We’ve had an odd few days. Stressful, draining, rushed – and now strangely quiet. I sold the Rome apartment last week. We’d had it since 1988. That was a big step: I’m not sure that it has sunk in quite how big.
It was last-minute panic, naturally. Part of me had presumed that the notaio’s long silences meant he wanted to push the whole business back until after his summer holidays. Then his secretary rang asking me to be there two days later to sign. The wonderfully named Jaho Mit Hat (that’s what it says on the side of his truck: in fact we now know that his name is Mit’hat, his surname Jaho – somehow not so much a character out of a children’s book) said he could move our more-or-less packed boxes. Then he said perhaps he couldn’t. This was the day before. Then he could. A mild-mannered Albanian who has been here forever, he did us proud after having thrown us into disarray: before he confirmed I spent hours seeking unnecessary alternatives.
But the boxes were collected, shifted and dumped, all absolutely to plan. Strange: in the Rome flat, they had seemed so many, and so huge – great piles of them in your way every time you turned. But already in Mit’hat’s truck they began to shrink. Now, piled neatly in my office, they barely occupy half the floor space. Granted, the few bits of furniture we have brought (the rest I left to my buyer: I had no place for it here) are cluttering up areas where I value my minimalism. But how very big the rooms are here; how very small our Roman space of 25-plus years was. It took until now for it to dawn on me quite to what extent this is true.
The notaio was young and pariolino and hi-tech; the contract was projected on a wall of his studio, linked to the computer for changes to be made as requested while he read out loud (very fast, as always happens) and the buyer and I clarified. Afterwards, S (the new owner) pointed out his motorino to me on the street below. “When I came to Rome six years ago I bought that, thinking that it was the most expensive thing I’d ever own.” He looked more shell-shocked than I felt.
The aftermath of selling property is a little like that weird limbo following a death: so much paperwork to get through – utilities, insurance, bureaucracy – that there’s no time for thinking things through. I was stunned, at the records office in town, to find that when I changed my official residence to CdP, they automatically had data on my car ownership and driving license altered for me: such unexpected organisation. The rest, though, seemed like an obfuscation contest. Who knows when poor S – who’s Italian is far from fluent (he’s French, and spends much of his time in Afghanistan) – will manage to do all those utility-contract things that only he can do.
And meanwhile, in a sort of extended pathetic fallacy, the rain goes on falling. Driving down the night before signing our Rome home away, it sheeted down on us in great slashing walls (the gauge held 45mm by the time we got back here). The following day, a deceptively blue Roman sky gave way frequently to drenching downpours. All this after our weekend away in Vasto during which a lightning bolt fell metres away from our house, burning out our fridge and our washing machine. My friend R, who comes from the UK for a week each summer, joked that for the first time ever she felt she had bolted to Italy for relief from London’s unbearable summer heat.
On the positive side, the barely-maintained and never irrigated grass around the house – generally the colour and texture of burnt-out savannah by this time of year – really deserves the label ‘lawn’. And my Felicia roses have burst back out into leaf and remarkable spring-like bloom (the other roses are still struggling to get over their dreadful humidity-induced black spot, which has left them stripped and sad).
And we may have a scorching autumn and a splendid Indian summer: I hope so, because it would be sad if the huge green fruit that is dragging down my tomato plants never came to anything. Or if my rather pathetic little bean plants continued small and shrivelled.
I finally took a fork to the blighted potato bed: few (rather nice) tubers and great expanses of stinking, putrefying potatoes which had rotted away in the soggy earth.
Now it’s boars I’m having to deal with. It’s not only lettuces that appeal : they’re very keen on sweet corn too. We returned from our damp Vasto jaunt to find my beautiful cob-laden plants chomped off near the base, and the cobs stripped neatly by enthusiastic diners.
For boar (I presume it was boar) they were remarkably neat: generally boar flatten anything in their path. But these animals appear to have made their way around the unfinished end of the willow hedge (thank goodness, I’m now thinking in a silver-lining kind of way, that I never found the time to extend that hedge further, otherwise they might have trampled that down in their famished haste), beaten a path to the raised bed containing the maize plants, eaten their fill, and left in the same direction, dragging a couple of stalks with them towards their exit but abandoning them just over into Mario’s field. Four stalks were left standing – but not for long: two nights later, they came to finish off the job. They turned their snouts up at the little cavolo nero seedlings that I had planted among the corn, thank goodness: they seem to have escaped mainly unscathed.
Having the grass cut in the bottom field has worsened matters: I’m beginning to think that they’re taking their revenge for our wanton destruction of their grazing land. I planted few cabbage this year (I generally over-do it ludicrously); but they’ve taken great chunks out of two of the six. And they’ve nibbled around among the broccoli too. Beasts.
More scenes from Vasto, including the superb John Grant.