Monday, 28 November 2011

Some old men I know!

One sunny afternoon last week, Eve and I went down to our garden ready for work. It was the perfect day for planting broad beans. Luckily we hadn’t done it earlier as they would have been washed away by the rains. As it was, the ground was still nice and soft (easy for digging, not too muddy for the wellies…) and we arrived ready for action.

As you know I live in the countryside, on a hill and the actual road (if you can call it a road is really just a little windy path you need to walk along to get where you’re going and if you keep going it finishes in the wood. Some people drive their vespas along it and a few old men have three wheeled vanlikethings which sometimes bump up and down loaded with wood or manure. Our garden is not, as you might think, outside our house but a bit down the road… nearer the wood end. And that’s the end where all the old men and their vanlikethings are.

On to the old men.
First there’s Gino. Gino is the undisputed King of the wood-end of my road. His veggie garden is the biggest, the best and the most envied of the whole area. He was born in the house he lives in now and his wife was born in the house next door… You might call it destiny that they met and fell in love!

When Eve and I got to our garden gate Gino was feeding his chickens. He’s so great, he knows everything and understood immediately what we were up to. ‘Don’t worry I’ve got some beans for you.’ And he thrust an old basket full into my hand. Real Jack and the Beanstalk stuff.  
‘Grazie Gino’
As we were chatting in the middle of the windy path that separates his chickens from my garden an old scooter chuffed up the bumpy road. Lino! Lino was born in the road too but now he comes back only to visit his grandchildren and do the gardening occasionally.
‘Ciao Lino!’
Not long after Lino had passed by… Me, Gino and Eve still chatting in the middle of the road… one of the vanlikethings chuffed by. Dino!!! Dino was the first old man in Fontanegli I ever met. Marco and I very sensibly  moved to our house 3 days before Eve was born! I had to have a caesarian and when they threw me out of hospital 2 days later it was Dino who kindly brought me home along our bumpy road. 200 metres up-hill is not really difficult but with a recently operated bump it was impossible. Dino’s vanlikething kindly waited for me at the end of our path and brought me to the door of my house whilst Marco walked behind carrying the new baby Eve.
Ciao Dino!!
By which time I thought I’d better get digging, thanked Gino for the beans and climbed up the rocky steps to the garden. On the terraces above our garden is a house and lands owned by the two old people who nobody really gets on with. The old lady is a bit barmy and the old man jealous of everyone else’s vegetables! We used to say ‘Buongiorno,’ and things like that until one day I discovered my prize peach tree had been cut down!!! I discovered it was the old man… apparently he thought it was getting too tall and was worried it would block his view of the valley. He is a well-known tree poisoner and fruit stealer. I won’t say any more about him incase he’s reading my blog and digs up my broad beans in revenge. And with a name like Tino he’ll be sure to get away with it!!

(And here's some beans... and peas... in the garden last year)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

"I'll be back...!!!"

Everyone’s been asking… “How does it feel? No More Harem. What are you going to do now? ”

I don’t need a blog anymore.

Last week, in a really odd anticlimax (!), Berlusconi resigned and we got a new Prime Minister.

Very iffy from a democratic point of view as he was not chosen or elected by the people, Super Mario Monti just turned up, very serious, (no joke telling) very honest and nice looking (no make-up or false hair). He answered questions seriously at the press conferences instead of calling the journalists communists when they got a bit too deep. He spoke respectfully and sincerely to the two houses in parliament and received an enormous vote of trust when they had to give their ‘Sì’ or ‘No’... Lots of nice serious ministers who have nothing at all to do with politics and everything to do with what their new job is….

Which is one way of looking at it.

Lots of people are angry that there has been no vote. Others angry that Monti is a banker and that the country will be put back into the hands of those who caused the crisis in the first place. The left think there are too many right wing ministers. The right think there are too many left wing ministers. The Catholics are worried that they’re not represented, the non-religious element is worried that there are too many Catholics.

In all of this our ex-hero is being worryingly polite and smiling (real smiles too…without showing all his teeth at the same time!!!) He’s obviously up to something, but what?  Obviously planning his next move...
I’ll be back!!’, he said.

Watch this space.
In the meantime the harem, we hope, will fade gradually into the distant memory. I'm going to have to invent a new blog methinks :-)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Flood

It seems impossible today, 20° outsied and beautiful sunshine, to think that 3 days ago it looked like this in Genoa…

We were warned that severe weather conditions on their way and advised to stay at home. Of course nobody did. The schools were open, buses running, people going to work as normal. Marco went down to work and phoned back to say that yes it was raining but nothing worse than a normal horrible rainy day so I decided to take Eve to school as usual. I’d been home for about an hour and as the rain got worse and worse I got more and more worried and after about two hours I braved the car and drove back to school to get her.

As you know I live on a hillside above the city and usually when it rains the problem is not so much the water but the landslides! I thought it would be better to go down the hill and along the valley to school instead of the normal mountain/ forest route. Don’t know whether it was a wise decision or not but when I saw the water level of the normally inexistent river I realised that things were much worse than I’d thought.

Water was already creeping in under the doors at school when I got there and Eve, excited by the adventure couldn’t wait to get out and play in it all. The river was dangerous so we made our way back along the top of the mountain road. Lots of rocks and branches and things on the ground but no landslides!! The car in front of us slowed down to avoid splashing down into a big muddy puddle which filled the whole road. I obviously slowed down too but to my horror he just disappeared further and further into the muddy water until it was almost up to his windows. Eve was ecstatic, the nearest she’s ever been to being in a James Bond film. ‘Go, Mummy, go! Faster faster!!!’

Can’t tell you how glad I was finally to make it home unharmed but even then I had no idea of what was going on down in the valley where the river had burst its banks and was raging around like a Hollywood disaster movie.

Genova is built on a hillside and has lots of little torrents which come down the mountainside, feed into the two main rivers (one of which in my valley) and then run down to the sea. The rivers are almost always dry and even when it rains they usually only just get a bit soggy. People take their dogs for walks in them, trees grow in the middle of them, rubbish gets dumped in them. Nobody ever cleans them… Then, every so often, they flood. Constant building nearer and nearer the banks means that when they do flood this sort of thing happens.

Since Friday we’ve heard so many stories of people who risked their lives to save people from drowning, who’ve completely lost their homes and their places of work. 6 people died, including 2 children. Truly incredible that three hours of rain can have destroyed so many people’s lives.

The positive side, if that’s the right word for it, is that people are shining with lovely warm feelings of solidarity, team spirit and general niceness. The Genoese are generally quite grumpy folk but in the past few days they smile thoughtfully, stop their car to let you pass and slap you on the back and offer to help you clean up the mud in your shop or house. And they mean it. Perhaps it’s like the stories our parents and grandparents tell us about the war when everyone looked out for each other and everyone joined in. It feels nice until you remember those not here anymore to share it.

Everyone thought my next blog would be about Berlusconi! It would be nice to celebrate his imminent resignation but
a) we want to see him resign, not just promise to do so (nobody believes he’ll really do it. He’s bound to have a trick up his sleeve)
b) Genova really doesn’t feel like celebrating at the moment.