"I told him they were horrible". Photo: Monica Arellano-Ongpin/Flickr
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I enjoyed my time as a kept woman in Italy – less so the beige cashmere, the figs and the secrets

Suzanne Moore’s Telling Tales. 

I have never relied on a man for anything. Except that time when I was a kept woman. Totally kept.

I had arrived in the south of Italy, having hitched around Europe in a ratty cheesecloth dress. I was trying to find out about ferries to Greece when a man picked up my tatty bag and threw it into the back of his Porsche.

“Change this,” he said, sniffing my smelly dress. “We eat.” I changed into basically the same dress with fewer holes. He rolled his eyes and took me to the best restaurant. Everyone knew him and no bills were paid and this was it. A relationship.

Every morning, two guys would come to the door with coffee and pastries for me. In the afternoons we would go to the harbour and pick seafood to be taken to the restaurant for our evening meal. Sometimes we would drive to beautiful houses in the countryside.

“Whose house is this?” I would say.

“Mine,” was always the answer.

Fresh figs grown on his land would be brought for me but I’d never had them before and told him they were horrible.

He would take me to shops and try to buy me beautiful beige cashmere that Italian women wear but I didn’t want any of it. He was mostly exasperated by me, not least during sex, when the language barrier became an issue.

“Ask me my name,” he commanded.

So at the appropriate moment I tried, “What is your name?” or sometimes, “Who are you?”

I think he had muddled ask and tell. Nothing made him as angry as when I asked him where he worked.

“You English. So stupid. With your jobs.”

Once he told me he worked in a pharmacy but I didn’t know any pharmacists who had a hovercraft, as he did.

For a while, though, I liked being looked after but I still wanted to be free again and go to Greece.

“I will only be gone for a while,” I said.

“You go and you never come back. You live here now with me.”

He drove me to the boat and refused to kiss me.

“No woman leaves me,” he said.

Soon, of course, my luck and money ran out and I was back in Italy without a penny to my name.

But I knew which restaurant he would be outside, drinking with his minions. By now I knew the nature of his game. Everyone was in his pay.

So there I was again, with a small holdall and a largely desperate smile.

“Bruno, it’s me.”

He did not even look up. Nothing.

I was destroyed but could not show it. I walked away. Out of nowhere another car appeared. And another man put my bag in his car. As I got in, I only hoped he was under instructions from his boss. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 04 December 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Deep trouble

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.