I live in a little village called Fontanegli. It’s part of Genova but if you Google it you’ll see that it’s basically in the middle of nowhere, ‘nel culo dei lupi’ as they say here…‘up the wolves’ arse’… on top of a hill and only gettable to along steep, narrow hairpin bends. Every weekday morning I drive Eve to school. 12 minutes, 11 if the wind’s behind me. It’s a pretty ride, you can watch the seasons changing, practice your driving skills and listen to all Eve’s favourites on the CD player (currently Winnie the Pooh stories that came free with a Sunday supplement the other summer, The Winx ‘Magica Musica’, Godspell 2000 and John Denver …her father’s influence unfortunately) There are a couple of mad old men who do nothing but walk the hills all day. Separately, starting from different directions. Whatever the weather or the time of day they are to be seen walking, walking along the country road that I take to and from school. They hate traffic and both of them glare and wave their knobby fists as cars drive past. One even seems to have a glass eye and looks like the Ancient Mariner… the Ancient Hill Walker, we call him.
This morning I was a bit late. A bit sleepy. Eve was having an adolescent turn and I might not have been in the best of moods as I got into the car. This however does not explain or justify what was to come. As if by magic, or by some sort of decree on the Italian Highway Code, I seemed to meet all the cars coming towards me on the wrong side of the road. Had they decided over night to change sides? OK, I’m English and learnt to drive on the left but I’m pretty good on the right now too. I know the roads are not the safest and do my best to keep to my side of the road especially on the really curvy narrow bits. This morning I was the only one. Everyone seemed to be driving towards me straight down the middle or on my side.
After a few very near misses I got really angry and shouted something along the lines of ‘Hey, nasty man. Do you mind keeping to your own side of the road!’ at an old man in an even older Fiat Panda.
‘Brutta comunista di merda!!’ he snarled from his open car window before speeding off.
I hadn’t really expected him to apologise… but he could’ve done better than brutta comunista di merda. The biggest insult he could find was political. No wonder he was confused between his left, right and centre… or maybe it was me. Tomorrow’s the last day of school which is probably just as well .The mad old walkers will no doubt be out there but from Friday, me and Eve will be heading down to the beach…. And that’s another road altogether.