Today was to be Mola Di Bari fish market but one gets used to having to be flexible here in Puglia. We have about two acres of land laid mainly to fruit trees none of which we eat other than the cherries. However we back on to a woodland area and by June 16th we have to have a fire break between us and the said woodland otherwise we are held responsible should a fire sweep up over us and then burn the woods down. It would probably the least of our worries as also in the fire’s path is 1,000 litres of LPG gas ! This year it is pretty doubtful a fire could start anyway as the rain has started to pour down again today and the outside temperature is now a heady 15C at 2 p.m.
For the past couple of years we have had a guy come and cut the grass and carry it away to feed his 3 donkeys but this year he has run off with another lady leaving his wife and the donkeys behind. It is like a TV soap sometimes around here. So to the bar a few days ago to see if anyone else wanted our grass or could give a hand in cutting it and clearing the area. A fee was agreed but as so often the date was vague for the work to begin .
The first year I did this my neighbour had a farmer come to quote me for ploughing the whole area . The farmer marched around the land tutting and sucking theatrically on a pencil every time a new obstacle was found and given we have 140 trees you can imagine the noise as we walked. How much I enquired at the end. He muttered something and my Italian which if you can believe it was worse back then clicked into overdrive. He looked at me as I tried to convert what he had said into English and then into UK pounds. Okay he said and gave me another number before my computer like brain had managed the first one. Again I started desperately to do the sums and again before I finished he threw another number out and was clearly becoming quite agitated. I then realised that we were going down in price. My poor Italian and lack of maths was, he thought, me being a tough negotiator. The final number was, even I mangaged to understand, the take it or leave it price and he turned to walk away. Al posto ( okay) I said quickly as he got into his car. The deal was done and quite by chance I had beaten him down €60.
This morning out of the blue the man from the bar turned up and started to strim. I grabbed my trusty strimmer and went out there to give a helping hand.
He looked at me and then at my strimmer and then laughed and I had a Crocodile Dundee moment
only he was Dundee. Size it seems matters and he politely told me I was wasting my time trying to do anything with my little weapon . It will take you 4 weeks to do what I will do in a morning he said and the speed with which he was eating up the grass I believed him. He strimmed past me in a haze of grass cutting and I felt like the guy on the beach having sand kicked in his face.
I need a bigger strimmer I told my wife who was laughing from the veranda. I’ve been telling you that for years she said and I think she was still talking about the strimmer.
Before I was dismissed from joint strimming duties I had for some reason thought of dueling pianos as we strimmed together. The last time I had been in a bar with dueling pianos (I know I think of strange things when strimming). It was Pat o’brien’s bar in New Orleans the year before Hurricane Katrina hit. However there was the threat that time of a big storm which was heading up the Gulf of Mexico . It seemed, therefore, a sound idea to drink hurricane cocktails. As a result my time in Pat o’Briens was mainly a blur though I remember requesting lots of tunes as the cocktails slipped down. Slumped in my aircraft seat the next day returning to L.A. I asked my work companion what was in those drinks and why had she stuck to beer.
I wished I hadn’t asked .