Sunday, January 14, 2007

Getting around on the slopes

I've decided to invest in a new vehicle: a little red four-wheel-drive thing that will make it easy for me to scamper around on the mountain slopes and shuffle through the narrow cobblestone streets of picturesque villages. And when I turn up in this hot rod at local Saturday dance evenings, girls are going to get knocked off their feet, maybe literally.

No, those are mere dream words. In reality, the local firemen came around to check out the neighborhood, to determine whether they would be able to maneuver their vehicle comfortably if they happened to be called here for a fire. It took them no more than five minutes to realize that, not only would they not be able to maneuver their huge firetruck in any way whatsoever in the vicinity of my place (because the roads are too narrow, steep and twisty), but they wouldn't even be able to approach the residences of neighbors further up the road, because the bitumen stops about fifty meters beyond my place, and is replaced by a dirt track full of potholes. So, the firepersons (there was a female in the group) left their truck at my place and went off in their small red van to inspect the two properties further up the track.

I don't think I'm being over-optimistic in affirming that the fire danger at my place is minimal, since my ancient house is henceforth composed of little more than stones, bound together by two (invisible) gigantic slabs of reinforced concrete that stretch from one end of the house to the other, at two levels. One of the architects working on the restoration of the house, a dozen years ago, said jokingly: "William, in years to come, archaeologists are going to be truly mystified when they come upon the ruins of your house. There'll be a heap of crumbling old stones of the kind used by peasants to build their mountain cabins back in the Napoleonic era. And, in the middle of all this dusty building material, there'll be two splendid slabs of 20th-century reinforced concrete, with hardly a chip in them. The archaeologists are likely to wonder if the slabs were maybe transported here by aliens, to set up a landing platform for their spaceships..." [One of the reasons I'm writing this blog, as you might have guessed, is to lend a hand to these future archaeologists, by leaving electronic explanations of the original situation at Gamone.]

For the moment, I'm a little disturbed by a theoretically embarrassing situation that's likely to arise soon. You see, my neighbor further up the track is selling his property, and potential buyers will soon be coming up here, no doubt, to take a look at the place. For their initial visit, they'll be accompanied by the real-estate agent, who's likely to dissuade his clients from talking to Gamone neighbors. But people who are truly interested in the property for sale will inevitably come back here on their own and ask me for low-down information about the local situation. [If not, they would be idiots.] And that puts me in a delicate situation. On the one hand, I could tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is: (1) dirt track with potholes and no immediate municipal plans to lay down macadam; (2) present impossibility of fire service; and (3) impossibility of driving up to the house after heavy winter snowfalls. On the other hand, I could refrain from providing potential customers with negative facts of this kind, in which case they might have reasons to hate me later on, when a sick or injured person can't receive the visit of a doctor in winter, or when a fire breaks out.

Happily, there's a way out: a convenient personal technique for avoiding this kind of dilemma. Faced with questions that I don't really want to answer, I simply apply my skills as a storyteller and start rambling on non-stop about the beauties and hardships of this splendid region back in the 14th century, when monks were creating vineyards on the rocky slopes. A lot of what I have to say is more or less true, but I invent things if necessary. I generally find that, after twenty minutes or so of my complicated unworldly tales, most normal urban people start coughing and fidgeting, or looking around to make sure that their automobile is correctly parked, or indicating by gestures (since they can't get a word in edgewise) that their kids and their dog are impatient to carry on walking. So, they give me a friendly smile and leave, swearing to themselves (I imagine) that they'll never again get caught up with this crazy talkative Aussie hermit...

Thank goodness my blogs are not like that.

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