I always expect to be speaking two languages when I’m in the office dealing with my Italian colleagues and speaking with our English clients, but not very often is it a requirement of dog walking.
Today I’m taking our youngest dog, Alf Alf for his walk and the first person I see in the lane is the English builder working on my neighbour’s house, I stop and we pass the time of day. I continue on down the lane when driving towards me is my friend Nicola and we have a quick chat in Italian.
The weather’s good so we walk further down the lane than usual and I spot a couple from a nearby village who have a holiday home here and we converse with a few English pleasantries before my friend Giuseppina calls to me. She only speaks dialect and we manage a short cobbled together conversation before it’s time to turn around and walk Alf Alf back home.
I’m sure moments like this are quite common for anyone living in another country where the language is different from their own.
And it’s moments like this that make living abroad special.
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.