Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Sad Week

Last Saturday evening our wonderful, octogenarian neighbour passed away. We understand that she had been suffering from cancer for a few years and although she had gone down a few times over the last four years that we have known her, she had always bounced back, until last week.

About a couple of months ago she was on the roof of her house dealing with a chimney fire (along with her sons). She told us later that the fire engines had to come from Macerata which is about 40 minutes away, so what else could she have done? Only last month she was at the top of her albero di fichi (fig tree), sawing off limbs deemed to be pruned. I remember last November when we were harvesting our Olives – at the correct time of course as directed by our neighbour – she was up one of her trees and I was up one of ours and we were having our usual stilted exchange of Italian from the canopy of the Olive trees. Brilliant.

She really was a fabulous person – it’s quite hard writing about her in the past tense. She was so welcoming to her new Inglese vicini (English neighbours). We shall so miss her deep brown harsh voice bellowing at the cats to get off her vegetables, or shouting at her sons to do something or other or just engaged in normal, i.e. shouting, Italian conversation with visitors or neighbours.

La D and myself were often tutored by her in the art of the orto (vegetable patch). Pretty much everything from spacing of plants, when to plant and cut, varieties, harvesting, what to eat with what. She even gave us some bamboo poles after she looked at our first, looking back on it, pathetic attempt to stake out our tomato plants. I kept forgetting that we were not growing toms out of Gro-bags in England. Over here the tomatoes need almost Stalinist structures to support their growth, development and ultimate produce.

She would be out tending her garden pretty much every day unless it was bitterly cold or raining. She grew so many vegetables. Frequently she would bellow at us to see if we would like some lettuce or brassica or anything really.

Last summer, a couple of the children who live in our lane would help her in the garden and she would be chatting away to them and showing them how things were done. We don’t believe that she has any grandchildren, but she would have made a great granny.

Often in the warmer weather she would wander down the lane and stop to chat and give us a bit more advice such as “If I was starting again I wouldn’t have planted those there” or “Those canes need to be a bit more straight”. It was all said in very good humour..
Sometimes when she visited, she would have a twinkle in her eyes and produce a few eggs from the pocket of her old wraparound that she wore constantly. She had a great sense of humour and we had been looking forward to knowing more and more of our Italian neighbour.

And then of course there was Bertie. We think it was love at first sight for both of them.. She adored the Bert. Loved rubbing his great soft neck and head while he put his paws on her shoulders and proceeded to wash her face again and again. Bertie was bigger than she was when he stood on his hind legs, by quite a bit.

So, not much more to say really. She lived with her two sons, one of whom, the elder, also has cancer. In fact mother and son were in hospital at the same time recently. We understand that he is very poorly too.

Arrivederci, cara amica.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

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