January Generosity

The embers of 2017 have now faded into ash and we’re welcoming 2018 into our hearts. The comparison between last year in Abruzzo and this year is the skies are a cobalt blue and the sun is doing its best to warm the earth. In 2017 we had the worst snowfall for many years, so this warm weather is very welcome. The days however may be warm but as soon as the sun goes down the cloudless skies mean the temperature drops and it’s time to light the log burner and snuggle down for the evening. It’s the need for wood to burn that’s prompted this blog post.

Were just a handful of days into the new year and so far I’ve experienced several acts of generosity. On Thursday morning I was just finishing my breakfast when there was a knock at the door, reluctantly I left my eggs and bacon and shuffled to open it. The door opened to the smiling face of my neighbour Mario who was clutching a bottle of fresh, cloudy olive oil. “Come va?” was his cheerful opening to the English man stood before him still dressed in night attire. I told him I was well and he thrust the bottle towards me telling me it was from the November harvest and a gift for me for my help and my friendship.


He tells me it’s an exceptional taste this year. Later I decant it into dark coloured glass bottles to preserve its flavour. Sampled simply upon bread the flavour is fruity and fresh and reminiscent of the previous summer.

Saturday, I’m coming home from a trip to the shop when another neighbour, Franco stops me. He’s cutting a tree down that has been made unsafe by the recent winds that took half of the tiles off my roof: that’s a post I forgot to write. “Nice day today,” he says as the chainsaw buzzes away at the tree’s trunk. “You have a wood burner?” he asks, I respond saying yes and he tells me to help myself to as much of the kindling that I want. We open the back of the car and promptly load it up with around a months supply that’ll save us using our store. I thank him and wish him happy new year and drive away as he continues on with his labour.

wood 1

The still Sunday air is punctuated by the mechanical chugging of an ancient tractor and another neighbour comes into view over the brow of the hill. “Hello English,” he calls to me, his usual greeting. He’s as ancient as his machinery and has a moustache you could hide kittens in; we’ve never exchanged names, our conversations are mostly, hello, nice day and a wave of the hand. Behind his tractor is a trailer laden with olive branches that have been stripped of their leaves. “Buon lavoro,” I say indicating towards his load with a nod of the head. “Grazie,” is his reply, good for burning, he says indicating to his olive wood with a nod of his head. I tell him that I agree and he says, take some. He pulls the tractor over and jumps down and grabbing a handful he starts to load my arms up, saying he’s more than he’ll need this year. With arms straining under the weight, I say thank you as he climbs aboard his mechanical steed, he bids me buon anno and disappears down the lane.


I spend the remainder of the morning cutting the olive wood into lengths that fit the burner and wonder at the generosity of my neighbours.

Being a Local and the Lost Vowels

Earlier I had my  initiation into being a local, I had gone with our builder to fetch sand and cement, I was introduced to the man selling sand, we shook hands and loudly exclaimed many buon giorni then he waved his hands in the air “Nessuna vendita, gratis,” he said and ripped up the receipt, and with a huge quantity of sand for free we left him, waving as we drove off. We then went to purchase cement and after this, I assumed we’d go back to the house. But no, we pulled into the local bar and stood with the locals at the counter as two young ladies made us thimble sized cups of dark black coffee. We swallowed our caffeine hit and left. The complete exercise of entering, purchasing and consuming before leaving taking just three or four minutes. As we left the bar, several other people took our places with the same swiftness we had adopted. “Straniero non è più.” said my builder, (You no longer foreigner), so with a quick hit of Arabica bean I became a local.


Later, I popped down into the village below ours to do some errands for my good friend Christine who has a lovely house over here in Abruzzo, but at present is back in the UK. While I attended to the errands I bumped in Piero, one of her neighbours. I had met him once back in 2011 at a gathering on Christine’s wonderful terrace overlooking the mountains, and he remembered my name and what car I drove back then. He was chatting away, molto volecemenete (very quickly) and I did my best to keep up with him. After the 45 minutes of rapid chatter had concluded and we’d parted company I gave myself a well earned pat on the back for establishing effective communication with the old fella.

As I was driving home it suddenly occurred to me that during the conversation I’d begun to omit the vowel at the end of sentences as the locals do. Now the problem with doing this is firstly it’s the last vowel that signifies gender, typically ‘o’ for masculine and ‘a’ for feminine words. It’s also the vowel that denotes the plural of the gender, ‘i’ for masculine and ‘e’ for feminine. so a typical phrase like,  this house is old –(questa casa é vecchia) becomes quest casa vecch. It’s surprising how the Italian people can hold conversations and completely understand what is being said, of course most of the speech is down to inflection, it’s the stress used that turns a statement into a question. But I’m not sure my pigeon Italian is yet advanced enough for me to grasp the psychic ability to address gender and action, so for the time being I’ll continue using the final vowel, I don’t want to fall foul of any errors such as saying ‘pago’ (I’ll pay) rather than ‘paga’ (you pay).