Monday, April 4, 2011

Il bello e il brutto di Sicilia

Strolling my bambino along the marina, I reflect that the view encapsulates much of what is bello and brutto of living here: colourful fishing boats bringing in the fresh catch, the Nebrodi mountains and Mount Etna still snow-capped against the blue April sky; we are in short sleeves already, while Spring has hardly registered a change of temperature elsewhere in Europe. But looking past the fishing boats, there is a huge oil tanker in front of the sprawling funnels and smoking chimneys of the oil refinery and the electrical plant – and one is reminded of the pollution. Mio marito remembers clothes on the line covered in ash when he was little. His mother remembers how beautiful Milazzo was before the oil refinery was built in the 60s; the centre was free of the ugly high rise apartment blocks in dirty green and mustard purpose built to house the employees of the new refinery, and so the old 17th century buildings had much more visibility and majesty.

But the fact is that Milazzo is one of the most polluted towns in Italy, according to a recent survey, along with Gela and other refinery towns in Sicily. The people who chose to locate the refinery will have known well that they were putting an end to the nascent tourism in the 60s when Milazzese were just beginning to enjoy the lidos along the coast that now look on to the refinery. The survey places it in the top 40 most polluted towns according to deaths by lung disease and cancers … Great.

We were visited by the polizia di finanza on Friday night. At midnight, just as things are kicking off. It’s always bad news when you see any polizia coming, especially the Finance Police: you know you are in for a fine, and the aim is to stay calm and courteous so as to have the fine fall in the lowest bracket possible. Even if you have everything in order, they will invent something. Which, of course, these two did. ‘A girl outside got her drink here but didn’t have the scontrino,’ their threatening opener. My husband assures them we always give the receipt – the infamous scontrino – as it is the only way we know people have paid. The barman won’t serve drinks unless the customer hands over the scontrino. The polizia harped on about this for a while and then changed tack. ‘Is your cash register new? Let’s see its documents.’ So at midnight on a Friday night, our best time for business, my husband has ot go to the backroom and get out the papers for the till. All present and correct – except one. ‘Did you get it serviced last year? Every year it has to be serviced.’ Aha, now they have got us. We didn’t know about this. Every year, like your car, the till has to be serviced to make sure it works correctly and stores all your transactions so you can pay up all your taxes to the Italian state. Nice one fore the police. But they put the on-the-spot fine in the lowest bracket – could be anything from €250 to €2000, we won’t know until the official fine comes through in the post. ‘We got off lightly,’ says my husband. Lightly? This country RUNS on fines. There is no such thing as giving you a warning and a week to get things sorted. No such thing as an efficient accountant who should advice of such things .. I cannot believe our accountant didn’t tell us of such a simple thing, so easy to avoid. Why are we even paying him? But of course, he couldn’t be expected to think of everything. Not in this laid back land. My husband isn’t even that bothered. Don’t blame the accountant, he says. If they hadn’t picked us up on that, they would have kept on about the scontrino, or found another reason to fine us. They were actually quite polite, he says. He told them they were creating difficulty for him, showing up at the busiest moment of the week. They said they were doing their job, and he said so was he, and invited them to come on a week night! They then admitted that they had been SENT. Sent! That means they got a tip off, from someone who wanted to get us in trouble. ‘We wouldn’t have come otherwise,’ they said. Probably some other bar, jealous of our popular weekends. It is true – everyone says we are the bar that is most consistently busy. Only at weekends, and the bar does much better than the restaurant, though things are picking up there too, as if we are finally getting some recognition.

Now the accountant says the supplier should have reminded us to get it serviced. And the supplier says the till should have reminded us with an automatic warning. But it didn’t. Perhaps because he didn’t programme it to do so? My husband engages in lengthy, wordy discussions with these various accomplices to our omission. The supplier says if we pay €50 immediately we will avoid having to pay the fine. Our accountant should have told us this, he says. With all these random figures floating about, and buck-passing … I just wonder is there anyone capable of doing their job properly in this country?

No comments:

Post a Comment