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Summoned to be tested

Darkness had descended on another glorious spring evening. Then a disturbing surprise. A vehicle was slowly grinding its way down the back lane with a loudspeaker, repeating information that at first was incomprehensible. Garbled, fast instructions, momentarily intimidating. Had we been invaded? Then I grasped the tenor if not the detail of what was intended. Every villager was being summoned. But to what?

I rushed outside and like a shadow passing through the far trees was the garbage truck. The reeled message was clearer. Every villager had to present themselves at one of two places for a test on Friday.

The choice taxed me, and I woke uneasily pondering this. Go to the clinic and line up, or line up in your car on the edge of the village at a mobile testing-station. I chose the latter. Why? Because Giove has had over 40 cases, and one death. As a result, it is an Umbrian red zone. Soldiers at one time and now carabinieri man checkpoints in and out of the village.

Giove in lockdown

Come afternoon and the April day had become early summer. I arrived early for the 3.00 – 6.00 pm slot. Ahead of me were forty cars. Exposed in the sun, we were all gently boiling, but as far as I could tell, there was a serene acquiescence that this was our duty and complaining was inappropriate.

An hour later a protezione civile volunteer guided me to my parking point. Another then invited me to join a line behind an individual waiting to enter the Lions-funded mobile laboratory. My turn came and went in two minutes. A nurse dressed in powder blue made me sit, pricked my index finger and in 30 seconds was testing the blood in a little rectangular dish. All well, she bade me to give my details to another nurse: name, address, telephone and that was it. Out in the sunshine another protezione civile officer (in full uniform) kindly told me I could leave and smiled graciously. All had been completed.

Of course, I had a sense of relief but wondered, then, who would know I had met the summons, and come to think of it, what did they find in my blood? Nothing, I assumed? Will they phone me? Who exactly might they be? Communication, Italy’s Achilles Heel.

Then a second thought came to mind. How at ease everyone was about performing their civic duty. How courteous and kindly those involved were. What did they remind me of? Volunteer docents in National Trust houses in the UK: happy to serve a good cause.

Makes you think about the aftermath of this pandemic. Italy needs to draw upon the strengths of its civic society and exploit these strengths to learn to communicate for 21st-century circumstances. There is an inherent goodness in these discomforting times that needs to be unleashed to avoid the endemic political wrangling that does not do justice to a people who really take palpable pleasure in performing civic service.

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