Dog in the Road

How many times have we heard people say, “If I won the lottery I’d leave here and go and live in paradise.” But nowhere on earth is perfect, even paradise will have its idiosyncrasies, its problems and its bugbears. Since I chose to live in Italy, and more importantly Abruzzo, people must think It’s my piece of paradise, and it is. That is, to say how I define paradise. In my wildest dreams it’d be somewhere with a great climate, endless activities to enjoy and I guess, as this is my dream, I’d have Tiziano Ferro as my live-in lover/personal crooner. But this isn’t a dream it’s reality and despite having a great climate and endless activities, Italy can be infuriating, but so can England, America or anywhere. So I like to think paradise is taking pleasure from the simple things and not dwelling upon the negatives.

After running a business and living in England, I’ve now started to enjoy those simple things. Things like popping to bread shop in the morning and passing the time of day with the locals as you buy some foccacia, or chatting to my neighbour about nothing of great importance and drinking an espresso standing at a bar with men in overalls… Ooer missus ! I like driving the short distance to the, fontano communale in Perano and getting a litre of ice-cold fizzy water for just five cents and talking of driving I like the fact that when I pull into a petrol station a human being serves me. I guess it’s a little like stepping back in time but with iPods, memory sticks and DVD box sets.

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One thing that has not been pleasurable is paying €1500 to obtain permissions from the comune (council) to work on our house. Back in the UK there’s choice. Choice of windows, doors, paint colours etc. Here you have to tow-the-line. We can only paint our house white or beige, (now how do you actually define beige). In other towns there are yellow, pink and pale green houses, but here in our little hamlet, it’s white or beige; any other choice of colour will require a fee for the comune to consider it and a man to come out to fill in forms in triplicate. Another idiosyncrasy that I find annoys me, is having to drive in daylight with your headlights switched on and don’t get me started on the inability of any young woman sat behind a cash register to smile.

Some pleasures are applicable only to where you are situated, I’m lucky, within twenty-minutes of my front-door I can be at the coast, within thirty, I can be in the mountains and if it grabbed my bag within sixty, at the ski slopes. Some pleasures don’t involve much effort and happen naturally. Take the other night for instance, I took a stroll around Civitella Messer Raimondo with Seppe and we chatted about the history of the town and looked at the views across the countryside. (There’ll be a separate blog posting about this within the coming days, so stay tuned for, Hanging Baskets and Cat Flaps, coming to a laptop near you Cat face.)

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One simple pleasure this week was the kind gift of ten beautiful white free range eggs, however one thing that certainly holds no pleasure for me is being sent to buy something our builder requires when my knowledge of construction has previously been obtained via stickle bricks and Lego, add to this the foreign name and you may as well ask me to broker a peace treaty between north and south Korea. However, would I swap this new life… Not a chance.

 

 

The original title to this blog posting was, Simple Pleasures. But today I saw something that I have to say touched me deeply. The Italian’s have a relaxed attitude to keeping dogs, they let them wander around unchecked, and many’s the time I’ve heard brakes screech as a dog wanders into the road. Coming out of Selva Altino is a small bar where locals have their coffee and every morning an old gentleman totters over with his small sandy coloured dog at his heels. Today would have been no different, had the dog not spotted another across the road and decided to walk over. The inevitable happened, the driver in front of me had no time to stop, thankfully death was instant. The saddest sight was the old man’s desperate efforts to get into the road, as the traffic continued moving on the left hand side. Seeing the man’s distress a lorry driver stopped allowing him to collect his companion from the middle of the road.

Makes those simple pleasures all the more special.

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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.

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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.

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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.