Thursday, November 5, 2009

Volcanic tales 28/4/2009

Here in Sicily it's a whole new world. We've been here a almost a month already. All is chaos and we'll never manage to open before the 5th May when we have to start paying the rent. It is all so massive. SOOO much to do. The building is on two floors, the bar to the left as you come in, with the restaurant area upstairs, two terraces out the back, and a sideroom which we rent from the owner of the building next door, as it has a disabled toilet which we must have by law (despite the fact that it is not accessible by wheelchair since the entrance to the building is separated from the pavement by two steps and the comune hasn't bothered to build a ramp - just one of the many contradictions of Sicily).

We have now got the wooden planks to go along the front of the bar, and painted them blue, like the fishermen boats, but we are also repainting doors and old wooden trunks (sent back from Buenos Aires by the returning Sicilian emigrés who owned the building originally - the address is still legible in white paint on the side) to use as benches and everything needs to be sanded down and then painted then sanded again and painted again. After a third coat they can then be varnished and it is soo much work. Getting huge muscles in my arms though!

Plus organising the friends is another thing. My husband's friends try to give us a hand and also the second cook (l'aiuto-cuoco)who is a bit of a handful because he talks non stop in a loud highpitched voice, but organising these Sicilians is a job in itself. They all need regular coffee and cigarrette breaks; you could get three hours work done if you added together all the breaks! The painters haven't been able to come to do the ouside walls and the terraces because of rain and the fierce scirocco wind blowing up from Africa and whirling up dust and sand, so we are behind with that.

It sure takes getting used to. The people are very VOLCANIC; seriously, with all the volcanoes around and being on the faultline, it really influences them - and me. People get irate over nothing, and raise their voices at the merest hint of a challenge. I am having run ins with all sorts of people! Plus, here in the Spanish quarter where we live there are a few bars which put on live music outdoors until 3am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Well, you would think you could just call up the council about the public nuisance etc and the noise wouldn't happen again. I am getting a name for myself no doubt as I ring the carabinieri every time I can't stand it, (my husband doesn't want to ring, afraid they will recognise his voice! but how long will it take them to figure out who the foreign girl in the Spanish quarter is,I wonder?) and they keep saying I need to file a denuncia, but my husband and I have checked out the law and of course you don't need to make a written complaint, the mere fact that they have olympic size speakers outside their doors in a residential area is enough to have them shut down. Don't know how I will cope with that.

In the last two days, there has been a murder on the beach - a duel at dawn so to speak; an ex-cop killed a man he thought was having an affair with his EX-wife from whom he was long separated but since his own affair with a local lady had come to an end, he was suddenly consumed with raging jealously and beat up the ex-wife and hunted down one of her presumed lovers. Then handed himself in to his ex-colleagues who no doubt are building story of mitiagating circumstances and self-defence - the victim was found with a pistol in his hand (Hmmmm suspicious or what). Today I was in the car coming back from the market with the younger sister-in-law(buying rough linen to drape wave-like from the ceiling to the restaurant ... all three marketmen delighted to see us coming, this was our third trip since we had to order in the material, they even offered us coffee today) and we got stuck in a massive queue - why? the traffic warden directing the hectic market-going traffic, was beating up one of the truckdrivers leaving the market! Siclian-style, everyone in the queue was abandoning their cars to get a closer look, no doubt firing on the scuffle! The lorry driver had to be held down and shoved back into his lorry amidst the horn honking of the drivers who had stayed in thir cars. Then chaos as ALL the cars tried to move off at the same time.

Later I was outside the restaurant (taking a break from the varnishing the two old wooden trunks ) and a German tourist came looking for someone who spoke English because he had just been driven into by a driver 'in a bit of a hurry' he put it diplomatically. It was obvious from the position of the cars who was to blame, but the Sicilian, on his side of the insurance report, put down that the German hadn't indicated that he was turning the corner and that he had stopped and slid backwards (he actually asked my how to phrase it in Italian, hilarious!) I had to translate all these lies for the German who smiled calmly and said of course he had indicated. Of course he had. The carabinieri showed up an hour late - three of them, (I had been thinking scornfully about the waste of resources, but I see now that because of the volatile nature of people here, two are needed to deal with the two parties involved in the problem, and one then adjudicates from a distance). Our friend had been helping me deal with the form-filling but beat a retreat when he saw the carabinieri ('I 'ate the polis') and I was left with the hasty driver and the friend he had called up to take photos of the cars, the three carabinieri and the German tourist. It was actually a pleasure to help the German, the most lucid calm and polite person I have come across in the last few weeks. The carabinieri were delighted to find the boring 'incidente' involved a nice foreign girl, and were more than helpful once they had sized up the situation, they couldn't wait to show their knowledge of English (limited to 'excuse me', and 'no problem' and were full of helpful advice on the formfilling.

Lola

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