A Stair is Born

Today has been an odd one. Looking back at the posts on this blog, you’d be forgiven for thinking aren’t most for me. Our builder arrived and proceeded to measure me, “Aspetta,” (wait) he said as I walked away after he determined I was 1.557m tall, he then measured the length of my foot, then made me walk normally, stopping me he then got down on his hands and knees to measure the length of my stride. He makes a remark about measuring an other part of my body, then screws up his eyes and laughs at his own joke. I tell him, I think he’s a nut job and leave for the bank in Lanciano.

Now initially, I’d been led to believe that in Italy, it costs more to withdraw cash in person rather than use an ATM. Turns out that whoever passed me that nugget of information was wrong. At our bank cash transaction at the sportello (banker’s window) cost nothing, unlike cash machines.  I collected my cash from the very pretty girl and am leaving when Massimo, the manager appears, he calls me over and we exchange morning pleasantries, he asks if I’d like a coffee, I say yes and he opens a door to let the person the other side that he’s popping out for coffee. I peer in and sat at the desk is a woman who is the spitting image of  Marge Simpson’s sister Selma Bouvier: the one with the parting in her hair. The woman stands up and despite not being bright yellow looks even more like her cartoon doppelganger. I want to laugh but this would be rude, so I cover it by pretending to sneeze and go outside to wait for Massimo.

Coffee over, I drive back when the iPod shuffles and Barry White, begins to sing Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe, as his bass laden voice fills the car I smile wondering what our builder’s up to back at the house. He calls me Barry White, I asked him why once and his answer was simple yet honest, he said because you are named Barry and you’re white. You can’t say fairer than that.

I get back and the result of all the measuring is revealed the staircase has been started to be installed. He explains that being a big man he had to get the headroom correct, I in turn correct him and explain the phrase is tall not big, he says why, because he’s a small man. I explain that small and short are different words in English, he then says he has tall feet for a small man. We laugh and I give up correcting his English, even when he says for a tall man my feet shouldn’t be so short. I’m tempted to tell him size 8 (42) is average, but realise that I’d be unable to explain why in this case short and small are correct usage when talking about feet, but not when talking about his height.

The day ends and after he’s gone, I spend my time walking up and down my bespoke staircase. You see I’m easily pleased.

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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.”