Read Jo's diary as she visits Hospital schools throughout Europe

Joanna visits hospital schools in Europe


Monday, September 29, 2003
Hi there!
In a few hours I shall be enjoying the palatial splendour of a palazzo in Venice. This has nothing to do with my school links intentions but You may like to hear how I manage with my candles and such like just in case the French or Swiss have taken all Italy's electricity for a second time. I'm just glad that I'm a fan of Ray Mears, I'll be able to fry myself a few aubergine fritters on my joss stick or fish a few carp from the canal outside my window using only a piece of thread from my sewing kit and a needle craftily fashioned into a hook. This I will no doubt share after a kindly fashion with the night porter or other soul who may still be found to venture abroad in the darkness. More of this later.
Farewell dear colleagues!

Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Well I'm breaking all the rules, taking time to sit in front of a screen when I could be gazing at another Tintoretto... I'm pleased to report that my candles are redundant, the sun is out and the whole world appears to have repaired to Venice along with me. In the Ducal prison this morning I spent some time trying to decipher the preserved scribblings of past inmates. One picture represented what the poor unfortunate hoped to do to whoever had wronged him. A large axe was lovingly drawn above his head!
I am off now to dine (again) as it is my full intention to sample as full a range of local cuisine as possible. For those of you who may be forming a shallow opinion of my school-related efforts so far, I will be starting this line of enquiry on Wednesday and must repair at dawn tomorrow to the station where porters will no doubt be on hand to assist me with my baggage etc. I must admit that I have not yet begun filming the sequel to the Thames Embankment feature which some of you may remember. I am so far resolutely on course to become the only tourist who is not seeing the city through a lens. I am also wondering how the Turner experts could for so long have mistaken Portsmouth for Venice? To my mind they are not hugely similar... but then there is no mist at the moment. My time is up I must say goodbye. Arrivederci!

In order to render this exercise slightly more challenging I intend to introduce my thoughts in the style of various authors. May I be forgiven for this in so far as I am bound to fall short of their greatness...

Last night, having returned to my rooms a little after nightfall I was inspired to return once more into the streets in search of further inspiration for my story. This is as near an account of the events as they happened and which I hereby bequeath to you dear readers.
Turning from the door I lingered awhile by the canal watching the river craft pass slowly beneath the hotel's ancient portals. Above the sound of water lapping on the mossy steps I heard a voice, speak out loud and clear;
'try it on slide show'
I turned to greet the speaker of these strange words. Mr Bumble, for I shall call him thus on account of his girth and his striped attire, was not alone and it was not to me that he evidently was speaking. There half hidden in the shadows sat three others, hunched, occupied about some mysterious business and perfectly silent. The San Moise Hotel with its flickering chandeliers, time worn tapestries, mirrored walls and splendid vaulted chambers held no thrall for these travellers from the West.
Replete with fine Venetan fare they sat not far from the water's edge in pairs illuminated only by the glow of their tilted screens. Having never witnessed such an inconguous scene before I remained silent a short while. The hotel concierge hovered in the shadow of one machine watching thoughtfully.
'What program are you using?' he asked benignly.
'Foolcam' replied the woman as she strove to rotate the gondolier into the middle of the piazza. A great clamour rang out as the ship was lowered and the visitors sent the porter to bring wine so as to cement the moment more firmly and pleasantly in our minds.
'Have you seen the rat?' I then enquired in a cheery tone.
The group fell silent again and Mrs T. the hitherto most able of the party slipped noislessly to the ground. Revived eventually by the porter's ministration and the arrival of the wine that kindly soul chose to forgive me. We raised a toast to that aforementioned creature of the waterways and indeed it was with no small pleasure I was later able to capture him on film!

Wednesday, October 01, 2003
There is a spelling mistake in my last posting. A prize upon my return to any pupil who can identify the mistake. Our Slovenian colleagues are coming for me at dawn so my remaining epistle will have to wait and so will you.

....STOP PRESS... AM LESS TV reports that there is only one remaining English reporter still filing reports from the Turist Hotel. Several skirmishes are believed to have occurred. Reports are so far unconfirmed but one battle appears to have been with a mosquito. The reporter has been ravaged by the minuscule creature. Scarred but not yet down she is said to have carried out her duties as usual.
Other reports just coming in are somewhat hazy. An author long since thought of as dead is asserting his rights under European law to finish what he started. Hours of negotiation have proved fruitless as he continuing to insist that he must be allowed to report further about the journey from Venice to Ljubljana. He has agreed that this will be his last chance. Our reporter has decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, October 02, 2003
At last I am to be allowed to speak. I apologise for being detained according to laws that seek ever to impede us. Barely had the day ended when I last committed pen to paper than I felt compelled to write again since circumstances had taken the strangest turn:
You will remember no doubt the events by the canal? I awoke the following day refreshed and dined in haste taking the boat to the station. My carriage was at first empty save for a poor drunkard whose face bore the legends of his recent frays most piteously upon his brow.
I took to my pen but was as soon disturbed by the arrival of two German travellers encumbered as they were with gargantuan baggage. It took some time for them to be safely installed. Feigning a preference for my pen I was able to observe them closely. The gentleman was soon about his business hauling a silver box onto the seat nearby.This done he moved with lightening speed to delve inside and withdraw his precious toy. Imagine my surprise when I recognised something of the scene of which I so lately spoke. TOSHIBA, the name jumped out at me and I felt myself instantly among friends. 'I've got one of those!', the words remained unuttered though my mind was tortured with the remembrance of things past. Of my dear colleague Mr Dixon, of his efforts to encourage me, to suggest what I now know to be true, that one day Mr. T. for it is he to whom I must now refer, would be my closest ally.
With what remarkable powers of foresight are some possessed who lead others with such seeming ease towards tomorrows world!? I speak with honesty here about the great role played out between Mr. D and Mrs Steel. What ship could founder on the treacherous rocks of scientific advancement with these two at the helm?
Alas dear reader I must leave you now to attend to a matter of some urgency....

Saturday, October 04, 2003
I was just waiting in the lobby catching up on my latest scheme when she came in through the revolving doors. It had to be her. I was wearing my school tea-towel as a scarf and she spotted me straight off.
Hi! I'm Meta.
I concluded from her tone that she meant business. We smiled, exchanged pleasantries and set off at a brisk pace. It was then that I realized I'd left behind my ball of string - and crust of bread for that matter.
Where are we going?
to the Klinik
I remained silent, after all it was all in a day's work. Better not introduce my own plans just yet.
The sky lightened as we covered ground - I was finding it hard to keep up what with the sack of brochures, video equipment, camera and gifts for my hosts. It was eight thirty when we reached the first buildings. I must have been in a daze, probably as a result of that conference I concluded in the bar last night. I can't now remember all that much about what happened. Nobody moved while I had these thoughts. Next thing I knew I was in a room filled with children's drawings, toys, tables, chairs - evidence that people were expected.
There was the sound of feet outside in the hall and then the children arrived. Quick as a flash Meta and her colleague Lilja set to work. Pencils flew across paper, scissors trimmed, phones rang and Lego construction began in earnest, Two budding engineers settled in the soft corner and built an entire city - without speaking! We could learn something from these folks… Something spontaneous and creative is going on here. Those kids had been hard at work for ages.
Meta said it was ok to start the tape so I got up, took the lens cap off and pressed the button. It was all going fine until Meta said;
We've gotta go.
OK where to?
The other Klinik.
By now I was kind of getting used to it so I slung my sack and headed out after her. The sunshine hit me like a laser beam as we walked down the steps through the grey swirls of cigarette smoke billowing from the White Coats who were taking a break from the usual routine. That was a long sentence I thought to myself. Better cut them down from now on.
Hi! My name is Tanja.
A woman in jeans smiled and gripped my hand. I took it back. It was still functioning. Computers in neat lines beneath the window sill. Maps on the walls. More evidence of student output. The picture was becoming clearer. I managed to drop in a line about my plan - it went down well. I inflicted some questions on a group of teenagers and the deal was all but up. I'd write it up the next day at the Klinik, get some more facts and be on my way
That was how it was. I slugged back some hot tea, put away some cake and checked out. My ticket for Belgrade left me two hours to drop a line to London. As I checked out they said there was a message for me from the nineteenth century guy. I tossed it in the bin - I wasn't gonna let all that flowery stuff get in my way now.

Several hours later…

A good looking guy in a pale blue uniform wants my passport. I'm inclined to give it to him. He's got two guns, one for each hand. Another two guys want my passport, they're in dark blue. They've got one gun each and I'm still inclined to give it to the first guy.
You'll have to take turns - I say in English I am smiling. They are not. MY new friend Sanja smiles at me. She's a microbiologist and she's got contacts. She says I will love Belgrade, the men are handsome..I tell her 'stop!' I think she's getting the wrong idea. This is business after all. Anyway it doesn't matter she was going to say. They've all left. The wages are too low.
The heat in the carriage is suffocating. The man with the wife five hundred miles away is getting nearer to her. He's on his fourth beer and there's still six hours to go. I've elected myself to save us from suffocation. Like the scene in 'From Russia with Love" on the train I go in search of the Konductor. I open doors. I shut them. I pass through the restaurant car and see no food only alcohol and cigarettes. The temperature is fifty degrees. No one's complaining. I reach first class, press the red button and I'm through. It was easy. The guys are all here. The police guard in Pale blue, some other uniforms and the man I'm after. The Konductor. I go past him into the very end of the train. No one.
Konductor ? The sound of my voice surprises me.
The man in the white shirt stands up.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Wot a pty u hd 2 w8 so long to no wot hapnd n the train. The kndctr svd us frm sufocatn, we shrd r fd n we wnt 2 the bar. I hv been spkn Srbingliski. No 1 cn undrstnd me n I cn nt undrstnd myslf….

Belgrade - Wednesday

I followed the lead from the girl in the train. Somewhere in town the trail went cold. I was on my own now, no leads and no friends if you don't count Bob and the girl. Bob was busy shifting stuff around Eastern Europe. I disapprove and he knows it but then Bob and I go back a long way so it's ok. I dialled a number.
Dober dan.
Dober dan…. Molim - do you speak English?
Snap Crackle Pop. The phone is passed to somebody and Tanja's lively voice asks if she can help?
I need names, I say. Any names, people in the hospital?
She came up with some names. I didn't recognise any of them but then hey! Why should I? 2 million people in this city and I only know two of them. I was closing in on something. Tanja arranged to meet me in reception. Next day I rode the trolley into town and found her and the hospital at just about the same time.
Two young doctors showed me the wards. All around us walls were going up and coming down. I said it was the same at home. Children were everywhere. This place was for them.
At 11 we must meet the professor.
OK that's good.
The office was spectacular, it reminded me of somewhere - maybe it was in a dream? The professor didn't waste any time. She heard me out, looked over the brochures and said 'yes we need something like this'. We shook hands and it was over. I was back out into the hall and into the street. I looked at my watch. It wasn't there, It was then that I remembered that I never wear a watch but I figured there was just time to check out the school they had mentioned. I unfolded the small map one of the junior doctors had drawn. It showed a kidney with some dotted lines and arrows. I turned it over and the picture became clearer. I'd be ok if I had to perform surgery but the school was still a mystery. Dragan Herzog! The words kept running through my mind.
Several hours later after as many false starts I hit jackpot. Standing in the doorway my Srbingliski was in full swing when Liljana arrived to put me put of my misery.
Can I help you?
Turning from the roomful of blank faces I collapsed into a chair and told her my story.
Later that day I chewed the fat with Sanja. She made up some pills for Bob's colon. I told her not to bother, it would be ok on its own but she insisted. She reminded me of a girl I knew once who was good at ping pong. That girl had healing powers too. Last thing I heard she was in Hawaii - it was hard to keep up!
Before I left Sanja's mother got down on the floor in between the table and the kitchen and did some yoga. She's 65 and she rolled herself backwards into a ball. What the hell I said to myself. The apple cake, coconut pastry, cabbage soup, aubergine pickle and beetroot salad were only five minutes down the tube but I reckoned I could handle it. I got down on the floor and did a few poses myself and then I had to go.