I don’t care how long you’ve been…

It’s been very remiss of me to neglect my blog this past week and I can only really offer one excuse, I’ve been having too much fun. I did actually pitch six articles to various editors in the UK last week so I’ve not been completely lazy. Like all writers I do make notes as things that interest me occur, thus storing up potential blog entries or magazine features for the future. Today’s is a previous incident that I’d overlooked, so rather than leaving the notes lying dormant like bed-sheets in a cupboard, I’ll take them out and give them an airing.

A few weeks back we were working downstairs on the house, which meant we couldn’t hear any traffic passing in the lane. The post-lady, a young girl in her twenties always peeps her horn to let us know we have mail. (For mail read, bills.) So imagine our surprise when we emerge from downstairs to discover an old guy next to his ape forking garden waste over the wall. I quickly lose all Italian vocabulary and use that accepted English phrase to gain someone’s attention. “Oi.” The old guy looks around and sees me, “Yes, you.” I say walking up towards him, my sleeves are already rolled up so I’m unable to roll them as I walk to add to the menace in my voice. I reach him and he says, “What.” Obviously in Italian, then continues lifting forkfuls of weeds up and tossing them over the wall.

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By now the builder has arrived to ask him what he’s doing, explaining that we now live here and he can’t come and tip his garden waste on our land. The old guys response is, “I’ve been tipping it here for about fifteen years, no one has ever complained before.” Our builder does his best to explain that no one’s complained because the house has been empty for twenty-five years. I understand a little of the conversation, and add my two-penneth, “I don’t care how long you’ve been…” You get the gist, not that it’s of any help whatsoever.

The old guy then points out that we have dumped lots of rubble on the land, “So it’s the same.” We explain that it’s not the same as the rubble is ours and so is the land. Our builder reiterates by telling him that the garden waste belongs to him, but the land doesn’t. The old man then asks what can he do with the waste from his orto now. I’m about to be facetious, but the builder throws me a glance before the words can leave my mouth, and more diplomatically says, “You can leave the rubbish here this time, but don’t come back again.”

The old man leaves and our builder returns downstairs, and I’m left alone in the lane waving a fist in the air and proclaiming to the wind, “Come back again old man, and I’ll show you where you can stick your rubbish.”

Apologies for the less than entertaining photographs.100_6457

Italian by Absorption

I’m beginning to wonder if outside forces influence they way people are, surely our surroundings must dictate how we feel and how we perform, so can they make subtle changes to our personalities and habits? I ask this question because I’ve noticed that I’ve started to do things differently here in Italy. The first thing I’ve noticed is the change in dinner time. Back in the UK I always had dinner, or as we Stokies say, ‘me tea’ at 6pm, but here without realising it I’ve fallen into the Italian way of eating it at 8pm. Now I understand that on the days that the builder is here he leaves around 6pm, so that is a factor in the later dinner-time, but even on days when he isn’t here, we’ve eaten at 8pm.

Italian’s are naturally inquisitive people; notice I avoided using the term, nosey and I’ve caught the bug too. As soon as a car is heard I’m outside looking up towards the road to see who it is, and heaven forbid I catch a snippet of conversation, otherwise it means I slow down my pace to discover what’s being said and by whom. This nosiness has become quite acute and we vie for position, looking for the best vantage point, when we want to see who is driving past.

Here, the Abruzzese people live a more frugal life and wasting food is frowned upon.  Since moving here I’ve appreciated that fact that when it comes to fruit and vegetables the shops sell what’s in season. There’s no potatoes from Egypt or French beans from Kenya, and there’s no uniformity to it, a deflated looking pepper is as acceptable here as a plump round one, just as a display of fennel bulbs will have them of all sizes from medium through large to enormous. There’s no one from Brussels here with a micrometre and portable weighing scales. Unlike when I was back in the UK, I store what I know will perish before I have used it all. In the freezer I have pots of basil, chopped celery, parsley, and all manner of things, waiting to be used at a later date. I’ve even got my emergency sofritto (a mix of finely chopped carrot, celery and onion used as a base for stocks and sauces) and chopped tomatoes frozen in wine, should someone visit unexpectedly and need a pasta sauce making for lunch.

I also think I’ve absorbed a little of the contadino somehow. Outside the front door is a flower border, but knowing that flowers here are a luxury and that land should be used to grow crops first, I’ve used it for a sort of mini orto and planted out some onions, courgettes, chillies and tomatoes, sweet corn and a pumpkin. I have a little cluster of English bluebells I brought over tucked away in the corner, as I’d like to get these established further down on our land, where it’s shady and wild cyclamen grow. So until we get our land cum jungle sorted out the flower border will be put to better use.

Guaranteed, these are small changes to my lifestyle, but as they’ve happened without conscious effort maybe I’m becoming Italian by absorption or at the very least more Britalian than I was before.

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