The Naked Crime Fighter

To be honest the title of today’s instalment is a little bit off the mark, but not enough for it to be click bait, but it does sound better than the semi-naked crime fighter.

So, just who is this naked fighter of crime?

Me.

It was Wednesday night and I was retiring to my bed when I saw headlights shining from the rear of my neighbour’s property. Now the property in question is empty as they’re having building work completed at the moment so this car raises my suspicions. I opened a window and could hear voices over the running engine. So I leapt into action and grabbed a pair of pyjama bottoms and a torch and exited the house at speed to confront the assumed thieves. As I ran along the lane I realised that shoes or at least slippers would have been a good idea, but it’s too late now.

I arrive at the house and the vehicle’s headlights illuminate two bemused looking Italian men, who from their point of view are being approached by a semi-naked man in pyjama bottoms waving a torch and looking like he’s escaped from a high security mental health establishment.

“What’s going on?” I say, trying to sound in control yet now realising this could probably be the most stupid thing I’ve ever done. They then smile, big toothy grins that threaten to slice their faces in two, “We’re here delivering sand for the builder.” Is their reply.

I smile too, say something inane along the lines of, “Okay, have a good evening,” and shuffle back up the lane, vowing to give up crime fighting, now knowing that I’ve given two delivery men something joke about in the bar.

Oh the shame…

Call the Fashion Police

Today I received a text from a friend asking if we’d like to come over for a bite to eat, so as, Let the Rhythm Get You, the Megatone Records classic by, Touch and Go plays, I reply in the affirmative. The remainder of the day passes without incident and it’s soon time to get ready to go out. Now you have to bear in mind that we are still living on what is essentially a building site, so it’s a strip wash at the outside tap, a shave in the washing up bowl with hot water provided by the kettle and hair washing bent over the ancient washing tub out the front. Oh the joys of house restoration. (I have now learned the times the school bus passes, a semi-naked Englishman at the outside sink, is not what a bus full of kids want to see.)

So with most of my clothes and shoes boxed up and stacked in the darkened space that is due to become the bathroom, I have a small amount of clothing that is worn, washed, worn, washed etc. So small is my wardrobe, that I’ve not really paid attention to what is on the dust free (ha! that’s a laugh) pile of washed clothes. There’s only twenty-minutes in which to dress and leave if I’m to be punctual for our dinner date and the options do not look good.

There’s a pair of what I call my, One Direction trousers, two pairs of balled-up socks: yellow or purple and a red or a blue shirt. I hunt around for shoes and cannot find any, only the pink canvas pumps that I’ve been wearing of late. I’m shouted at to get a move on and with a less than friendly reminder, it’s pointed out that we no longer have time to pop into Eurospin to buy a bottle of prosecco to take with us.

So I hurriedly dress, slipping on the socks, wriggling into my green, One Direction trousers and then receive a look that Medusa would have been proud of. “Are you going out like that?” I’m asked, I look down and shrug before saying, “This is all I have that’s ironed. This and my Orange Ted Baker pyjama bottoms and a yellow vest.”

As we climb into the car, the Oh says, “It’s a good job we’re not going out in public.”

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There’s a siren in the distance, could it be the fashion police, or has Gok Wan just collapsed with apoplexy.

The Foraging Foreigner

Saturday afternoon, 13 April 2013. The temperature is 23C and my friend Michele is passing on his daily walk with his dog, Bobby. We chat in the lane and he points to something in the hedgerow, “Wild asparagus,” he says as he picks two lanky spears and hands them to me. Every day, the lane up to out house is visited by locals with carrier bags, they can be seen scanning the land for free food. Foraging is a part of the Italian way of life, and this time of the year they are out looking for the asparagus. I often cut rosemary from the fragrant bushes in the lane, or pick borage flowers to freeze in ice cubes; ideal for dressing up a gin and tonic and I’ve also collected the leaves from the wild garlic. But that has been my limit. “I’ll show you,” Michele says, “It’s important to do it right.” The first rule is you must wear long sleeves so that you don’t get scratched. I’m wearing a T-shirt so have fallen at the first fence, so to speak.

With Bobby following behind we climb up the side of lane into the greenery and head up an incline as we head towards the olives. Michele points out what looks like a fern and tells me that this is the main part of the plant. Very quickly he spots the thin spears and picks them and hands them to me. I peer into the undergrowth and can see nothing, I’m staring like a man possessed and Michele points, “There.” I still can’t see anything and he deftly steps forward and plucks three spears. “Years of practice,” he laughs. We continue through the olives and he tells me that it is important to wear sturdy shoes. I’m wearing canvas pumps: Fail number two.

We scramble through a thicket of spiny leaved bushes, and are beside the ruins, Michele finds more asparagus and I find scratches on my arms. There’s two spears near a huge cactus, Michele clip_image001hands me Bobby’s rope to hold and he clambers onto the cactus, it’s not sturdy and it is very spiny. I wonder at the need to put yourself in danger just for two measly strips of vegetation. But I guess historically feeding the family was of prime importance and the life of a contadino, (peasant farmer) was hard, so every morsel must have counted. We carry on searching and I find my first patch and feeling like I’ve achieved something I pluck the green stalks from the earth.

As we reach the dirt track Michele tells me that the asparagus won’t be found here, as it grows in the shade and doesn’t flourish in the heat too, so it’s pointless going any higher up the hill where there are no bushes. He stops to point out some mushroom and tells me that they are deadly and I mustn’t even touch them. We walk through a patch of purple coloured orchids and he spots more bounty beneath a young fig tree. The bundle in my hand is now quite large, and he tells me, “That’s enough, only take what you need, leave the rest for another family.” He then tells me that I really shouldn’t wear thin cotton trousers when walking in the fields as I could end up with a tick on my skin. Fail number three.

“Thick jeans are better,” he says. Then rolls up the left leg of his and shows me a scar where he was bitten by a tick a year ago and had to go to the hospital to have it removed and four stitches put into the wound. He looks down and there’s blood on the back of his hand, he’s got a small black one of the dreaded ticks attached to his skin. “This is how you kill a tick,” he tells me as he drops it onto a stone and taking another stone crushes the beast. “Don’t stamp on it, it might get wedged in the sole of your shoe and survive, and you’ll then take it into your home.”

We chat in the lane and he tells me how to cook this feast we’ve collected, plenty of salted water, boil for just a few minutes add to some garlic and butter and lightly fry then toss into the pan some cooked spaghetti with a drizzle of good olive oil and serve. I tell him I’ll do exactly as he says and let him know how it tastes. He then randomly tells me he had a prostate operation the previous year and waves as he continues walking Bobby.

I cut the woody stems from the bundle and cook as directed and have to say it’s tasty, a tad bitter, but not dissimilar to the asparagus I’ve had in the UK.

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The following day, I see three people in the lane scouring the hedgerows, and as I watch them picking asparagus Michele turns up to ask if I liked my dinner last night. I tell him I did and before he continues on his way, he says remember, sleeves, shoes and jeans