hard as a table top and completely unforgiving. Placed atop the first, I needed a ladder simply to get on top of the combined mattress mountain and once there lay like a fish on a brick, largely uncomfortable and somewhat rigid.
Finally then, following our afternoon house call jaunt we took a detour via the Roya Kabul Mattress shop; a nirvana of Afghani bedroom bliss. A showroom of feathers and coverlets, comforters and quilts. Earlier in the day Mateen had brought me back something from this emporium which he said was filled with camel fur; a mattress pad of sorts. A curious item, I wasn't completely sure that it was actually stuffed with camel but it had a little picture of one on the label and it was a nice thing to imagine sleeping on - very desert chic I thought. Even better was the one filled with rabbit fur which Mateen told me was cheaper than the camel fur version. It was sweet watching Mateen ask for the Khar Ghosh version of the mattress pad, I think even he thought that that was what was really was inside it. "Delivery of rabbit fur tomorrow" they told us, "Come back then". Instead we ended up on an entirely pleasurable shopping spree buying feather pillows "Imported from the United Kingdom" but made in China, garishly patterned sheets and pillowcases, and a lovely duvet. Asking the guys which was the softest mattress necessitated me having to test the thing on the floor of the shop, and me, not wanting to spend a fortune on yet another brick of a bed, thought I'd better test it properly, so from hands and knees I stretched out and had a good lie down on the thing and a bit of a bounce. As always I was torn between cultural norms, in their eyes I was a strange women in trousers and a baseball cap cavorting all over a plastic covered mattress in the middle of an upstanding Kabuli bed merchants - in my eyes I was doing what any loyal John Lewis shopper would do and trying the damned thing on for size. The boys were more elegant and using just a knee sunk, as if in prayer, to give the mattress a prong. Asking questions apparently is not the done thing here and as often seems to be the case one is left slightly in the dark about the nature of the purchases but happy nonetheless.
We rushed home to await the delivery of my new bed....