I drive down into the valley as The Skids, coincidentally, play Into the Valley, I notice that I need fuel, so pull into a petrol station. I like the fact that the petrol stations here have staff that fill up your car for you: it’s good old fashioned service. I’ve not been to this little side-road one before and a large man saunters out of what can only be described as a portacabin. “Good morning,” he says, before asking, “You German?” I shake my head; having not been asked this for a long time, I assumed everyone had been informed by the gossip mill that the blond* man up on the hill is English. He asks me what I want and I tell him I’d like twenty Euro of unleaded. I watch as he unscrews my petrol cap, inserts the nozzle and presses the button to release the fuel. He then proceeds to take out his cigarettes and lights one.
The pump shudders to a stop and without removing the cigarette from his lips he puts the nozzle back in its holster and accepts the €20 note I pass him through the window. “Have a good day,” he says as another car pulls in and he wanders off, ash dropping from his cigarette as he asks the driver what they want. I drive away smiling as the iPod shuffles and Sirens, by The Temper Trap plays. Only in Italy could you be served with petrol by a man who is smoking, yet another quirk to file away in my memory.
*Just to point out why the word, blond is flagged up. A while back I was messaged by an American girl who said “You mustn’t be a very good writer if you carn’t [sic] spell blonde.” Obviously I had to reply correcting her spelling of, can’t and informing her that girls are blonde with an e and that boys are blond without the e.