As I mentioned yesterday last night we attended a big party in the country outside of Villa Castelli. It wasn’t of course a party to celebrate my brief career in the teaching profession but rather to celebrate Rocco’s son’s baptism. Rocco is one of the barbers that I have been teaching. We arranged to meet Franco the other barber by his shop and he would lead us there. By design we were early and able to pop into one of my local bars .
After a brief respite of one day the thunderstorms had returned and Villa Castelli had had a cloudburst during the afternoon. indeed as we left our house it looked like the event might have to be cancelled. I managed to park in a huge puddle and stepped out into it, a good start to the evening
When we arrived the place was already jumping. Italians really go to town on these events, disco, loads of lights and tons of food.
So to the vexed question of kissing. My rule of thumb is that men kiss men and women kiss women then men handshake women. there are exceptions women I know will kiss me on my birthday, name day and Christmas and I them on theirs. Young girls under 15 will often kiss you as they have never seen such a relic and take pity on you and older women will kiss you too. When you reach my age you are delighted to find someone older and so be like me and enjoy it. But as a woman best not to be too gushing with kisses. I was in a bar not so long ago and outside a foreign woman was running around kissing the men she had perhaps nodded to on her first visit. One of the guys ran in and said in Italian to the card players “quick outside there are free kisses going” not really something you want. But when do men kiss men. well another rule of thumb is on the special days and when you haven’t seen them for a while. How long is a while who knows. I think we have all been around the block enough to know when someone is intent on kissing you and so be reactive not proactive and go with the flow, but if you aren’t sure especially with a women put out your hand and often watch the look of relief flood their face.
The disco was soon in full swing. The tune of the moment is this one which the Italian youth sing at the tops of their voices having no idea of the meaning nor that some of the words are dodgy. Here’s the Muppet version and the cat drowns out the end of the first verse !
The guy running the disco came over during a break and in an Italian drawling American accent said hi. A local Villa Castelli lad he learnt his English at his uncle’s Italian restaurant in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. He then move to a friend’s Italian restaurant in Queens New York to perfect the accent ! I used to work in Queens where British Airways then had their head office USA ( don’t ask, it’s known as cost saving). I used an Italian place for sales lunches with travel agents brave enough to venture out there and one day running late I triple parked the car outside leaving the keys in the ignition and ran in. Nowhere to park I said to the maitre di . No worries he said in a Sopranos type accent leave it there. Won’t it get stolen I asked. No cars get stolen here you crazy limey he said unless the guy at the big table there wants them stolen, caspisci? From then on I parked outside and left the keys in.
Anyway this DJ lad told me that a couple of months ago he was walking in a back area of Villa Castelli when he saw two women clearly distressed standing by their car arguing. He went over and realised they were American. Now let me say Villa Castelli is not on any tourist map nor should it be and there certainly is nothing there to attract American visitors. He went over and they handed him a handwritten piece of paper that said in Italian ‘help we are lost please direct us to the Hotel Rosa, Martina’ ! He said with his best American drawl “ladies your luck just changed I come from New York”. No exaggeration he said the women both burst into tears. It seems they had gone wrong trying to get back to Martina Franca in the hire car and had been driving around trying to get directions for 2 hours. Not a soul could speak English and they understood not a word of Italian all they had was the piece of paper they had the receptionist write that morning.
Towards the end of the party I was introduced to another Italian custom, toasting. The toast master needs, it seems, to be somebody with a good memory for names and a quick ability to think of something funny as a one liner . Glasses are charged ( male) and Franco who is the Villa Castelli recognised champion toastmaster shouts a name and a one liner and then amidst loud laughter everyone drinks a slug. Then he moves on. Mine was ” A toast to Mike the cheapest teacher in town ” I do the lessons for free. On the table is a 3 bottle size monster flagon of whiskey which we work our way through as the toasts get wilder and slightly more slurred. Great fun till this morning I have to say.