the little octopus

For a ninety-year-old suffering from AF and shortness of breath, Sofia is remarkably chatty.
‘I walk up,’ she says.
‘But this is the fifth floor!
‘Of course! What you wan’I should do? Fly?’
She’s been referred to us by the discharge team at the hospital, who wanted to reassure themselves she’s safe at home. I’ve dropped by to make sure her obs are okay; Christine the OT is also here to find out what equipment she might need.
‘I lie onna the bed like this…’ says Sofia, when Chris asks her about her sleeping arrangements. Sofia plonks herself down on the bed, then pitches dramatically to the left and curls her legs up. ‘Some times I find itta bit of a difficulty to get myself back up again…’
She flaps around, but before we can help she’s managed to sit up again, and starts bouncing. ‘It’s a bit a-soft, you see? But I quite like-a the spring. It is like sleeping on the clouds. And I don’ make-a the sheets until the night time because I like everything to be fresh and cold. You know what ah’m saying to you?’
The assessment is almost superfluous. Sofia has everything she needs, her flat bright and tidy. A little cool perhaps, but she says she prefers it that way. A few religious icons, framed pictures, ceramic animals, a portrait of the Pope – everything just so. A heavily-carved mahogany cabinet turns out to be full of different dried beans and pulses, and a pack of fresh coffee.
‘I like to have a small, strong cup for breakfast, with a little roll to dip in and out. I don’t eat much midday, but in the evening, of course I like to cook myself something nice and saucy.’
Even though she’s lived in the UK for seventy years, she still has a strong Italian accent. She met her late husband when he was a soldier in Rome; they came over together just after the war.
‘I remember standing on the top deck of that liner when we came in to Sout’ampton. I had a tight-a grip of that rail, and I was-a holding on, and I was-a holding on, like un piccolo polpo, you understand me? Because I was just a little girl, and I didn’t know what-a my life was gonna be like no more. I didn’t know what my life was gonna be like with this strange and ‘andsome man standin’ next to me. But – I knew. Deep down. I knew he was good.’
She closes her eyes and shakes a bony finger gravely in the air.
‘Not-a like the firs’ one!’

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