I am sitting in the afternoon sun on a little balcony approx. 3 ft (1 metre) wide that is attached to the kitchen of our rented house in Ceriana, Liguria. There is just enough space for a tiny round table and two metal/timber chairs. A clothes line is attached to the outside of the railing. Anything falling from this line is not going to be reclaimable, it is going to end up on someone’s roof or in the creek below (we lost one sock!). Vertigo strikes when I hang the washing on the line!
Drinking/eating/diary writing time in the afternoon sun on the balcony is becoming a daily affair. It is so hot I have changed out of my long sleeved t-shirt. The birds are soaring high in the sky, yet they are level with our balcony – that is how high up we are. Even at this height, I can hear the water rushing in the creek below, the people yelling (aka talking) and the frequent barking of dogs. However the barking is distant and not annoying. It is a peaceful scene.
The children play soccer in the square in front of the village church before and after school. It is a crazy, loud, laughter filled game which they play unattended, although I am sure there is a mama watching from a window somewhere, as houses line two sides of the square. Any ball that clears the 4 ft fence either plummets into the valley below or lands on a neighbour’s roof. There is one brightly coloured ball sitting tantalisingly close to the square on a nearby roof. So close, but so irretrievable. I imagine that this is a great incentive to learning good ball skills. No wonder the Italians are so good at soccer!
Afternoon is the time that everyone visits their terraced plot. Husbands and wives together, or separately, watering crops, fixing rock walls on their not very wide pieces of land. One structure seems to house a kitchen with an open area that holds tables and chairs, and a shed for tools. The tables and chairs are packed up and put away when they leave for the day. Another building is a glass-roofed greenhouse where some hens return to roost late in the day. Apes (three wheeled mini trucks) are buzzing to and fro like busy bees. Some people arrive and depart in cars or Apes, others on foot from the village.
A tiny hatch-back sedan pulls up in the road, on the other side of the valley, directly opposite our balcony. He parks on the wrong side of the road, as is the Italian way and proceeds to haul a seemingly never-ending amount of firewood out of the back of the car. It reminds me of a magician’s act. He drops it casually over the top of the guard rail onto his wood pile on the terrace below. Between his firewood terrace and the creek at the bottom I count nine terraces.
He is unhurried, obviously not worried about being parked in the road, on the wrong side, just past a blind bend. Any traffic coming around the bend will immediately be confronted with a car parked in the roadway! In an equally Italian way, cars from both directions drive around him without one blast of a horn or one shaken fist.
We saw another instance of this, where a truck parked in a narrow village road so that the mini bus we were in could not pass. We stopped and soon had a line of cars behind us as well as a line of traffic on the other side as well. Everyone sat patiently gridlocked while Mario was located and then with much backing up and verbalizing by everyone on both sides, the situation was solved, with resigned joviality.
Yet if you were to stop a moment too long at a corner to check for traffic, you would get beeped and yelled at. These are the little insights into the Italian psyche that make me laugh.