This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

When the film ended a Greek man explained in his native tongue the details of the government’s health scheme. It took him fully ten minutes, with diagrams, and then an Italian came on and repeated the performance in his language. Elizabeth watched and listened. She recognised a word here and there. It was soothing, this patient setting out of facts and services. She picked up Poppy’s legs and arranged them across her lap. The tendons behind the girl’s knees tightened like wires. ‘You smell nice,’ murmured Poppy. ‘This lovely smell.’ A choir of old people in blue robes sang to close down the station. It was a Jewish choir. ‘In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair!’

First of all does "an Italian came on and repeated the performance in his language" mean: an Italian person came and explained again what a Greek man had explained in Greek language"?

I have two understanding about the meaning of "this patient setting out of facts and services."

  1. this program that was about protecting against being patient was based on facts and was about government services?

  2. this slow and carefully made program that was about health facts and government services?

1 Answer 1


Your understanding of the "repeated the performance in his language" is correct. The word "performance" is being used in sense 4 of the Dictionary.com definition:

a particular action, deed, or proceeding

So yes, the Italian repeats the Greek's actions, probably using the same diagrams, to describe the "government’s health scheme". The only change being the language used. The word "performance" comes with the connotation that this act is special, and has some sort of spectacular quality. Perhaps it is elaborate or interesting to watch.

Your second interpretation of "this patient setting out of facts and services" is closest to correct. I will break up the sentence for clarity.

this [patient] [setting out] of [facts and services]

First, what is "facts and services" referring to? It's the information in the presentation itself. The presentation consists of facts about the health scheme and the services it provides.

this [patient] [setting out] of [information about the government health scheme]

Now for "setting out". This is an idiom, used in the second sense of the Merriam-Webster definition for "set out":

to state, describe, or recite at length

This is also a description of the presentation. For ten minutes, a decently long length of time, the presenters talks about the government health scheme. They "state" facts and "describe" it in detail.

this [patient] [stating] of [information about the government health scheme]

Finally, "patient" is used as an adjective, modifying all that comes after it. Quoting from sense 6 of the Dictionary.com definition:

quietly and steadily persevering or diligent, especially in detail or exactness

The presenters are "patient" in explaining the government health scheme. They steadily work through all the necessary information, in "detail", without appearing upset or annoyed at having to explain what they probably find obvious. They don't try to rush speaking, but instead carefully, at a comfortable pace, explain each detail. Such a kind explanation would certainly be "soothing", as the narrator describes.

The final re-wording then is:

this [unannoyed, carefully detailed] [stating] of [information about the government health scheme]

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