Monday, October 4, 2010

Volcanology conference

We are providing the catering for a volcanology conference this week in the castello. They want breakfast and lunch provided on site everyday, with the occasional aperitivo and evening meal at ours. They checked out a few other local restaurants as regards menus and rates and chose ours. That's nice. We also heard from the Mayor's assessore who dined at ours during the week that the conference organisers had met with the mayor and some of his council to discuss the running of the conference and the catering. Other council members had suggested more established big name restaurants in town, insinuating that we might not be capable. But the assessore told them we would do a great job. So nice to have been chosen over the big names - for that is all they are: restaurants with flamboyant owners who swagger about spouting on about how fantastic they and their dishes are, heaving their convincing pot bellies from one table to the next with a handsome glass of red wine in hand (this tactic clearly works but it's just not our style).

I wonder what is being investigated: Mount Etna to the south, or the Aeolian islands - the closest one, Vulcano is a dormant volcano, could explode any moment. And excursions to the summit of Stromboli (the furthest from Milazzo - 30 km away) were stopped this summer because of larger explosions and a small tsunami on its shores. Two underwater volcanic craters between the islands and Sicily are apparently responsible for the rougher seas this summer too. Interesting ....

It's all about power and connections

The police came by on Saturday night at 2am. The place was packed. It had been a great night, no hassle from the Barcelona mafioso gang who have been trying to get free drinks for the last couple of weekends, just nice people enjoying the DJ music.

Apparently, someone had called to complain about the noise disturbance. This is very strange because you cannot actually hear the music outside Pachamama. Our DJ was playing inside, and the speakers were inside. 'Are you sure the complaint was not about the bar up the road?' asked mio marito, signalling the bar 20 metres up the street - DJ and huge speakers outside on a podium, disco and drunken dancers in full swing on the cobblestones with the Moorish castle as enchanting backdrop to the overplayed House tunes. The policeman was sure the call was for Pachamama. He summonsed mio marito to come down to the police station the following day to see whether a fine would have to be paid. There would be two potential fines amounting to €2000 in total: one for disturbing the peace and one for not having the licence to have music until 2am according to a new law (news to us that we need this licence - another arbitrary Sicilian law).

Just another example of how we are scapegoats; we don't know the right people, we don't have friends in the police. For the rest of the evening our customers sympathised wondering how on earth the police had managed to walk out of our doors and ignore the offensive volume of the street disco not 20 metres from our door in the middle of the residential area. The DJ suggested it might have been a jealous owner of another bar in the vicinity. Or perhaps the caller got the name wrong - few of the elderly neighbours get Pachamama right.

So my poor marito had the ignominious duty to report to the police the following evening. He reiterated the fact that our customers were concerned about the loud outdoor music being allowed to continue in the bar nearby, while our indoor music had to be turned off; he added that having a DJ is not our greatest desire since we are more interested in the restaurant side of things, but with the current economic situation we are obliged to get punters in and make a living, and that all through the summer we have respected the laws and caused no public disturbance. The policeman acknowledge these points but said he had heard that mio marito had behaved badly during the course of the last police visit (we had a little visit a few weeks ago from a plainclothes carabinieri, just a routine check, and mio marito had asked to see his ID - presumably this was the bad behaviour in question). But this policeman went on to say that he could see mio marito was a decent person simply trying to do his job and that there had not been much of a disturbance outside our locale. They didn't go to the neighbouring bar with the disco because they were called out to another case as soon as they left ours ( yeah, right). Woudl this happen anywhere else in the world? They walk out of our civilised Saturday serata and completely ignore the chaotic outdoor disco on their left, whcih surely must be preventing the slumber of numerous residents ...

The meeting with the police goes well, it seems. Mio marito goes on to say that he did his military service in the carabinieri and so it would never be his intention to violate civic laws. 'Well, why didn't you say so?' says the carabinieri. 'You should have told me that on Saturday night: it would have changed everything.' Mio marito said he didn't want to take advantage of the situation of that fact, and it hadn't occured to him that it would have made a difference (something which any other Sicilian would have done straight up). The policeman gets increasingly friendly and assures him that he will do his best to persuade the Tenente not to go ahead with the fine - which in any case would now only amount to €250 or so.

Another story along the lines of power ... connections ... neighbourhood watch in the borgo