Saturday, February 19, 2011

Walking with bambino

It is quite an experience to go out with the buggy in this town. Now I am stared at even more than before. First for being foreign. But now I have the fancy three-wheel Phil & Ted stroller, without which I would never be able to leave my house due to the state of the streets here. The street we live on in the borgo antico is cobblestoned, but full of pot holes and all the stone slabs are chipped and broken making the surface extremely uneven. Impossible for the regular buggy to travel. So we brought the Phil & Ted over from Ireland. Meno male. I have joined the other strolling parents who walk their babies down along the marina. On Sundays it is a whole social event. Some families coming from mass, another social event in Italy, others just out for the passeggiata before stuffing their faces with the family, all don their Sunday best and strut their stuff down by the yachts and fishermen’s boats, since it is the only street wide enough to walk in twos, and smooth enough to enjoy with a buggy. I prefer to do it during the week as I have the whole pavement to myself, apart from a few fat fishermen who all stare at the straniera when we go by. Now and again mio marito joins me just so they know I am not a lonely single mother – I am the only person strolling alone. Sicilians would find no pleasure in walking alone.

But to get to this point there is an entire obstacle course to negotiate. Many crossing points on pavements will not have the gradual slant to wheel down the buggy so you have to jolt it down from the unusually high pavement. More often than not, the zebra crossing will have a car parked on it, on both sides making it difficult to get out – high pavement – and on coming traffic can’t see you. Though it is not customary to stop at zebra crossings anyway in Italy. This week I had to stand on the zebra crossing in the middle of the road while the man parked on it, blocking my access to the pavement, got into gear – while on his mobile phone - and drove off. There was quite a queue of traffic waiting for me to cross. Also this week I opened the door of my house to find a car parked right outside my gate completely blocking my way out! We had to lift the stroller over the bonnet of the car. Just as well mio marito was around. I wrote in red lipstick across the windscreen, ‘Thanks for parking here. I can’t get past with my buggy.’ I keep that red lipstick in my bag now, and on courageous days I think I just might leave such notes on cars blocking my way. Sounds OTT? Imagine how frustrating if five times in as many minutes you can’t cross at a zebra crossing and have to take your life in your hands and your baby’s and edge out on to oncoming traffic. Imagine that you can’t cross the road at another point because the cars are so tightly parked on either side of the road that there is no space to get your buggy through. So you end up walking on the road until you can get on to the pavement. Then you need to watch out for the dogpooh, or the huge lamp post placed inconveniently right in the middle of the pavement leaving you without enough space to pass on either side of it. So you need to go on to the road. But the cars are so tightly parked that you can’t get out on to the road. SO you need to backtrack. Or indeed, there is a car parked up on the pavement. Same problem, cars are parked so tightly around it that you can’t find a space to get out on the road. Very frustrating.

Add to this the mountains of rubbish growing at every overflowing smelly skip ... another mafia problem which the new council will apparently do away with .. I'll believe it when I see it. It is so disgusting and redolent of developing world coutnries ... We are talking about every 100metres having to pass rubbish heaps the size of a house. Think of the rats. On my first walk with mio bambino in the sling to the piazza a stone's throw from our house what did we see jumping into the wall? a rat. Despite the fact that the rat buster lives roud the corner from us with his Ratidion van proclaiming its disinfesting powers right outside. Not working. Familiar eh...

But by the same token, people will hold open doors for us, reverse their cars to let us pass at a regular crossing, and just smile as we approach. That's nice.

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