Today I have blogged for exactly 6 months posting everyday. Round of applause please. It must be a time for reflection and contemplation as my vicar at school would have said.
I have tried to put down what life is like here in Puglia and most especially how living with Italians is so different in many ways to other places we have been. I hope I have shown their foibles , their different way of looking at life and what a great people, especially down here, they are to have as neighbours and friends.
I was further inspired by Eric Newby and his book a Small House in Italy realising firstly that the Italy he was describing in Tuscany in 1968 was quite similar to the Puglia we live in today apart from food and property prices and of course the fact that basic labour which was so cheap in his day, has gone through the roof. He intimates that he left Italy because the TV took over conversation at meal times, costs went up and the huge growth in summer homes for the rich of Turin took over his area and changed it forever. I am certainly surprised that the TV , 40 years on almost, still has such a dominant presence in most homes and restaurants.
Puglia will also change indeed it is already changing as we live here and so to get something on paper, as it were, seems important. I fondly imagine grand children 40 years on, if we have them, sitting on the veranda here reading these scribbles and comparing it to the “new” Puglia. My local bar will be a new Hilton motel and people will pay to get in to see the centro storico in Martina Franca where Disneyland characters will act out life as it was.
We lived in Porto, Portugal from 1979 to 1982 and had a house on the coast near the fishing village of Aguda. On the edge of town was a communal washing tank where local women would do the weekly wash outside in the elements talking loudly and laughing while they worked. Each evening fishermen in long rowing boats would put out to sea from the beach into the large Atlantic rollers to catch sardines, sole etc. In the morning they would come back and lay their catch out to be auctioned, repair their nets, sleep for a few hours and then put out to sea again. Some mornings a boat or a man from a boat would not come back and women in black would cry on the quayside. Our local restaurant Zizi was a real fish restaurant and in the evening you ate what the guys had bought back that morning.
When we went back in 2005 Aguda had an harbour ( EU money) the fishermen’s houses are all holiday homes for rich Portuguese and foreigners and there was a large museum that shows the Aguda we just took for granted. They show the boats, list the dead and marvel at the job they did. Did I take a single photo in 1979, write a single word about it? Not a thing !
Christian Morgenstern the German poet wrote ” home is not where you live but where they understand you”. Hmm I thought when I read it well it can’t be Italy I said to Geraldine because almost nobody understands my Italian. She gave me one of those looks that she reserves for me when I’m stupid so I’m very used to the look. That’s not what he meant, she said, when he said ‘understand’ he meant that you fit in, that the people and you are the same in the things you enjoy and value. It is where you are amongst familiar people and where you are sometimes appreciated but always tolerated. Ah, said I, well that’s okay, clearly I am home then because living here ticks all the boxes he meant. Thank god the kids got her brains.