With some fresh pasta dough resting by my side and an onion ragu sizzling in the background, the time seems ripe to muse lyrical on some of the perfections that everyday life has presented here.
I don’t know what it is exactly about Italy that ignites this kind of passion – to be moved to even write the word – though I sometimes think it is something just as simple as the sun. It currently radiates through the large open dooorway, and sitting here for a second, I am flooded with memories of the many lunches and moments I have been lucky to experience under this embrace.
The life of the private tutor, while testing the patience intermittently, is never tough, and its finest gift is no doubt the leisurely mornings and lunch hours, which I have spent chatting about groceries in the market or with the grocer (who would have thought), and then preparing and enjoying them (immensely). I take the meals outside the front door in the courtyard, and eat while engaging the 95 year old Puglian nonna in some niceties (she neither understands my accent, nor I her dialect) or Luigi the schizophrenic who is probably showing me the spoils from his latest garbage-pilfering run.
Those two may turn to shout at each other (there was once a feud I hear), yet surrounded by two canals, there is a great peace to the courtyard too. It fills only with the racket of chatter, the calling of birds, or the whipping of clothes about to be hung from the balconies, and beyond the ears, subjects you also to the wonderful myriad of culinary smells that only a settlement of Italians could produce. Giuseppe next door may procrastinate from his studies by coming out to chat to me now and again, and I am ever-pleased of the Napolitan’s approval of whatever I have made myself to eat. After lunch I will fill the caffetiere, waiting for its gargling call, and the coffee aroma temporarily rubs out the others, perforating through the sunglight, as Giuseppe and I bathe and commit ourselves to the national pastime, one moment discussing how beautiful something is, before complaining about something else.
The evening’s warmth is then boundless, and is filled out by people. In my area, all Morrocan drug dealers, but round the corner the glitzier side and posing Milanese can be found at play too. The drug dealing part has its own call however (beyond the obvious you rascal), and I find nothing more pleasing on a summer eve than to stand near our more neglected canal, away from the flouncy prancers, to share cheap cold beers and do nothing but talk, and stand energised by the flow of the crowds and water, and the heat of the air.
Though as the clouds form now and asudden honesty rears its ugly head, I am starting to think how it is not just passion that has moved me to pen this idyllic description. I can’t help but feel somewhere that what I am saying pongs faintly of desperation, and that this all is nothing but a lunging clasp at validation in the face of leaving Italy soon for life again in London (yes, quite a turn around in tone). Without realising it, I think I have scoffed a little at the lives of others while here, those slugging away in London or elsewhere, in corporate affairs, or hard work in a new trendy industry, as I remained unattached and unaffected, happy to safely criticise from a distance. Yet now the moment to join them is here, and the natural reaction is unfortunately to be robbed of this sense of cunning and intelligence, and rug swept from underfoot, backside planted firmly on the floor, I now find myself looking up at everyone else who has actually spent these years making something of themselves (so that’s what all that hard-work was about!).
And I’ve now created myself a predicament in trying to finish this post, as what started as an impassioned portrayal of the present, is ending by asking me to justify four years of my life in the face of potential career failure. If you will excuse me with not dealing with that completely, I hope you can just understand my bringing up of these feelings as an attempt to maintain an honesty to these words, and allow the complete picture and all its sides to be presented and… umm…
Damn, can I just go back to the bit about Giuseppe and the coffee and the sunshine?