The Well in Pollone Chapter Five
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Days stretched into almost two weeks, and I had to return to London far too soon. I had enjoyed myself enormously.
On the day before I was due to leave, I was about to take one of my last breakfasts. This particular morning I had taken my bath as soon as I had woken, and had waited till after that to have my breakfast. My hair was still wet from my plunge into the stream, and I was still in a pair of jeans and a shirt but the day had turned out gloriously again, and I was going to make the most of my breakfast. I felt somewhat sad as I drew the bucket up from the well; knowing that it was the penultimate time I would be doing so. The panini was almost fresh; the apricot conserve was as delicious as ever; the caffè, when I had made it was as wonderful as usual.
On the morrow, I was due to leave shortly after breakfast. Olga had promised that she would drive me to Malpensa airport in time for me to catch the plane back to London. So I had no worries about getting back to my home.
I sat on the wooden stairs, in the morning sun and looked up into the branches of the great chestnut tree. Suddenly I heard my name called, I finished the last of the caffè and started to rise to see who was calling me. Before I had a chance to walk the few steps to the great door, it opened, and there stood Umberto.
“Ciao, Bravo!” he said and walked towards me; took me in his arms and kissed me on the forehead, as one would a child. “You look wonderful,” he said, “Pollone must suit you. They’ve been good to you?”
And within minutes we were as all good friends must be; happy in each other’s company; talking as if time and distance has not stood between us.
“Come!” he said. “We must entertain you” and another day unfolded in that wonderful village; in that wonderful country, with those wonderful, generous and kind friends who had taken me so much to their hearts.
What I wasn’t aware of, however, were plans. Plans that had been made to make my last few hours in Italy as memorable as possible for me, and for my friends. While I was out saying, “Good bye!” to my new-found friends and promising that I would return as soon as ever possible, and becoming quite emotional at their kindnesses and hospitality over the preceding days, plans were afoot.
In the early evening, Umberto brought me back to his home, and excusing himself, as he said that he had to just go to the negozio to make a small purchase, he left me at the door, and ran off up the narrow lane.
I entered feeling somewhat melancholy, and pushing the great door, set foot inside to be greeted with laughter and cheering and kisses and handshakes from virtually everyone I had met in Pollone over the time of my stay there.
Everybody was dressed beautifully. There was a delicious smell of fresh pastas and gnocchi and risotto and, as I entered, the popping of champagne corks and more laughter.
It was amazing, and I felt my heart go out to these people in such a way that I became slightly emotional. I was standing there surrounded by love and friendship and beauty. The evening was beautiful; the people were beautiful; the food and the wine, I’m sure, were to be beautiful.
I felt a pair of strong arms around my shoulders, and Umberto, who had returned and stood unnoticed behind me, turned me to him; took my face in both his hands and kissed me on the forehead, once more I was the little child. He noticed the tears of happy emotion in my eyes:
“Piange!” (He is crying) he said.
Then there were cries of. “Poverino!” (Poor boy), and more laughter and kisses.
I was having a wonderful time.
The food and the wine were in such enormous quantities and all were so exceptionally delicious that we all overindulged, I am sure.
And so the night drew on, travelling from laughter to melancholia back to laughter and someone sang and the neighbours came out to complain of the noise and were invited to stay and then they went and returned to bring more wine that apparently their uncle had made on his farm. A music machine played Italian Pop Music and Elvis Presley hits from years previously and people jived and laughed and drank and ate some more.
At one stage, Olga did a “strip tease” during which she removed not one stitch of clothing, but it was so deliciously erotic and harmlessly childlike and the laughter continued.
Then someone put a recording on the music machine of “Va Pensiero Va, sull'ali dorate” – (“Fly, thought, on wings of gold”), ‘The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s opera Nabucco’. Immediately every person there put arms around each other’s shoulders and sang the whole chorus; not a dry eye in that whole area under that massive sweet chestnut tree.
It was a stunningly breathtaking experience that I feel I will never forget.
And then more laughter and drinking and eating and caffè espresso.
Later, we became sentimental and quieter, and people were sitting in groups talking and remembering meals that they have eaten in amazing locations, and people were listening to me struggling though mundane sentences and attempts at conversations; limited by my colossally inadequate Italian. But not one person made me feel any bit as if were not the greatest linguist ever.
The wine and the food; but especially the wine, had its effects.
I don’t think I have ever seen an Italian drunk, but the wine had certainly done what wine can do.
Umberto and I were sitting on one of the lower steps of the staircase, with Olga sitting between us; her left hand holding both of mine in hers, her right hand holding Umberto’s. She was telling me that I must return to Italy as soon as possible and that she would like me to stay for at least another week or two or more. Umberto was explaining to her that I was always welcome and that his home was always at my disposal whether he…
He didn’t get a chance to explain further; for in the most sedate and ladylike manner, Olga rose a little unsteadily to her feet.
“Scusi!” she said, and walked in a vaguely straight line to the well.
She stood with her feet on its surrounding plinth and leaning forward, was noisily and violently sick down the well.
One or two people looked over. A couple of people clapped and laughed.
“Brava!” said one, and then they all continued with their conversations or whatever they were doing before this interruption.
I turned to Umberto with what I should imagine was a horrified look on my face. I couldn’t put my thoughts into words.
“Don’t worry, my friend,” he said, “She always does that! Whenever she gets drunk she does just that”
I heard a little murmur from some of the other guests. I had an uneasy feeling that Olga wasn’t the only one.
And so, on the next day, early, Olga arrived in her car to take me to Malpensa, to take the flight home to London. Umberto, who had stayed in his own home that night, accompanied us. Before we left, he made me a caffè Lavazza with water from one of the plastic bottles that he kept in his kitchen. We sat on the wooden stairs in the morning sunlight; drinking our caffè; looking affectionately at the doorway opposite.
And the old lady, on the other side of that door; with a bucket and brush in her hand… no doubt waiting.
Arrivaderci, my friends. Thanks for reading this... if you got this far. And if you didn't; the links are below.
- The Well in Pollone Chapter One
In northern Italy there is a province known to the world as Piedmont. It is an area that for centuries has been invaded by Romans, Burgundians and Goths. It has been annexed and reinvaded by Byzantines, Lombards and Franks. Magyars and the Saracens c
- The Well in Pollone: Chapter Two
Eventually we reached Pollone, and I was not disappointed. It was a charming village, and everything nice that Umberto had said about it had fulfilled all my expectations. We drove at speed through the little lanes and along the wider roads and then
- The Well in Pollone Chapter Three
On the first Sunday morning of my stay in Pollone, I was sitting on the stairs; basking in the sunshine when a heard a voice. Buongiorno, I looked down to see Olga standing, just inside the great door. She was wearing a light skirt and blouse; her
- The Well in Pollone Chapter Four
Not all meals were in expensive restaurants. One evening, Olga drove us to a village on the edge of Lago Maggiore. We entered a piazza in the centre of the village. The piazza was surrounded on four sides by four or five storied houses and apartments
- The Well in Pollone Chapter Five
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Days stretched into almost two weeks, and I had to return to London far too soon. I had enjoyed myself enormously. On the day before I was due to leave, I was about to take one of my last breakfa
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