Thursday, August 25, 2005


Sambuco newsletter August 2005

I’m invisible, honest I am-

No, not really!
But nearly though.

This is the story of my near invisibility.
Ferragosto has reared its trafficy, whimsical, noisy and irritating head and I’ve become almost invisible.
And this is the proof. Read on..
Let’s face it. You could never ever honestly say that going into the post office or the bank in town is an experience which makes you feel like a valued human. No no, you always feel slightly guilty and you know you shouldn’t really bother the post office cashiers with anything as trivial as asking for a stamp for instance (frown) or if a special parcel has arrived maybe? (Look of outright disgust)…(I should add here that the signs above the cashiers booths in the post office are all deliberately confused, the indications for pensions, paying accounts, stamps and posting of parcels don’t really mean that at all. Instead you buy stamps at the pensions counter, pay bills at the parcel posting booth etc etc. Well of course, didn’t you know that?)
But at this time of year
It’s even worse.
Whooa..keep away, keep away
But today I can’t, just can’t . I have to pay a grossly unfair speeding fine; deadline this very day. So I’m stuck. And this is where the invisibility comes in.
I’ve already become partly invisible at the Bank a half hour before.
Naturally, none of the cashiers there like being cashiers, particularly at Ferragosto time.
They prefer to edge away from the living and instead peer with deep concentration and slight concern at computer screens.
So with me being part invisible and all, I suppose it was a bit much to expect anyone to notice my presence at the counter, which was open, but cashierless.
After five minutes I dare to say ‘hello’
And nobody looks up.
I say is anyone here to serve me? And I get a wave and a grunt.
I say sorry I didn’t catch that and I get back a tangible wave of hostility and I can feel on the point of exploding when the Bank Director (now he’s a very nice chap BTW) bursts through the labyrinth of desks and says ‘Michael, hi, I hear you got married, I sympathise I really do!’
And then they all look up and I’m obviously gradually becoming visible again and then lo and behold I have two cashiers desperate to serve me-
But the Post Office… the Post Office, the Post Office. Oh dear!
Not only am I becoming invisible here too but so are all the other customers (three lines of). There are pensioners lining up at the parcels counter. People with bills to pay at the stamp counter and I have to pay my speeding fine-
So I opt for the queue of pensioners. Big mistake.
An old lady two people ahead of me slaps her book on the table and I think OK five minutes but she gets paid and then for goodness sake gets out another book from her bag and gets paid this and then another book, oh my God, she’s collecting for the whole of her village! So I dare, I dare to ask if I’m in the right queue through the triple thickness glass to a couple of cashiers who are playing the ‘I’m on the computer you cant ask me’ game and I get cross looks and no response.
The guy in front of me explodes on my behalf. Jesus he shouts , if this were Rome, you’d all be dead in there by now!
Bingo, this hits the spot and suddenly all the computer zombies spin around and man (woman in this case) the cashier counters. He obviously had very good connections. Hmm, for some reason this type of threat carries some weight in the Bella Republica.

My theory is that these public service workers are angry that they can’t get away for Ferragosto too like the rest of the insane masses, and don’t really have invisible-making powers at all.
Or maybe there’s a connection between anger and invisibility. And Ferragosto. But I’m a bit muddled on this subject.

Erik and Harry

The baby owl.
This one’ll slay you!
Got back late the other night after seeing Aida at Ripastransone. Now I’m not an opera person but I like a good show. Our good friends Al and Al invited us to come along and see it with them and we thought ooh a trip to Verona, what fun.
Well Ripastransone ain’t exactly Verona and when to comes to putting on Aida it’s more like the Sound of Music except I wish it was and it wasn’t. More like the sound of an abattoir at dawn… on a Monday morning. A small to crippling stage with a cast of thousands. Everybody who ever wanted to be an opera singer and their brother was there, elbowing for a space.
So. We slid out early to have a look at the town. As good an excuse as any we thought. A pretty place, but deserted except for a few local sleuths. Maybe the locals were hiding from Aida; this being the sixth year the town had run it. Why six years of such torture? I’ve no idea.

Took us ages to get back home though those tortuous roads around Offida.I parked the car and a figure (it was Erik and it was well past midnight) sidled up to me as I attempted to disembark.
Now Erik, I should explain, does actually have red hair, which means he probably had parents who were either smart Alecs or School teachers. Erik is married to Lees who is Australian, Erik being American with obvious Viking ancestry.

And this how it goes.
It’s dark, it’s nearly one am and Erik asks is there a society for the protection of birds here.
At 1 a.m.?
What here in Amandola?.
No here as in anywhere in Italy.
It’s Harry isn’t it I ask?
Harry? Who the hell is Harry?
Our pet owl.
Oh Jesus he says I‘ve killed your pet owl? Oh God Oh God But I couldn’t tell if he was dead or not. I just picked him up and he stared at me.
Look I say don’t worry he’s always doing it.
Doing what?
Playing chicken
An owl playing chicken?
Look I say, trying to calm him down, he was just standing there in the middle of the road right? And he didn’t try to fly away, right? And you reckoned you ran over him, right? And the stopped the car, ran back and found him lying on his side and you picked him up and he didn’t struggle and just gazed wistfully at you, right?

Yes to all that he says.
That’s Harry I say,
He’s always doing it.
Erik wanders back to the house with a look on his face somewhere between shock and wonder.
And I hear him mumbling….’Harry? A pet owl? Playing chicken? An owl?
But then he spins round and shouts I’m going back to check and he jumps in his car and zooms off.
Come and get me if you need me, I call, I lie.
But I know he won’t.
I know Harry.
So I go to bed.

Up and down and back again and then down and back once more
That’s where we’ve been these past ten days…up and down and back again.
Down to Puglia, and back for a week in Le Marche, then up to the Venito (twice) once for our wedding and then for a family bash, then back to LM then Puglia for another wedding and then on the weekend across to Rome and then down to Calabria for a five day break and back again. Two weddings and a truck full of water melons (two thousand water melons spewed across the autostrada south of Pescara and we’re stuck for two hours in forty degrees of heat. Nice smell though, although I haven’t eaten water melon since. (just the odd banana)….Because with all the crashed cars around that overturned container lorry it looked like blood. It really did. Blood.

So it’s Ferragosto; it’s that time of year, summer, heat, traffic, chaos, everyone dashing about to get the most out of every moment which could, I decide, have something to do with the long harsh winter before.
No, heck, it’s because it’s Italy, it’s because they’re Italians, punt e basta.

On a domestic note
I order winter wood from Bepe, the woodman…€500 worth please.
Yes fine OK, agreed… then comes the day of delivery and as he is pouring a huge load over our Peruvian wall and Lili’s prize rosebush, I ask him are you sure this is 500 euros worth?, looks like a lot more lot to me.
Don’t know about that he says but there are 60 quintale (what are THEY?) and it’s 12 euros a quintale.
But that’s €720 I say, no it’s actually €780 he says.
Oh come on I say, we agreed on €500.
You must look on it as an investment he says.. For next winter.
I think you weren’t listening to me last week I say, and I think the extra €280’s worth is for Bernie.
What’s that in quintale he asks?
Our neighbour, Fiore, comes out of his house, looks and the mountain of wood, buries his face in his hands and walks back indoors.
Lili pops out and shrieks at the pile where once grew her prize rose and I just sit down on the wall with a deep sigh as I see Bernie’s load trundling down the road towards us.
I fear for his fledgling olive tree.