Newsletter, May 2005
The Russians are coming.
And the Poles, the Croatians, The Albanians, the Ukranians.
Do I have any evidence of this?
This is how I know.
It was Alberto who got me thinking about the matter.
I was passing by the notorious Bar Centrale. Now this bar isn’t difficult for me to pass by because it’s the hallowed haunt of the local Anglo Saxons and thus to be avoided at all costs.
But Alberto called me over for a quick drink and a packet of crisps.
I say it’s too early for me to drink alcohol but he says try this …a lemon non alcoholic cordial with mint.
And as I sit down he asks are you going to the opening tonight?
Opening? What opening?
The new nightclub, he says
A new nightclub?? Here in Sarnano? You must be kidding me .
Yes, they’re closing the discotec and opening a night club.
You mean they’re closing the only discotec left in the western world and opening a trendy night club?
Yes he says, who wants to go to a disco with only two people inside? In the new nightclub there’ll be low lights and music and Polish, Croatian, Ukrainian and most of all Russian girls and you have to pay €20 to dance with them for eight minutes…or talk for twenty.
Do they speak Italian I ask.
Probably not he says.
Can you talk for ten and dance for four minutes?
How could I know he says?
No chance I can ever go, what with the wife and all.
You live just nearby…you could pop in at some early hour I suggest.
He buries his head briefly in his hands.
I forgot to ask Alberto if there were going to be fireworks.
And the next morning I find Bessie (our dog) has destroyed another door.
(her firework phobia you’ll recall)
Dave comes to cut the grass the day after.
Dave did you go to the opening?
Yes he says and I paid €20 for a twenty minute chat with a Russian girl.
Did she speak Italian or English I ask.
And do you speak Russian?
No, he says but I’m sure she really liked me.
I walk away and leave him to cut the grass.
Three or four times a week now, empty freight planes, huge ones, fly in from St Petersburg and Moscow.
They leave full of shoes and jewelry and the Russians pay in American dollars, cash.
This information comes from an indisputeable source…a guy I know who stacks deck chairs on the beach near Ancona, under the flight path of these beasts.
(I wonder why they arrive empty though? Maybe the Russians don’t produce anything we want…oh except gas and oil, but it would be silly to bring that n’est-ce pas?)
But, mind you, lorries full of nicnacs arrive every weekend from Russia and the Ukraine throughout Italy full of cheap stuff. Stuff, yes that’s the word, stuff. Military regalia(rubbish) and cameras (rubbish), telescopes, binoculars ( brilliant) and then mainly household goods.
And we bought a few weeks ago in Ascoli a Russian hunting knife for €7 which is an absolute beauty and according to my friend Keith who knows about such things extremely dangerous and illegal ( super!) and this I must confess I adore. To the extent that I pull it out of its equally beautiful casing at every opportunity just to play with it and to finger its very illegal snap close mechanism.
Lili bought a cigarette lighter which is about a foot long and in the shape of a rifle by way of celebration of her decision to quit smoking. It was empty of course so I had to buy the necessary fuel for it and to adjust its flame. OK, I admit, I should have tested it more extensively before leaving it around for her to (not) use but it could have been worse…the accident that is… the burned eyebrow.
Hey who needs two eyebrows I pleaded? Eyebrows are like kidneys, we just don’t need two of everything.
How would you like one knee she said.
I swiftly adjusted the flame thrower to a more manageable and less incendary state.
Oh, and my impeccable source of info tells me the Russians are buying property all along the coast too.
It’s a mystery to me where they get the money from. If it’s true that is.
It’s the end of May and we have decided to dedicate as much spare time as daily life allows us to our garden. For a start we are simply just grateful that it’s still there after the massive mud slides of the Spring. And then, too, we feel we should give it a bit of a thank you for surviving the harsh winter. Two months of deep lying snow killed off almost half of our shrubs and compressed the earth in the orto to the point where it turned instantly to concrete on the event of the sudden warm weather in mid April. The only thing I could do was to go at it with my cherished English spade.
It took me a week but I managed to dig over the soil (120 sq of it) into one foot square chunks. These too, after a couple more days of heat, were cubes of solid concrete and I had to admit defeat and asked Keith if I could borrow his rotivator. Never in my long years of gardening have I stooped so low, I mean.. a rotivator?
My old dad would turn in his grave.But it’s a beastie, Keith says, a real beastie.
But will it chew through the cement blocks? I ask.
It’ll make mincemeat of them he says, merrily mixing our metaphors
It’s an American machine, at least it says made in America…a Husqvarna and a Briggs and Stratton hybrid. It’s got a starter pullcord of about a metre in length and it says on the side of the machine ‘hold handle when starting’.
I’ve absolutely no idea what this means. Nor does Keith.
After thirty or so pulls it explodes into action in a plume of black smoke; I click it into forward gear and it takes me at some fantastic speed towards the orto; which it plunges into and ploughs straight through the sage patch before I can manage to punch it into neutral.
A beastie indeed!
But does it do the trick?
In the first run it merely leaps from concrete chunk to concrete chunk and spins over on it side, spluttering.
I think I’ve broken it Keith if you read this! Sorry!
Graciella appears from nowhere, as do Renzo and Claudio and Lili runs out of the house too.
She says you are not to touch that machine again and the audience nods in agreement. And she says, if you only have one leg I won’t marry you. The image of being single with one leg quickly has the desired effect and Renzo says we’re coming back with the tractor. And sure enough, they do and the orto is ploughed by their earth masher attachment to a fine tilth.
So the veggies are in and new shrubs too. New animals are appearing, a black squirrel has taken to the little wood on the side of the garden and our nightingale is back for the season. The garden is full of tail-less lizards once again (grazie a Eva the cat) and the butterflies are back from wherever they go to (Egypt I imagine) and Harry our owl is back too… oh and we’ve seen our first snakes.
To Lilia, every snake is a deadly viper and must be killed before it kills us. Roman law, I imagine.
I say, how can it be a viper if it’s thin and black with a yellow head. I say go ahead and get the book on indigenous creatures. She says OK but kill it first.
Spiders suffer the same fate. They are killed remorselessly. Well, what do you expect she says, They’re spiders for God’s sake.
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