Road Phantoms

There’s a strange phenomenon in Italy that I’ve started to notice more and more recently. Spectral traffic. Ghost cars.

You can be driving down a lane and look in the rear view mirror and from nowhere a car appears behind you, you check again and it’s still there pootling behind you. You can continue along the road where there are no junctions, no drives or side roads and you look up again and the car that was behind you has vanished.

This can happen on the straightest of roads, not just the weaving lanes. Today I drove past the WWF Serranella visitor centre and there was no traffic on the road other than me, I came around a bend and looked in my rear view mirror and suddenly there was a black Fiat panda behind me. The car wasn’t travelling very fast and the driver had no intention of overtaking me. WE continued up the straight road through Breccaio, past the houses onto the unpopulated portion of this undeviating road and when I looked up the panda was gone. There was nowhere it could have turned off, it hadn’t pulled over and the road behind me was empty.

I mentioned this to my passenger and his response was, “Yes, it’s weird that, happens to me all the time, where do the cars behind disappear to?”

Finally on a lighter note, I leave you today with a photograph of our current bottle of washing up liquid.

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It made me wonder what would happen if during a Duran Duran gig, Simon Le Bon forgot the lyrics to, Rio… could he sing, ‘Her name is Rio and she bum bum de bum bum…”

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Tail Wagging

The one thing about having rescue dogs is that you know nothing about their past lives and therefore you can only make assumptions. We have two of these dogs, Olive a small terrier type aged around four years and Alfie a lanky, half dog-half donkey five month old. We know a little about Olive, she lived in the nearby town of Fara San Martino and was known by everyone locally due to her running around the narrow streets and generally being a cheeky little mutt. We acquired her due to a change in her owners circumstances. She always seemed to be quite morose and spent most of the day moping around when we first got her, the one thing that struck me was she didn’t seem to know how to play, every toy we gave her was ignored. She really wasn’t a very happy girl and we put this down to her moving to a new home.

Alfie came our way after a friend asked if we were still looking for a dog as there was one abandoned near Lake Casoli. At the time we had considered getting another dog but Olive reacted badly to other dogs so had shelved the idea, however seeing a photo on Facebook tugged at the heartstrings and I went to look at him. To cut the story short, suffice to say he was such a smashing looking chap I decided to take him and give him a home. He was terrified when we bundled him into my car and for the first time I spotted the long scars on his front legs. The chef from the nearby restaurant told me a car arrived one evening and the dog was just pushed out.

From their initial meeting Olive and Alfie got on, becoming firm friends. I guess they saw a little of their own story in each other. We did notice that despite the age and height difference they both shared the same trait, neither of them ever wagged their tails. 100_7065

Olive seems to have always been a people dog, she loves being with humans and likes nothing better than a ride in the car; so much so, that as soon as the driver’s door opens she’s inside, as fast as a cork from a chilled bottle of Prosecco. Whereas Alfie was wary of humans, a hand near his head made him cower, a stern rebuke would have him falling to the ground passively and the car terrified him. They both adapted to living on a building site very quickly and although not the ideal environment I think with so much chaos around they found it exciting. Alone they both began to explore and Alfie’s youth rubbed off on Olive and she learned how to play, her favourite game being, glove killing – I daren’t tell the builder what happened to his gloves. In turn Olive’s age has kept Alfie in check, she’s taught him the rights and wrongs of living with humans and is first to tell him off if he sticks his nose into the kitchen waste bin. Also seeing Olive jumping in and out of the car has allayed his fears and he now jumps into the back seat knowing that after been taken for a walk he’ll come home and not be abandoned.

Last week a friend dropped by and she commented on how Alfie didn’t flinch when she went to stroke him; something I no longer noticed. I then looked for changes in the two of them and noticed that now they both wag their tails. Olive just at the mention of her name and Alfie when you go to stroke him and of course when they play together. It’s so nice to see an abundance of tail wagging in the countryside, here in Abruzzo.

The Birds and the Bees

Hands up, who clicked today’s blog post thinking or hoping it was about sex?

I was driving along the road through San Tommaso with the iPod switched on as usual, as I was sat behind a tractor cutting the hedges at the side of the road and travelling at around 8kmph, it was apt that Kate Bush was singing the largely unknown B.side, You Want Alchemy. The song about bees and honey ambles along beautifully, much like I was doing as the large industrial strimmer took off the excess grow at the strada’s edge. Suddenly the car was engulfed by a flock of swallows, eager I guess for the insects released by the machines blades. Feeling like Tipi Hedren in a cinematic promo for The Birds, I watch as they dart dangerously close to my windscreen, I’m worrying they may be harmed, but my worry is needless, these little blue/black birds are travelling faster than I am. Up ahead is the speed camera and the flower shop, the strimmer stops and is hydraulically lifted up and away from the edge of the road and the swallows disperse. We come to a straight stretch of road and I take the opportunity to pass the tractor, as he reaches the hedges again, the strimmer once more is deployed, and as the whirring blades chop at the greenery, the swallows once again return to feast.

You Want Alchemy

I undertake the task which was the reason for my journey, drop into the bakers and buy a panino morbido, to accompany the salad I’ll be having for lunch and make my way back home. I’m sliding along passing the yellow coloured house on the bend when the slipstream caused by my driving sucks several bees into the car. I look into my rear view mirror and see just a scooter and a small Fiat behind me. Three bees have landed on the back window and are puzzled by this see-through hard thing preventing them from flying, another two are buzzing around inside and one has alighted upon the steering wheel. I slow down and let the scooter overtake, the Fiat turned off a few metres back. As soon as the car is motionless the two flying bees escape through the open passenger-side window, I get out and the bee on my steering wheel leaves through the open door, I open the rear door and two bees instantly sense freedom and take to flight, leaving one behind. The remaining bee buzzes down onto the headrest of the back seat and paces back and forth. As I’m stopped in a somewhat silly place on a main road,, there’s nothing for it but to coax her out. I lay my hand down and she walks up to it, waggles her head a little and them walk onto my index finger, carefully I withdraw my hand and once she feels the warm sunshine, with a buzz she’s gone.

I climb back into that car, and before I drive away, I backtrack on the iPod and listen to Kate Bush again as I make my way home.

Man in a Can

As a writer myself, one piece of advice I always give fledgling writers is, read. Read what you have written carefully, read it aloud, put it away for a day or so and read it again. You need to be sure before you submit anything that you have ironed out an imperfections, corrected grammar and given the spelling a good going over. If only in my day to day life I followed my own advice. We’re surrounded by signs, and being in a foreign country you’d think I’d take extra care while reading them. Not a chance.

Now bear with me while I explain the title for today’s entry. There are many foods that can be purchased in a can and cooked within it. Sponges pudding and those dreadful pies in a tin. Today because I didn’t pay attention I came close to discovering just how that steak and onion pie feels inside its tin prison.

A few days back I commented on how the locals are regular visitors to the car wash nearby. So today I thought it’s about time I washed the sand off my car, so It can shine in the sun as I’m pootling down to the supermarket or builders’ merchant. So I’m driving back from Eurospin, the iPod is playing Shangri-La by Nightmares in Wax (Pete Burns, pre-Dead or Alive guise) a song that I always feel has 41 seconds of unnecessary shenanigans at the end, when I pass the car wash. I pull in and glance at the bays, one is taken by a young man who’s power washing his car, another is free and so is a conventional drive in one, designed for the lazier driver. As it’s sunny I opt for the conventional drive in one, thinking I can’t be bothered wielding a shampoo brush and pressure washer in this heat. I glance at the board telling what’s on offer, but I don’t read what’s written I just look at the range of prices. “Ahh,” I say to myself, “Two euro, must be quick wash.” I drive in, the red lights asks me to stop, I insert a coin and press the button, then wait.

The machine rumbled into life and began moving towards me and I waited for the water, only it didn’t come. The lad across the way looked up and shook his head and then went back to his pressure washing. The machine moved over the car with me inside but instead of washing it was blowing hot air, I’d only set it to dry mode. So I sat inside my car on a hot day with an industrial sized hair-dryer above me increasing the temperature inside making me feel like a pie in a tin inside an oven. Next time I’ll take my own advice and read everything carefully.

Needless to say after the young man had left and the dryer had completed it’s actions I drove into a bay and did what I should have done in the first place, grabbed the shampoo brush and did the job by hand.

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Macchina senza sabbia

Dented Cars and Dirty Fingernails

All countries and people have their idiosyncrasies and Italy is no exception. They say that the English are the most eccentric of people, but I disagree, I think all people have a little bit of eccentricity about them, while others’ are just plain bonkers. Take today for instance, I woke up to find the car covered in sand, during the night a sirocco must have whipped up and deposited part of the Sahara on the Zafira. So, not finding the sand particularly bothersome, I just sploshed some screen wash across the windscreen and drove away. I was on my way to the supermarket and passing the self-service car-wash nearby when I spotted the queues of cars waiting outside. I spotted someone I knew and pulled up and chatted, we passed the time of day as he waited for the person in front to complete the washing of his car. My friend asked if I was here to wash the sand off my car, “Boh,” I said. (See how soon I’ve began to fit in. Boh means absolutely nothing but everyone uses the expression.) “Sabbia, non.” He looked at me horrified that I didn’t see sand as a problem, I then looked at his car with its dented wing and scratches down the side. “What’s a bit of sand compared to scratches and dents,” I told him, and again he looked horrified. He then moved closer, put his hand upon my shoulder and whispered to me that dents and scratches are evidence of a useful car, a car that works well for its owner, however a dirty car tells all and sundry that the owner is a lazy man. It’s more important to be clean than it is to be dented.

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No doubt the owner of the car I spotted on Sunday up at Gessopalena will worry more about the dusty bonnet than the broken side light due to poor negotiation of the limited space available in this particular street.

Now, I have been back in Abruzzo now for twenty-two days and it’s fair to say that every single one of those days has seen me comment upon how dirty my fingernails have been. I mentioned this to my builder, who gave me an odd look, making me realise that finger nail conversations aren’t butch enough for builders. “That’s because you are living on a building site.” he said, more than likely to humour me, as I’m the one who pays him at the end of each day. “I guess so,” I say and begin to walk away, when he says, “Maybe if you had been a builder and not a writer then dirty fingernails wouldn’t be a problem for you.”  It was my turn now to toss across an odd look,  “Me, a builder. No way, far too hard a job for my liking,” I said. “I’ll stick to sitting at a desk and writing.”

“But look at all these beautiful stones,” he said, “Writing cannot bring these out like a builder can.”

“Oh yes it can,” I told him. “It’s the writing that pays you to do it.”

Indicators

I’ve been rather busy of late and not had time to post any blog entries, but feel the need to post this little gripe.

There’s lots of new cars driving around town and I’m thinking of getting one. They look similar to any other car on the road, but these ones have no indicators, it appears.

I find it very irritating when someone assumes they have the psychic ability to let other road users their intention to turn one way or another. Yesterday I was at a roundabout waiting to see if the driver to my right would indicate whether he wanted to use the first or second exit, no blinking indicator flashed and the driver just pootled around the roundabout eventually taking the third exit. A couple of days before, I was at a junction waiting to turn right and join the traffic, a car approached and I waited for it to pass me, but instead it turned left passed me without a single signal, meaning i missed the gap in the traffic and had to wait longer.

Today, walking back from a leisurely stroll I’m starting to cross a road when without indicating a driver turns left, almost running into me.

I’ve posted several times about interesting graffiti, and finally with my iPod playing Herr X by Ultravox I drove out of town to take a photo of a piece of street art that I quite like. It’s very striking and never fails to catch my attention as I drive past.

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