Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Travel + Life Abroad

Sweet & Shrewd

Day 1


My bed is yet to be wheeled into the room I am sharing with my roomies, who have approximately 300 years between them. One, a tiny sprig of a thing, wears a discerning, shrewd face and lemon pyajamas, the other an expressionless, sweet face and nightdress. My bed appears, covered in plastic, and I take my place in the middle.

We converse, falteringly, in German, both assuring each other our second languages are terrible. After a while, we run out of things to say – my repertoire isn’t extensive – and I lie back, ready for my drip. Shrewd Face receives a parade of phone calls all participated in at an alarming volume. It transpires she is partially deaf.

Dinner arrives. Two slices of bread and three types of cheese on a plate. I eat as Sweet Face peels of her nightdress and prepares for bed.


Marvellous friends burst in bearing concern and chocolate. We discuss the failings of my kidney in detail. I am instructed, by my protective, law-student German brother to ask for a translator at any point. I tell him I will and not to wind up our parents by worrying them needlessly.


Shrewd Face has produced an audio book from out of nowhere that appears to be a relic of the 70s. It is excessively loud and keeps barking at her to ‘please wait.‘ It transpires Shrewd Face is also partially blind.

Nurses keep popping in and introducing themselves, calling me Frau Hambrett. I keep shaking their hands and saying, ‘Olivia’. I feel about 85 years old when someone calls me Frau Hambrett.

I’ve just been asked to choose my meals for the next three days. I laugh, knowingly, a laugh she is supposed to join me in, as we both know I won’t be here for three days, but choose anyway. I will be consuming a lot of cheese.


Hate IV drips.


Bed time. Sweet Face has been snoring like a drain pipe for the past two hours. Shrewd has spoken to her entire extended family at least twice. She’s still merrily talking to someone. It has been an impressively long monologue, one that is now pushing the boundaries of bed time.

Day 2


Guten Morgen at 7am on a Saturday morning is obscene. Even if bedtime was 10 hours prior.


Roomies are discussing the effects of hot weather on asparagus crops, whilst Shrewd has her hair curled by a nurse and an enormous curling wand.

This weekend it will reach 28 degrees. I narrow my eyes and gaze out the window.


A nurse has let me use her computer to email my Mum. I wish she was here – it feels odd not to have her along on one of my hospital escapades, she has always been such a bedside fixture (and stalwart provider of huge, glucose jelly beans, the remedy to every ailment).

IV continues its rhythmic drip. Must not watch it. Watching it leads to vivid imagining of veins which leads to uncontrollable urge to vomit and strange psychosomatic symptoms of throbbing arm.


Lunch. Could feasibly be in a nursing home, or kindergarten.


Gripped by outrageous boredom. Have made the fatal error of having only intellectual reading matter when am craving crime trash. Colette and Saki were the only two books on my bedside table when my flatmate made her whirlwind dash around my room for my things. Appreciate both authors, endlessly, but mind has been numbed by IV. Beg German brother to tell German parents to bring any English books they may have.

Shrewd has just turned on her audio book.


Doctor has just come by on her rounds. After mutual reassurance, auf Deutsch, that our individual second languages are worse than each other’s, we begin. There is something abnormal about my right kidney. She utters the word no one wants to hear in a hospital, ‘mysterious’ and tells me I’m here until Monday, when I have to see another specialist.

Monday. It’s Saturday. I have visions of running out of the hospital, wheeling my IV drip alongside me, giant QANTAS pyjama pants blowing in the breeze.


IV drip will not fit in the bathroom, alongside a wheelchair that seems to have magically appeared. Gross inconvenience. Lack of transportability also dashes dream of running out of hospital, drip attached. Resign myself to a weekend of bread, cheese and early bed times.


Hurrah! German parents have dropped by with a swag of English books. Bill Bryson’s Down Under is amongst them. It could come to be I read about my country through an American’s eyes in a German hospital. Am a patient of the world.


Roomies proving no fun. They are asleep 97% of the time. I am also beginning to suspect Shrewd is cooler than Sweet.

Reading Bill Bryson’s childhood memoirs and laughing out loud.


Sweet’s husband has just wheeled in, with the aid of a walker, which is also home to his emphysema machine. Feel a wave of depression.

Shrewd’s husband has just marched in sporting a red shirt and red face. He hands her chocolate and a new pair of pyjamas and instigates a largely one-sided, barking conversation. Shrewd, bespectacled and tiny in bed dishes it back when she sees fit. It is the barking conversation of a long marriage and emotionally retarded man. Fascinating. Nose ostensibly in book, I watch out of the corner of my eye.


My dinner is served by a nurse with excellent hair and a uniform he has individualised by fashioning his white skinny jeans into ¾ rolled up pants. His sister is living in Queensland with her boyfriend, a Kiwi my nurse does not approve of.


My bedside phone just rang. Shrewd assumed it was hers, so did I, until we both realised it didn’t stop ringing when she picked it up.

It was a man from downstairs, wanting to know what church I am with. I tell him crisply, ‘keine kirche’.


Sweet Face hasn’t moved in some time. She’s perched on the edge of her bed, head bowed. I keep glancing over from my book, wondering what she’s doing.


Just realised there is a church service being televised on our TV and a candle on Sweet’s dinner tray.


¾ Pants has just popped back in and knelt by my bed, voice low. He wants to know what I know about Australian visas. Given his desire to have his sister not marry the Kiwi and move back to Germany, I’m not sure why I am imparting my knowledge on how to stay longer in Australia.


Bed time.


  1. Dusk

    13 May, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    You engage me. Truly, madly, deeply.

    …and ohhh 🙁 … I didn’t realise it was quite this bad honey!! As in 3 day sweet & shrewd stay.

    1. admin

      15 May, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Ahhhhh thank you my love. You engage me similarly xxx

  2. lindsay

    15 May, 2011 at 10:47 am

    sweet thing probably has not done her tax either!

  3. lindsay

    15 May, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Quite enjoy the new trendy option of hassling clients on line!

  4. Thank You « A Big Life

    24 July, 2012 at 11:45 am

    […] my blocked IV drip so there was a crisp pop as the liquid flowed into my veins again. Remember my room mates? They had at least 60 years on me. Shrewd would perch on her bed in her tiny lemon nightdress and […]

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