So, it’s Feragosto and the village has gone wild. Normally, the place where I live is inhabited by about 20 other people, all over 80. In the winter I can be woken up in bed by a pear falling from the tree outside my window. I know what time Slow Man will be driving his wife up the hill from the station and what time my next door neighbour will be driving home much too fast in her little red car. I can tell the time by the creak of the old lady opposite’s shutters and, well, you get the picture. It’s quiet up here – 6km up a one track road from the nearest town.
But on August 15th the whole place goes nuts. Cars are parked up and down the streets and tracks, children scoot round the blind corner and hobble back up screaming (this, admittedly, is mainly my son) and dogs fight (this, admittedly, is mainly my dog and Tito, in a lifelong competition for the position of village top dog). Someone has put bunting on our fence and asked us to light candles in our chapel. There is a procession, a church service, ballroom dancing, bingo and karaoke in the square until 2am two nights running. The compere’s mike is turned up to a billion, as is the accordion. One year the speakers blew the electricity for the whole village and people were wandering around holding candles in extremely idyllic manner. The stars were incredible.
Anyway, it was Santa Maria yesterday, which, apparently, is like April Fool’s day. We found this out when we tracked our old Vespa down to the piazza – someone had hilariously stolen it. This did mean, however, that I was forced to GO to the piazza, something I avoid in August because of the danger of meeting the people from the fiery abyss of hell. The WORST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. English, of course.
My son used to be friends with their daughter. The children were in and out of each other’s houses all the time and I would feed their daughter if she was here, they would feed my son if he was there. For years I have been wracking my brains for an explanation as to their revolting behaviour. Might my son have been annoying? Most definitely. Everyone in the world is pretty annoying in large doses and perhaps children can be even more demanding than adults. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s true, but perhaps they are less aware of outstaying their welcome? Nope. Adults are just as bad.
So, last year my son came home in tears. ‘They’re having a barbecue and they asked me to leave,’ he said. Another boy in the village, a good friend of my son’s, was celebrating his birthday and Hell Couple were holding a lunch for him. My daughter had made a lavish cake and both my children were looking forward to the whole thing. I have been made very aware over the years of how much Hell Couple like me (that distinct English chill that cuts through you with a wincing smile – though I’m sure this part is somehow my fault), so I wouldn’t have dreamt of going myself and, indeed, I was extremely not invited.
When my son broke the news I genuinely thought he must be mistaken. Who on earth would send a child home from a barbecue instead of giving him a sausage? Nobody of any nationality on earth other than English, that’s for sure. I said he’d misunderstood – of course he wasn’t being sent home from his friend’s birthday party. I took him back, still upset, with my arm round his shoulders. We would clear it up, no problem.
But, no. There they stood, grotesque in the heat, lipstick leaking into the creases around Hell Woman’s mouth, her hideous earrings bobbing over her vast, burnt shoulders. Hell Man stood slightly sheepishly in the background. Then Hell Woman proceeded to hiss that my son was very welcome to come back later that afternoon for the cake that my family had, in fact, provided. No spare sausage for someone who had been a close friend of their daughter for nearly ten years. They really were sending a child home from a summer barbecue.
Now even the sight of their car sends a shiver of death down my spine. Their daughter no longer comes round to play and I have, of course, told my son never to go near their house again if he wants to avoid their cruelty. When they have friends (no, really – they do seem to have one or two) to stay they tell them not to let their children play with my son either. One boy was told that my son was too old to be his friend, though friend he had become and, happily remains (on the neutral turf of the square).
So, my point here is that not only do English people wear the most appalling clothes when they go on holiday somewhere vaguely sunny (canvas hats, big floppy hats, weird shorts, Velcro sandals and hideous girlish dresses bought at Laura Ashley in the 80s) but they are also MEAN. Just really, really MEAN, inhospitable, revolting and just unkind in a mealy-mouthed, small, pathetic and repellent way.
Okay. Rant over. Back to the hammock.