No chimney sweep is just a chimney sweep, my chimney sweep told me when I asked him why on earth he was in the earthquake zone ten days ago when I tried to get him here.
Marco, it turns out, is a fireman, and multifariously talented firemen were in the vanguard of emergency operations when the earth shook so horribly on the Lazio-Marche-Umbria border last month. (My former chimney sweep’s day job was upholsterer: go figure.) Marco’s unit was dispatched to a hamlet called Grisciano. I told him that despite all my obsessive news-following, I hadn’t heard that name mentioned once.
“That’s because only one person died,” he said. And I suspect he was right. None of the buildings remained upright, but there was only one fatality – not nearly enough for blanket news coverage. Of course the fact that Grisciano had a population at last count of just 11 might also have kept it under the radar.
The funny thing about Grisciano, though, is that like the badly shaken Amatrice, there was a great culinary peg for hanging news on. Even this wasn’t sufficient to get it mentioned. The whole world was alerted to the fact that Amatrice was the home of spaghetti (or bucatini, depending on how much stodge you like) all’amatriciana, and restaurants everywhere were urged to donate part of their takings for this dish to earthquake funds. The word spread as far as Australia, where L was asked to pontificate.
Had they not had bigger things to worry about – such as having lost everything – the good people of Grisciano might have been gritting their teeth as Amatrice stepped into the limelight. Local lore says that pasta alla griscia (or gricia) long pre-dated pasta all’amatriciana, being made of the basic non-perishables (dried pork cheek, pecorino cheese) that shepherds carried up to summer pastures with them, without the (later) addition of tomatoes which are a main ingredient of the upstart spaghetti all’amatriciana.
I asked my chimney sweep whether my good opinion of the emergency operation was warranted. Perhaps he’s not the most unbiased person to ask, but he said that they had already rehoused the Grisciano lot (considerably more than 11 minus 1 were directed to that tent facility) before he left, and the tents in Amatrice would all be down very soon. No one who has been left homeless is being moved further away than they want to. Family units are being provided with €200 per person per month to pay for rented accommodation, which will keep any still-habitable hotels in the vicinity full through the low season.
Why did I need a chimney sweep? I’ve now heard two terrifying descriptions from people who have suffered chimney fires – and Marco the fireman confirms: you really, really don’t want one. So I’ve added that to my list of (healthy) obsessions. L thinks I’m crazy. So I wait for one of his autumn absences and have them surreptitiously swept. That way I feel secure, L can pretend that he doesn’t know, and everyone’s happy.
There’s a garden across the other side of Lake Trasimeno where I’ve been working for ages, but not a huge amount has been done because the water supply goes from scarce to non-existant. I took a water diviner there long ago. (Oh my, was it three years ago? Really? I would have said summer 2015 or 2014 at the very extreme. Sometimes keeping a blog can bring distressing surprises!) Since when a heavy metal umbrella base has marked the spot where Renato the diviner ordered them to dig.
Much dithering occurred, during which a water tank was installed, rain water was directed there from the roof, a small area of garden was planted by the pool, and permits were – eventually – applied for. Then last Friday the well-digger arrived with his digging equipment.
He called before he even got there. “I’m sure the geologo said we had to dig somewhere different,” he said.
Where? I wondered. I thought we had agreed that Renato’s spot was the place.
It’s too close to the septic outlet, the well digger said. No, I argued, we’d measured and debated and decided that it was fine. What’s more, we have permission from the town council to dig in that precise spot and no other.
The well-digger was adamant, however. The place was wrong.
So I called the geologo.
“He wants to dig it up near the driveway, doesn’t he?” the geologo asked wearily.
How did he know?
“It’s been raining. He doesn’t want to get his feet muddy. Of course he wants to dig it right next to the road. Just tell him to do as he’s told.”
I don’t usually feel naïve about the machinations of workmen but of course, this was the only logical explanation.
All settled? Of course not. Late Friday afternoon, the well-digger calls again.
“So where is it that I have to dig exactly?”
Where the umbrella base has been sitting for the past three years, just below the pool.
“There is no umbrella base. There’s no marker at all.”
I know for sure that the marker was there a month or so ago when I last dropped by. Samuele the gardener checked on Saturday and confirmed: it’s not there now. I’ll probably never know whether the well-digger removed it himself in a desperate bid to bore in his preferred spot, or whether it was the sunbathing offspring of the owners who shifted the heavy metal base when they needed a bit of umbrella-shade in the summer heat. For whatever reason, a Sunday morning jaunt with the water diviner was the only way to keep the well-digger from thinking up more reasons to procrastinate.
I’m so absurdly, ludicrously easy to please in my projects that sometimes I can’t quite fathom why people don’t simply intersperse major setbacks with minor bits of forwards-moving just to placate me and stop me being the client from hell.
After weeks of gloom as my builder in town made – then laboriously filled in – holes which hadn’t been there in the first place, we’re finally (triumphantly) going up. There are vestigial walls in places where new walls should be. The joy the other day when I walked up the brand new staircase from ground to first floor for the first time was immense.