Like Gordon Brown the ex British Chancellor of the Exchequer I have and had when working some Golden Rules. Unlike the Presbyterian Mr. Brown most of mine include alcohol as part of them. Never e mail your boss after several drinks however clever you think the missive is. Never make a speech after several drinks. Never make a speech or presentation unless you have rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed what you intend to say. Never send in your resignation letter after a skinful and never agree to do things the next morning after 4 glasses of wine however superb the idea sounds at the time.
It is this last one that I have always had trouble keeping. In fact I am not sure I have ever managed to keep it and so it was that I found myself driving early this morning towards Leporano with an Italian friend. It had seemed so sensible yesterday lunchtime. Let’s go and see Pepe and his wife Tina at their market garden and we can pick some veg and have a beer with him. Fabulous I remember saying and included the whole table in the plan. They would go to the beach at Leporano Marina and we would join them for swims and more beer after a few hours picking..
Of course this morning the phone started to ring very early with people calling off and Geraldine merely turned over in bed and said enjoy yourself you should never have agreed to it.
Leporano is down the coast from Taranto facing the Ionian Sea ( I know like you I know the Ionian Islands are where Corfu is and that is in the Adriatic Sea but there it is ). I was enthusiastic yesterday because the forecast today was for strong northerly winds to blow and therefore the best place to be in the sun would be on the other side of our isthmus. The town itself boasts a large castle and watch tower as well as a coastal annex called a marina. Pepe owns seemingly huge tracts of land down there most of which he runs as a market garden and apart from having a large farm shop he also sells to suppliers around the area as well as restaurants.
This above is just a very small part of the complex. It is set back from the coast and so if there was a wind you couldn’t feel it and apart from the odd wispy cloud the sun beats down on you as you start to pick. We started to pick fagiolini ( string beans) that hide from the sun under low lying bushes of leaves. You bend from the waist and grapple with them.
After half an hour my back ached but at least more cloud had rolled in. Basta (stop) my companion shouted . At last I said so where do we go to meet Pepe for a beer I enquired eagerly. No not yet it’s tomatoes now and we drove to another field
Now tomatoes I have grown before grow up bamboo canes to an easy height for picking. These Italian ones crawl along the ground and so you again stoop to pick. 40 mins later basta . Thank god where’s the bar? No it’s potatoes now Mike and off we went.
First you dig them up then you collect them in large wooden boxes. Back breaking is an understatement. The sun was back out and I could see why Tina and her helpers dress the way they do. These ladies start at 5 a.m. and work till 12.30. They then go home and make a large lunch for their menfolk who drive the trucks that run around the farm picking up the produce they have picked ( oh and the women load the boxes into the trucks). At 5 p.m. they go back into the fields until 7 p.m. when they go home to cook the evening meal while their menfolk hit the bar to play cards. Please see my earlier post to be born an Italian Male !! I bet you didn’t believe me !!
I managed 3 hours and my back was on fire. Finally the basta command that meant we were off to the bar to meet Pepe who had finished collecting potatoes in his truck. We left Tina in her kitchen starting the pasta and went to the bar.
Pepe kindly let me take almost all I picked and Tina said she would have employed me for 20 mins and then fired me ! I think I would have happily gone as well indeed I would have broken another of my Golden rules and had a couple of beers and sent her my resignation letter if she hadn’t.
Some of my spoils
I’ll show you the beach down there tomorrow, I’m going for a long soak in the shower.