Monday, February 21, 2011

two local scandals

When I arrive back at Christmas there were a couple of local scandals. One was that two English teachers from the language school had been harassed by five locals on a Saturday night. They followed the two girls right up to the door of their house and then tried to get in the gate. One of them hit one of the girls and she fell to the ground in the confusion. The good thing is that the police caught them straight away. Though the girls say that in the police station the guys were making threats to them the whole time. Result? The two girls left for England the next day. No hanging around. They had only been here two months. In an interview in a local paper one of their students, a man in his mid twenties, said he wasn’t surprised they left, but that it was a terrible impression to give them of Sicily. He said he sees the English girls arrive every year to teach but that few of them ever stay longer than a year because there are no tourist amenities here. Bad infrastructure (for example, the infrequent shuttle bus connecting the train station to the centre stops in the early evening and there are no taxis so if your train arrives late at night you are stuck …). Plus travel in Sicily is not easy if you don’t have a car. Infrequent and long bus and train journeys would discourage even the hardiest of travellers. Piles of stinking refuse every 100 metres. The odd rat. No entertainment – little decent live music, no real cinema (there is only one cinema with one screen dating from the 50s and it hasn’t been renovated – the ugliest and most uncomfortable I have ever been in). Add to this the unwanted attentions or intentions of the locals … the sun and sea (usually polluted in summer) just aren’t enough, and by the time it is hot enough to swim the English teachers have gone home for the summer anyway. The student said that the locals aren’t used to the openness ‘modi expansivi’ that the English girls have, in the sense that, at night, in a bar in the UK people mix and chat up or accept being chatted up without it necessarily leading anywhere. Most people can read the signs of interest or disinterest. The harmless flirting and social interaction that a few drinks will bring about. But here in Sicily, where less drink is consumed, particularly among the females, this openness is not so common and girls will usually stick to their own group of friends. This is true. It is also true that last year there was an English teacher who drank herself comatose and slept with anything that moved, unfortunately garnering herself and all other English teachers a bad reputation. Luckily, I came here already married and haven’t had to deal with any of this, apart from a bit of chatting up at the restaurant which came to a hasty end when they asked how come I was in Milazzo and I pointed to the man behind the bar.

The other scandal was more minor and much closer to home. One of our dodgy neighbours (he looks like he has been on a hunger strike his entire life – white bones walking) showed up outside the restaurant one morning over Christmas when my father-in-law was checking something. His best grey suit was hanging over his bony shoulders like a sack of potatoes. ‘Signore, I am going to the carabinieri,’ he announced, solemnly. ‘Someone has stolen my babbo natale (Santa Claus).’ Oh dear. What was it like, was it expensive? ‘He was an inflatable babbo natale I had on my balcony. This morning I woke up and he was gone.’ Can you imagine the carabinieri taking him seriously? While the whole family fell about laughing as they told me this – of course, it was one of our waiters who played the trick, since he was able to pinch it from our balcony - we wondered was there perhaps a link to this theft and the scratches which had mysteriously appeared on our car. Every day for about a week a new scratch appeared on the car, the kind you get when someone scores their key across it. Give him back his Santa Claus! I said.

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