The Well in Pollone Chapter Four

Isola Bella on Lago Maggiore

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. Leaving the car outside the piazza in one of the roads leading to the village, we walked through an archway to climb a set of stairs to the second floor where we found little tables laid out with cloths and simple breads and fruits.

The waiter came and Olga ordered Berlina Birra. When the beer arrived at the table it was in huge glasses that looked like fishbowls on stems. The beer was strawberry flavoured and the prettiest pink, through which the candles on the table shone so charmingly. The lighting so created, as if we were in a bordello. They gave a captivating and intimate effect. We ate carne secca (basically dried meat), and drank the Berlina Birra, which may have looked innocuous, but certainly wasn’t weak.

Carne Secca

The entertainment of the evening was stunning, and initially, frightening.

Our table overlooked the piazza several metres below; we, looking down between the pillars of brick arches. Suddenly, Olga pointed upwards towards the arches on the top floors. A tightrope had been stretched from one side of the arched balconies above the piazza to the opposite side; many metres from the brick and paving of the piazza.

A bicyclist started to ride from one end of that stretched rope to the other to the accompaniment of music from here and there; a little band, which we could not see from our position; an accordion or two and the sounds of singing and clapping and shouting from below and from the galleried cafés and apartments and the upper widows of the houses. It was such a spectacle, and, I thought, fascinating enough. Then with loud reports that echoed across from side to side of the galleried brick walls and flashes of light, fireworks exploded high above us in the night sky. The cyclist on the high wire, meanwhile, appearing to lose his balance and jerking backwards and forwards on the wire, with every appearance of being about to crash to the ground below. All an act, but very convincing.

More shouts of, “Bravo!” and laughter and all the usual “Oohs!” and “Aahs!” The audience applauded; everyone, including the diners at the little tables, the waiters; everybody joined in. It was such a wonderful atmosphere.

La Chiesa (The Church) - Pollone

On another evening, I and Olga had just arrived from la passagiata in the early evening. We had walked up the hill towards the church, a lovely little Romanesque building; flush with the road. We were walking along quietly battling through our lack of a common language, when I put my fingers to my lips; gently to indicate that I needed silence momentarily.

Scusi!” I said.

I had heard a faint squeaking noise which I had heard several times during that evening. Olga immediately stopped talking and we both listened. She shook her head; indicating that she hadn't heard anything. The noise became more pronounced. It was a clear as a bell, yet I couldn't decide where it was coming from. Then I looked up, and around the electric street light, suspended high above the road along which we were walking, I could make out; sweeping and curving gracefully in the air; so rapidly darting around; scooping up moths and infinitesimally small insects, were several bats.

I pointed at them and Olga said, “Pipistrelli!” acknowledging that she had seen the little bats swooping around the light, but then, “Ma, come? (But how?)” pointing to her ears and then to mine.


I would have loved to have told her that I have always been able to hear the cry of a bat, which many believe is a sound that cannot be heard by the human ear. But constructing a sentence to explain all that would have been beyond my capabilities. How I would love to have told her how I had heard a baby bat calling when I was at a sports day when my public school and four other boys’ public schools had their annual Interschool Sports Day. Between fifteen hundred and two thousand boys can make a hell of a lot of noise, but I heard that baby bat over that racket.

At the end of the Interschool Sports Day, I found the little chap, where he had fallen from among the rafters of the roof of the grandstand and took him home… but as with all happy endings, this one ended sadly, and he died the next day.

Should I have left him there for his mother to retrieve him… do they?

So we arrived home to be met by at least a dozen of our friends who had decided that they wanted to go to have a meal; and the meal was in a village on the other side of the valley. We were going to Sordevolo where I was told that the gnocchi and risotto was possibly the best in all of Italy… No! It was definitely the best in all Italy; and therefore the best in the whole of the known world.

So we all loaded ourselves into several cars and there were also a few Vespas and we drove for almost an hour until we arrived in a very small village. In the middle of a very ordinary street with the most harsh lighting there stood an open doorway, leading into one of the most unprepossessing little osteria or excuse for not even a trattoria, which is lower down in the pecking order than a ristorante, I had seen for a while. An osteria survives on good food and the attitude that the owner is more the host; rather than the more elegant or grand atmosphere in a ristorante.

Polenta e coniglio - Polenta and rabbit

Had we come to the wrong place? Obviously not, because there were calls of “Ecolo!” and a good deal of laughter and calling for the cook and the cook appeared. He spoke with his group of customers for a while and then showed us into the “restaurant”. The tables were old, metal legged, plastic topped. Some had plastic cloths; others were bare; some had real cotton cloths.

Gnocchi Piedmontese

A waiter (a brother or uncle, I assumed; or perhaps another customer) brought some wine and we made do with that… and we waited.

Then the gnocchi, the polenta and the risotto appeared, and I can say honestly that I have never tasted anything so remarkably delicious. The risotto that we had eaten at the expensive Ristorante d’Oropa was lovely, but it certainly was no better than this.

After the meal, I walked out into the little road that led from that open door, and was breathing in the wonderful night air. Above me, circling the harsh street light which cast such a bright and ugly light across the road, were moths and little pipistrelli, diving and swooping, having eaten in Sordevolo as had I.

I hope they enjoyed their meal as much as I had.

Pipistrello

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Comments 44 comments

Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Dear Ian,

Truly wonderful reading and your writing is out of this world. I want to go visit Italy now and see all the sights you described. Thank you for sharing this great adventure. I can't imagine sitting at a side walk cafe and watching the show as the man goes across the wire..how exciting. God Bless,

Sunnie


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Glad you like it. But you've been to Italy, and you will most probably be able to see it in your mind's eye because of that.

Have you read the 'Paris - Gare du Nord chapter yet. That's almost pure Sunnie for a lot of the time. I hope you like the way I tied it in together.


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Yes...I could picture it very well...We toured all over...I walked up the leaning tower of Piza...I read where it is now open to walk up again but was closed for many years. I remember seeing Paul’s Chains, Sistine Chapel and walking the Catacombs...very scary...

I read earlier, just commented, You tied it all together beautifully.

Thank you,


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Molto bella - the food, the company. Not-so-much the bats. Beautiful photographs. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

The food. I can't remember having such wonderful food so often and in such wonderful locations or company. I would love to write about the time Olga took me to Portofino just for a meal... but HP would ban it, because there is a pivotal word in there that isn't exactly up at the top of the Hub Police's favourite list.


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mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

A meal in Portofino with Olga that you can't talk about, that does sound like a good story.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

It wasn't the meal... The meal was amazing... it was what she said on the way!

Portofino is one of the most charming villages I have ever visited.


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mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I only spent two weeks in Italy. Rome, Florence, & Venice. Traveled by train, it was like landing in an old painting and wandering around.

The photographs were beautiful. Were they yours or did you borrow them?


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I sneaked them off Images having done a Google search. Corruption is my middle name.

I love Rome... very decadent, I am afraid, Venice is wonderful, and I never smelt a single nasty smell.

Btu Florence!!! Walking through the Uffizi and seeing paintings on the walls and thinking, "I saw that young man walking in the street only yesterday" or "There's the girl who served us the Pizza in that osteria"

And I think my favourite statue , il Perseo is in the colonade outsider the Uffizi.

I have another tale that I could tell about travelling by train through Italy, but the Hub Police wouldn't like that one either.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

If corruption were your last name you would become known as TLC. In America TLC = 'Tender Loving Care'. I had to look up il Perseo, and yes he stands in an alcove outside the Uffizi.

I have told my wife's mother, 'the stories you don't write down are lost for all times'. So writes these stories down where the Hub police will have to get a warrant to find them.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Ha ha ha ha!

I have just sent an e-mail to Sunnie Day in which I say:

"I have still not finished the last chapter of 'The Magical Victrola'.

I am up to 2,568 words, and they're still in France!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I'm just going to push all of them overboard when they get on the Car Ferry, and let them swim for it."

Are you with me?


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mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

The absolute beauty of a Magical Victrola is that you can transport 'them' to 2011 and be done with it.

Mark Twain did a bit about writers that got stuck, 'their characters all fell down a well' to clean up the story. You see this ploy all the time in movies.


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Wait...please...there has to be a better way...haha


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

So you're with me, Mck. You cause the diversion, as my mother did on the 'Asturias' (or was it the 'Scythia'?), and I'll push the buggers overboard... starting with the grandmother.

If she says "Ach! Himmel!" one more time and I have to translate it into "Heavens!" she'll get more than a quick swim to Dover out of me.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

If you can come up with it, OK. but A.A. has become quite fond of them, so we'll have to do it while he's not looking.


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

OMG!!! Ian..not the little granny!!!..


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I warned her. Just say, "Ach! Himmel!" one more time, Grandma, and I'm giving you a sandwich de knuckle".

If she can't swim, I'm sending Helmut overboard to keep her treading water till some Cross Channel Swimmer passes and they can haul the pair of them aboard.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Well, I can see why you two had so much fun writing these episodes. You make a great comic pair.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

'The Magical Victrola' 2,960 words for the ninth chapter... and I think I'll whack on an epilogue... Wotchfink?


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Sounds wonderful my friend..long as granny does not drown..lol


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

And then at the top of the Epilogue I shall attach a link to Wikipedia with an explanation of what an Epilogue is for all the little retards on HubPages who don't know the word.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I beg your pardon, I'll have you know, I happen to grow three varieties of Epilogue in my garden.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I hope they're not like my hollyhocks. One of them was lying on the ground today when I went out. I've tried to buy some metal spikes to stake them up but cannot find any anywhere. I was looking at the bloody hollyhocks and giving that particular one a piece of my mind:

"Come on you bastard. Stop showing off. What do you think you are A ground hugging creeper? A bloody worm? nag Nag nag" and I saw this guy coming along the pavement, looking at me as if I was deranged, I thought, "In for a penny, in for a pound" and just continued nagging the plant.

"If you're lying there when I get home, don't expect me to help you get up"

Guy hurries by, looking over his shoulder until he feels he's safely away from me.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Well, I'm not sure if that is your next Hub or going to be sworn testimony. What are you working on?

What work of yours do you recommend? I read the murder on the beach Hub earlier this afternoon. I did not see murder coming.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I just finished 'The Magic Victrola' and it is ten past two and I'm going to drag myself up to bed.

I took your advice and had the lot of them fall down a well.

That little kid hardly splashed at all. Hardly worth listening for!


Becky 5 years ago

Lord, I love your sense of humor. The comments are priceless. If I had not already read the Magic Victrola, I would have to read it just to find out what you were talking about.

This 4th chapter of your memories is amazing. I love it and I have never been to Italy and it doesn't look like I will ever be able to travel the world. I guess I will just have to live vicariously.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

So many of us live vicariously, but that does not matter if the person through whom we live has presented an attractive creation to walk through.

I hope you like the denouement (Pretentious bugger, I know) but some have trailed through, not realising that there was a thread to this little (!) tale.


Becky 5 years ago

Ok, I had to find my dictionary to look denouement up, but now I have a new word. I have a large vocabulary but that one had me stumped. I enjoyed this very much and have been following the trail of your story. Some just read, some understand and evaluate. I try to understand and evaluate. I have been reading at a high level since I was little and love to read. I read some classics, some sci-fi, fantasy fiction, a few romances, and anything else I can get my hands on. My sister and I used to even read the cereal boxes at breakfast.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I hope I never disappoint you, Becky. I love reading but am incredibly slow, so I have to be careful what I start because I know that if I start on a poor book, I will continue, but waste a lot of time doing it.

The book I am reading now is very long and it has taken me ages, but it was recommended by my best friend, who knows my taste exactly, and it's possible her favourite book, and is certainly one of mine, now.


mckbirdbks 5 years ago

Is it top secret? What book are you reading????


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Sorry. I realised that as soon as I posted my comment.

'The Far Pavilions' by M. M. Kaye. It deals with British India from after the Mutiny until just before the beginning of the Second Afghan War. All politicians should be made to read it, and then they will know that Afghanistan will never be beaten for long by any foreigners. They are too tribal, too warlike and too xenophobic.

It's a wonderful book, and I have less than a hundred pages to go and I know that it is going to be a really tragic ending.

Read it. Mck... It is worth every word.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Why are you "an unverified person" Mck.

Did the Hub Police discover you had read my hubs made comments that have made me happy and as a result, have they thrown you into outer darkness as a punishment?


Becky 5 years ago

I have read that book and enjoyed it enormously. I had it figured out when I found out we were going to war in Afghanistan. They are too good at defending their country. That is how the Americans beat the British. They fought in the same way that the Indians fought. The British couldn't understand why they wouldn't fight in a "civilized" manner. Stand out in a field and try to blow each other away. That would have been a losing method. There were more of them than us.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

It's a magnificent book, and I can relate to it, because I was brought up in India and can "see" the action and have a little familiarity with the languages... but have lost most of what I had, but found I was having my little glossary being refreshed as I read along.

Ash's ayah in the beginning, his "mother" sang the same nursery rhymes to baby Ashok as mine did to me.

Magic!!!


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Another thing to recollect - I completely "forgot" about bats...

In Alma-Ata at night there were bats. But I am not so sensitive to the sounds they make - I am not quite sure what I heard - maybe brushing against the air as they swoon?

What I am sensitive to is the racket that is going outside - it sounds like a big passenger jet (Boeing 747) is on the roof. It is maddening... However, they seem to extract some treasures from the "Hell Hole". I don't know what they are doing, but if they don't stop soon - I will be insane. I cannot even use the phone it is so loud and I need to make some appointments.

=========================================================

Your memories... are very engaging, very detailed... Sometimes I realize that we remember the strangest things, something that impressed us so deeply, yet what seemingly unimportant...

Do you still go to Italy? And where is your host Umberto?


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Actually, Svetlana, I have not been t Italy for a few years. All the places I would go to involve lots of walking, and I have difficulty walking a few metres. I would have to be pushed around in a bath chair and be one of those deplorable old men who knock at people with my walking stick and whine and moan at the poor person who was pushing me.

And Umberto was the only fabrication in the whole story... apart from the Old Queen, who is based none too loosely on an ex friend of mine.


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kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I am so sorry to hear that, I did not know. But how do you manage now? It must be very difficult...


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

We are very lucky in this country. I get a disability allowance and that means I have a really nice car to run around in. One gets to choose the car one would like and if it costs more than the allowance, one puts that money down also. I chose a Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 litre diesel.

I don't pay for anythign except the fuel. No road tax. No insurance. No maintenance. Nothing.

http://www.vauxhall.co.uk/vehicles/vauxhall-range/...

But I would give up all the luxury if I could just walk through Venice or the Piazza outside the Uffizi in Florence or any other Citta Vecchia in Italia!!!


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Yes, I understand. I am grounded in Toronto (as I say all I see is my intersection) - I don't have to be stuck in my room or at my intersection, of course, but today I felt so ... not well, that I even did not go dancing and Monday is my day.

I am trying not to think of all the things I could have had and places I could have seen, otherwise I will go insane.

Wait, I already have.

Ian, consider yourself lucky that you saw in your life what you saw - a few countries, a few continents...

And the car? Yes, it is very nice and you are very lucky to have such a privilege and luxury, if I may say so.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I am lucky, my friend. I remind myself of it all the time. I have a nice house, I have all the time I want to play and write. I have good friends. I have my health.

Honestly; who could ask for more.

The only thing I miss is not having a dog, and that would be impractical, as I could not walk it. And walking a dog is not something I would want anyone else to do for me.


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kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Ian, I cannot comment on that - not that you need any comments - you had dogs, I have never had pets.

I know that it is beneficial to have pets when you can spend time with them, but I agree it will create a dependency in the very least and I assume you are not the one who likes to create those "bonds". Even though, I have a feeling it is not the major reason why you want to do the dog walking yourself.

I was always against the concept of having pets, when the owner spends most of his time out of the house and a dog is left all to him/herself. They need company as much as us.

I do remind myself that I am lucky as well. I don't consider my health as "optimal" - the best it can be - but I know that other people have it much worse, so no point complaining.

Take it in stride, make the best of it, you are in control of your life (I am addressing both of us).


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

One of the top media persons in the UK. Stephen Fry, a made of intelligence and wit, suffers from Bipolar illness, and has written about it (I believe) or talked about it. I love his humour and his persona, although he is arrogant and up his own arse a bit, but I forgive people for that if they can make me smile. I experience massive highs and depressing lows, but than God I am not a sufferer like you.

I strongly believe that the most capable poets and writers and intellectuals may have it in some form or other.

And you must know by now that those who have "met" you here or otherwise, Nellie Anna and I included are stunned by your intelligence.

You may have heard of him, and I wouldn't want to push you into something that you would find distasteful... perhaps look at his humour first, and realise that this is what a bipolar sufferer is capable of.


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kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I have heard of him, so I should check him out.

I once said to my doctor: "Bipolar people..."

He laughed, he often does, this quality is truly amazing.

"What, bipolar people is some sort of cult?"

Ever since, I could not forget this line.

I don't associate myself with "bipolar people". It is not my defining characteristic. Ian, there is no "mathematical exactitude" associated with "how bipolar" you are.

We may very well be on the same level - only in my case when my life fell apart, everything fell apart - when it is too much it is too much.

I saw people in the hospital and there were just horrible cases when even with medication they could not sleep and would scream the whole night or people so depressed as to be catatonic.

I was suicidal but never catatonic. So, I just think of myself as "normal" among "normal" people. I say "bipolar" and I don't want to feel that it is some ugly secret to be ashamed of - it was not my choice. Or as in "Bipolar?" You are crazy.

The correlation between being talented and being bipolar - I have read that there is no correlation.

Yet, the good news - it is a mood disorder, it does not affect intelligence.

I had more manifestations of OCD when I was younger and I had restless leg syndrome which has disappeared maybe to reappear again? I don't know.

I am only trying to get out of the mess. Sometimes it happens to people, bipolar or not.

But Stephen Fry, I will check him out.


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Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I find him irritating at times, but I also find him very amusing, The sort of person I would like to be at a dinner party with. I think he would be very civilised. The Prince of Wakes likes him, but apart from that, he's lovely!

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