Painting Crossings

People often comment that driving in Italy can be stressful. The stereotype is of a young man with music blaring, phone attached to his ear and his foot heavy on the accelerator. To be honest this stereotype isn’t that far wrong, the main difference being that driver’s gender doesn’t come into it. Driving on major roads and the motorways can be stressful, cars behind hug your bumper, headlights flash to urge you to move faster and horn sounding is all part and parcel of the overall driving experience. However on the rural roads, driving is a much more sedate affair: A week ago, I actually found myself conforming to the stereotype; I was travelling behind a man in a Fiat who pootled along the lane at a mere fifteen miles per hour.

A couple of days ago, I was driving to San Luca near Attessa, as there’s a builders’ merchant there who’s much keener on price than the nearest local one, and I actually enjoy a leisurely drive through the small villages that surround mine. The Colourfield were on the iPod playing, Yours Sincerely, as I travelled down almost deserted roads: a gentle tune for a gentle pace. We pass a patch of purple irises, their heads held aloft for the bees to find. As regular readers know, I rarely travel anywhere without a camera and I can’t resist the chance to stop and take a few photographs.


I climb back into the car, the iPod shuffles and, Kirsty MacColl sings Caroline. I pass under the bridge on the road to Piane d’archi and head towards the T junction, I pause to allow a priest cross the road: it’s twenty-one degrees and he’s wrapped up in a long black coat with a fur collar: heaven forbid he takes it off in such inclement weather, but that’s another Italian idiosyncrasy. I reach the T junction and turn left and suddenly I’m part of a long queue of cars. Traffic on the left hand side is moving freely, and in front taking advantage of any gaps cars on the right side pop around whatever the obstruction up ahead is. Soon it becomes clear what is going on with this normally quiet stretch of road, they’re painting in pedestrian crossings and have painted only the right-hand side, so all along the road heading towards Atessa has congestion – well I say congestion, it’s actually around twelve cars in total.


Of course it makes sense to paint one side first to minimise disruption. This said, I’ll make sure my plans for the next few days don’t include driving in the opposite direction.

A few Shakespeare references and that pesky Italian language again

What a mad week it’s been, at times I’ve felt like King Lear howling at the wind.

Sunday 17: Well we left England just as the last of our worldly possessions headed south in Duncan’s van. I turned on my iPod and Eartha Kitt sang, Let’s Do It, My sentiments exactly as the ignition guns and we leave Tunstall en route for Abruzzo. The weather in France is awful, so we opt for a night in the car and wait to see what it’s like in the morning. It’s cold and we’re lucky to grab a few hours of broken sleep.

Monday 18: The drive is tedious and having driven through weather that Prospero would have been proud of, rain in France, sleet in Belgium and fog through Luxembourg; where no one turned their headlights on, and snow in Switzerland we arrive in Modena. The hotel is quite contemporary and geared up to the business sector, but the rooms are warm, clean and well appointed. We have a wonderful meal in the restaurant, a glass of wine and its back to the room for some shut-eye. My head hits the pillow and I’m in the realm of the dead for 8 hours straight, a sleep that Macbeth would have been more than happy with.

Tuesday 19: Breakfast is an amazing array of goodies all laid out for us to enjoy, it really is a feast, comparable to the one Ariel conjures up. The other guests are dressed in business attire, apart from us and a German man in jeans and t-shirt. A tall, handsome Italian man strides into the room and confidently orders coffee before lifting a knife and with the deftness of Tybalt he cuts a slice of bread and drops it onto his plate. He walks back to his table and glances across and smiles, my countenance betrays my lust and like Benedick I toss back an amiable yet distant smile.

We begin the second leg of our journey, as Tubeway Army play, It Must Have Been Years, we stop at the cemetery where Luciano Pavarotti is interred and say a silent hello to the big man, refusing to take photographs, as it felt wrong. We continue heading south in warm and sunny weather and after 5 hours we’re outside our friend Shelagh’s house, Lyca, her one-eyed hound100_5577 bounds down the steps towards us and greets us with that excited tail-wagging joy that only a dog can do. Like the weird sisters we catch up on gossip before collecting the new keys to our place; locks changed after break-in. We drive the few kilometres home and become pleasantly surprised, our rough pot-holed road is being resurfaced. The previous break-in has robbed us of nothing that cannot be replaced, mostly tools, kitchenware and new bedding. All our precious and personal items have been unwrapped and laid out, but not broken or stolen – who’d have ever thought I’d be grateful to a thief for resisting the mindless destruction of the property they had no respect for. As our belongings are still in Duncan’s van, we set up bed in the back of the car. It’s surprising how roomy a Vauxhall Zafira can be when the seats are moved back and a futon mattress is loaded inside. We enjoy a gin and tonic and like Richard lll we’re transfixed by the stillness of the evening, as a dog barks and wood smoke wafts by. Before long we’re too tired to talk and slip under the duvet and slumber like Titania in her bower.

Wednesday 20: The following morning with Karen Young, singing the disco classic and one of my favourite tunes, Hot Shot, Duncan arrives, we hail him, king Duncan, and begin to unload our life that’s been packed inside the white travelling box on wheels. A man from the water company pops by to explain that we’ve been misled by the geometra, who got the vicinity of our water pipe 100_5637-cropwrong, he promises we’ll have a new pipe and water before mid-April; so soon, we’ve waited 2 years thus far.   The drive to our house is steep and we have to give Duncan a quick tow to get him out and we’re left to our own devices. We quickly sort out some semblance of order and after an hour or so like Viola when she takes on the persona of Cesario our makeshift kitchen has ideas above its station. Later as Paul Young, belts out the decidedly poor track, Wedding Day from his Between Two Fires album, Dutch tackles dinner in the halogen cooker we purchased from the local supermarket 2 years ago. After a bit of suck it and see cooking we have chicken and roast potatoes and veg out of a can, and so welcome it was. I open a bottle of fizz as Querida by Vittorio Grigolo shuffles on the iPod.

Thursday 21: A shifty looking bloke in overalls drops off some coloured plastic bins and mutters something about recycling and buggers off. I’m then left to decipher the intricate recycling that the council have put into place, our euro-bin has disappeared and now we still get the daily rubbish collection but now it’ll be broken down into different types of household waste – oh joy more OCD issues for me to deal with, heaven forbid the refuse men call each Thursday for pencil shavings from Steadtler pencils.


Friday 22: I’m having a few minutes peace outside when a man with a dog on a rope comes striding down the driveway towards me, he calls out with a cheery, “Ciao”, the man that is, not the dog, and engages me in conversation; or rather he speaks, molto velocemente and I try to keep up. He asks if I’m renting; I consider an inappropriate quip, but fear it would be lost on him, so tell him I have bought the house. He then asks about next door, “Is it for sale?” I respond telling him I don’t know, he then asks if I’ve seen anyone come to the house, I tell him I haven’t but we’ve had thieves break in a few months ago. His eyebrows raise and almost disappear into his hairline, “What you need,” he says, “when you live in the countryside, is a dog or better still,” he laughs, “A friendly wolf.” I chuckle as I recall Lear’s, Jester say, “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf.” My visitor asks my name then is confused, “Isn’t Bari an airport?” he laughs again. He tells me his name is Michele, (pronounced Mick-ay-lea). We shake hands and he asks me where the people from next door have gone, I then go on to tell him that the old lady is hospital as she has dementia, I then say, “Marito è morto,” he looks at me oddly, then sadness crosses his face and I realise what I’ve said and quickly correct myself and say, “Marito della signora è morta.” He laughs loudly, pats me on the shoulder and says goodbye. No doubt, like Feste to my Olivia, he’s off to tell the locals about the strange Englishman who is either drunk or mad because he said, my husband has died.


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.


Unusual Names and the Snow

Last week, the snow that was promised arrived. As the streets began to cover with a blanket of white, Louise Minchin was sat on the sofa at BBC centre in Salford, asking the viewers to be careful and only take the car if it is absolutely necessary. Wise words, Ms Minchin. However I had to go out, staying in was not an option as I had an important appointment. Luckily, I thought, as my appointment is for 09.30, I can do what I have to do and be back home before the streets are under the predicted 5 cm’s of snow.100_5417

Anyway, I won’t bore you with my reason for going out, but I will tell you that while I was out I heard two instances of people having unusual names. The first was in the bank. A young, painfully skinny male was at the counter and the woman behind looked at her screen, then at him and back at her screen, before saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to pronounce your name. Is it really spelt ZZZ?”

“Yes said the boy, it’s pronounced, Zeds.”

I’m thinking that he’s changed it by deed poll. The next was I was waiting for my appointment, when the lady on reception paged a colleague, asking for Adventure Stokes to come to reception. Adventure turned out to be a girl. Shame that she has a name that sounds like a brochure for what to do on Bank holidays.

So my appointment fulfilled I popped on my headphones, switched on the iPod and was happily strolling along with Wanderlust by David Sylvian playing. On my way to the car-park I spotted this number plate and thought it’d sit nicely with today’s unusual names, so out came the camera and the snap below was taken.


I now had to drive back from town. My journey in had been relatively quick as the roads were quiet, however after a couple of hours continuous snow, the three mile journey back was a crawl at ten MPH as we all snaked our way through snow laden streets. Every traffic light stopped us, and the car at the front of the queue had the task of spinning its wheels before leading us all again slowly through the churned up snow. I was almost home, when at a mini roundabout a car to my left suddenly pulled out, meaning I had the dubious task of braking quickly, I slid forward, then to the right, I then steered into the slide and regained control as the offending driver pootled away. No harm done, I rounded the corner, parked up and went inside to enjoy the snow – through the window, as it should be enjoyed.

Note to self: Next time there’s snow predicted, phone and rearrange any appointments.

Later whilst walking in the snow, Michael Bublé featuring the Puppini Sisters, shuffled forward with Jingle Bells, from his Christmas album. It seemed appropriate in such a snowy setting that I let it play.