Our Italian neighbour popped round yesterday with some pickle she had made that morning. Over a coffee she told us it was the 12th anniversary of her mother’s death next week and that she would be coming out. Now we were a little unsure we had heard her right whilst visions of a casket in the house or worse still a rather old body sitting at the luncheon table started to spring to mind. Come out we enqired. Yes she said it was time.
Now I should explain at this point that in Italy or certainly here in Puglia death is quite an event. Posters go up around the neighbourhood announcing it and funerals are grand affairs with processions , bands playing and large groups of mourners. At one time groups of wailers were employed to sit near the internment and wail. Luckily that practice has er died out now. Bodies are no longer kept in the ground but put into huge mausoleums in vast park sized areas on the outskirts of every town and village. The grounds are opened two or three times a week and flowers are bought just outside the cemetery . The flower sellers seems very organised and in a closed shop type system hence they move around a given area and the cemeteries open on certain days to allow that.
Brindisi now boasts a crematorium but an article in the local rag last week reported that business was not good and the owners who had hoped to keep the fires burning day and night were bitterly disappointed with the turnout. Only on average 3 a day and on many days only 1. So clearly people still prefer the casket in the wall and space is now at a premium.
So bearing the space issue in mind let’s return to our neighbour’s mother who is coming out this month after twelve years. We had heard her right . Her mother’s casket would be opened and they would see if she was ready to come out. If so, her bones would be cleaned, remaining clothes removed and the bones placed in a much smaller casket and taken to another area for reburial in another smaller cavity within a different mausoleum. This frees up the space for a new arrival. Rosa tells me that you buy a package before you die that includes the cost of the 12 years in the hole in the wall and then the space for the smaller clean bone casket for time immemorial ( or certainly until the council believe there are no more relatives around ). If your package doesn’t include the small casket then your bones are placed in a communal hole in the ground near the cemetery and that is that. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t buy a package at all.
Only one member of the family is allowed to be present for this event as space is tight in the bone cleaning area. Amazingly it seems it is de rigueur for a family member to attend this event and the single ticket means there are plenty of family arguments about the attendee. Rosa will be charged €470 for this cleaning as this is not part of the funeral package. Apparently this used to happen after 10years but for some reason the bodies no longer rot as fast and so twelve is the new norm though often they will open it up and declare the body still not ready and put it back for another year or so.
It puts a whole new meaning on what my mother used to say about putting on clean underwear everyday in case you were knocked down by a bus and were taken to hospital. Here in Puglia it seems your underwear has to last 12 years. Rosa told us that she went to her father’s bone cleaning three years ago and how amazed the cleaners were that his shoes had lasted so well. He bought them in Belgium she said and they were made from very good leather.
Seems the Irish are big on funerals too
Okay enough of bones and on to the Giro d’Italia cycling race that is taking place over the next couple of weeks. The London Olympics have a lot to answer for in terms of my enjoyment of sporting events as I now have an interest in all kinds of strange sports like archery and small bore pistol shooting but mostly cycling after the efforts of the now knighted Bradley Wiggins or “Wiggo” as we cyclistas like to call him. Cycling terminology now drops off my tongue like off side rules in football and the correct positioning of a silly mid on in cricket. And this great event is almost going past my front door on Thursday (okay an exaggeration but close by).
This is stage 6 on Bike Radar next Thursday, you even have a video of the stage.
I am hoping that this humble scribe will be on the route somewhere to watch them go by.