We have the best neighbours. On this, Scott, Holly (our little lurcher) and I are agreed. Bella is not so sure, but more of this later.
Our neighbours have welcomed us into their village with open arms, and innumerable gestures of kindness. We have been welcomed with gifts of freshly cut salad vegetables, with freshly laid eggs and with freshly poured wine in the afternoon. We have been told that it is wonderful to see a young couple bringing the farm back to life. When chatting outside with slightly damp hair, I have been forced to stand in the baking sun, to save me from the horror that is the colpa d’aria. Holly is patted and fussed over, and told how clever and beautiful she is.
Bella is not so sure about all of this. She is highly suspicious of these people, as they have a propensity for making noise. Bella hates noise, particularly explosions, and thunder. So she was unimpressed at being woken up at seven last Saturday morning by a cannon being fired not once, not twice, but three times. And she hates fireworks. So the twenty minute display that evening left her doubting that she could ever enjoy life on our hill. She didn’t care when we explained that the occasion of “one month and one week after the village’s patron saint day” needed to be celebrated in this manner. And amazingly, every single day that we have spent on our hill so far has concluded with either fireworks or a thunderstorm; poor Bella. Luckily, Bella loves escaping from the garden, and hanging out with her doggy neighbours, so I’m sure that she will adjust in time.
My favourite example of the kindness of our wonderful neighbours comes with the tale of our broken down tractor. Of course, we were probably the only people in the village who didn’t know that the ancient Fiat crawler had a dirty fuel pump, or possibly a dirty bomb. Whilst these two problems may sound entirely different in English, it is worthy of note that whatever the problem was, it made Indispensable Neighbour very agitated indeed, and the words are actually fairly similar in Italian: pompa and bomba respectively. In any case, what was clear was that The Beast, as it is now known, had not been serviced for many years, and was in desperate need of attention. Had the tractor not broken down at the bottom of our hill, around a kilometre from the house, we wouldn’t have met my new best friend, the mecanico. Having spent several hours of our lives alone, and with neighbours, marching up and down our hill with diesel, batteries and other assorted broken tractor remedies, eventually, defeat was admitted, and the trusty mechanic was summoned. Mechanics don’t walk down and up hills, but ours owns an old, green, two wheel drive fiat panda, with its exhaust dangling beneath it, so he, Scott, and Indispensable Neighbour set off down the dirt track to the bottom of our hill, in order to investigate the fault. Some time later, I heard the sound of a panda being driven at great speed, backwards up our hill. Three hot and dusty, grinning friends emerged, and explained that the tractor did not have a dirty bomb (I think), but it did have a worn out starter motor, and that our new best friend would repair it during the week.
Why does this make our trusty mechanic my new best friend? Because he has horses. Eight of them. And I, dear reader, am a horse addict of many years’ standing. And he invited me to ride his horses with him. In my previous life, in times of stress, I would go the the yard, and look my horses in the eye, and they would look deep into my soul, and tell me that all would be well. And I believed them. And the last couple of months, culminating in the signing of our deed of sale, have been pretty stressful, as you can see:
Before we moved to Italy, I sent my darling pony Charlie home to Yorkshire, where he lived like a lord, looked after by our wonderful Yorkshire neighbours (we also have the best neighbours there). After Charlie’s departure, I suffered from terrible withdrawal symptoms, and just exactly one month ago, he died, peacefully, and loved until the very last by all who knew him. Since then, my withdrawal symptoms have returned tenfold, and so this weekend, I will feed my addiction. I will meet our mechanic’s horses, they will look deep into my soul, and they will tell me that everything will be well.
And I will believe them.