It’s been a week of Firsts.
Our days are full of new things, but this week has been particularly Firsty …
The first First was “the first time it’s ever rained all over my new floor”. I was about to say “it rained inside my house”, but actually, given that the bathroom ceiling leaks, and that the upstairs windows are not watertight, and that downstairs has no windows at all, rain inside my house is fairly standard. However, we returned from a wonderful lunch out with friends to find an indoor swimming pool where our floor had been, and that WAS a First.
Thankfully, it was dark when we got home (lunch is a serious business here), and, of course, we had no electricity downstairs, so it took quite a lot of mopping before we realised that the new floor was indeed totally under water …
By Tuesday, the house was drying out, so we were able to run away to a Bonfire Night Party, because it was November 5th. We’ve been to many fireworks displays and parties in our lives, we are British, after all. But never have I ever dined outside on November the 5th, without so much as a bobble hat anywhere to be seen, so that was the second First …
Thursday. What with the mopping, and the working, and the partying, and having been A Bit Poorly and all, I was feeling the pace by Thursday night. But Scott and the Merry Band (or perhaps motley crew) of builders had planned una serata sotto le stelle because:
a. it had (briefly) stopped raining;
b. the Electrician had arrived from Abruzzo, with sixty three kebabs given to him by his auntie, which were in urgent need of eating.
So The Builder, Our Friend From America, The Electrician and Scott organised a barbecue. In an ex-cowshed. With the deaf, ex-owner of the ex-cowshed as Guest of Honour. So …
We built a table, and dug out some chairs, and sat next to a Lamborghini tractor. The Builder provided the location, the barbecue, the wine and the generator that powered the lights. The Electrician provided 63 kebabs and the bread. Our Friend From America provided salad, tomatoes and tableware. And we provided whisky.
I don’t know why we provided whisky; we could have brought olio nuovo, or potatoes, or wine, or pudding, but we provided whisky.
Friday dawned, and slowly but surely became Medical Day. Whilst eating arrosticini on Thursday, Scott had been stung by a wasp, or maybe a bee (opinions differed), and by Friday morning his hand was the size of a football. At the morning site meeting it was therefore decided that he should visit a pharmacist for advice. The standard “heated debate” took place about which pharmacist to visit, but in the end we went to Montebuono, because we were going there anyway. From there we were sent to the doctor, and Scott had his First medical appointment in Italy. And while he collected his suitcase full of medications, the pharmacist tried to book me a hospital appointment that I had been prescribed, what with having been A Bit Poorly lately. Having failed to find anything this side of Christmas in Lazio, she sent us to the pharmacy in Calvi in Umbria. Calvi is five miles from our home, but, as its name would suggest, located in Umbria, which is a different health district, and therefore “more organised”, as she tactfully put it. Computers in Italian pharmacies can be used to search out and book hospital appointments, but only in their own health district, apparently. Sadly, despite being “more organised”, Umbrian Pharmacist was also unable to provide me with a medical appointment, but explained that I could book an appointment in the same place where I’d had my last appointment, as long as it was in Lazio. So I booked a medical appointment over the phone in another First.
We spent Saturday trying (and failing) to warm up and dry out the house, and harvesting pomegranates (another First), but Sunday dawned warm and bright. Hallelujah!
Sunday was The Most Important Day of our week, and the day of the final First. Scott’s first Remembrance Day as a veteran.
And what a day it was.
You may remember that back in April, we played a small part in organising a memorial to eight American soldiers, who were executed near here towards the end of the second world war. You can read more about this here: https://olivehillsabina.com/2019/03/24/lest-we-forget-montebuono-12th-april-1944/
I also recorded my thoughts about that extraordinary day here: https://olivehillsabina.com/2019/04/24/commemorations-at-montebuono/
For Scott’s first Remembrance Day as a veteran, we had been invited back to join Montebuono’s Veterans’ Association, who were hosting Ruben Valdez and his wife Chanel. The visit of this delightful American couple was extremely poignant for everybody, as Ruben and his father, also called Ruben, have been in touch with the town for some time. Ruben Snr’s brother, Paul Valdez was one of the eight American soldiers. From their home in Colorado, they were able to watch the April commemoration ceremony via live stream, and subsequently had a conversation with the mayor via Skype. Very Sadly, Ruben Snr died at the beginning of October, but that did not prevent Ruben Jr from visiting the town to pay his respects to the uncle he never had a chance to meet, and to the people of Montebuono.
The village made arrangements for Ruben and Chantel to visit the execution site quietly, early in the morning, with their interpreter, and our friend Giacomo, who took them up the mountain in his four-wheel-drive. Breakfast was provided for all of us in the town hall, and then the village brass band led us in a procession through the narrow streets of the town to the church for mass. The band then led us in a second procession through the town to the war memorial, where every name of every fallen soldier from both world wars was read out. The congregation responded “presente” to each name. The parish priest delivered a beautiful explanation to the flag waving group of young children with us, explaining why they should keep these ancestors of theirs forever “presente” in their hearts, as they had died creating the peaceful Europe in which we all live today. A third and final procession led us to the restaurant, where we spent the next five hours eating lunch.
As I’ve already said, lunch is a serious business in Italy, and this was a serious lunch. We kicked off with an antipasto: bruschetta; cured meats; cheese; olives; beans with lard; chopped liver and, er, tripe. TWO pasta courses: lasagne, then pasta with mushrooms and truffles. A meat dish next: sausages; pancetta; pork steaks, lamb chops accompanied by salad and roast potatoes. Fruit salad was then served to go with this beautiful cake! All washed down with industrial quantities of local wine … no wonder it took us five hours to munch our way through.
I’m sure that one day we will take all of these extraordinary experiences for granted. If, when that happens, you have my permission to shake me.
Because one thing is for certain. Life in Italy will never be dull.
3 thoughts on “The First Time I Ever …”
Couldn’t read the last bit for tears.
My dads best friend is buried in the commonwealth cemetery in Milan.
When i go there I will remember your story and say a little prayer ending in “presente”
Clive, thank you so much for sharing this. These people are indeed “presente”, and it’s so important that they are kept that way.