13 November 2009

Is this what they call 'community'?

I fear we are being stalked by our post woman.

Our post woman is a 30-something artificial blonde. She has a vibrant personality and large facial features and is one of those people you simply notice.

She drives a tiny white car at break neck speed around Canelli and zooms up our driveway as if she hasn't noticed it's potholes or fragile edges.

She spied us walking along our driveway a few weeks ago. She stopped the car, leaned across the front passenger seat, smiled her big teeth at us, then yelled and gave us a number of letters. While we were still wondering whose letters they were, she sped off.

Then this week, I was doing the rubbish run. The rubbish run is one of our regular outings and is cause for great excitement in the household. It involves throwing our non-organic rubbish, our plastic bottles and our glass bottles into three separate skips. Thankfully, all the skips are lined up along the side of the road just outside Canelli so we can perform this activity with some measure of efficiency.

Beside the skips is a side track where vehicles can stop to offload their goodies. This side track gets rather muddy after rain so careful assessment is required before deciding to take it.

I was just making my way through the mud, laden with our embarrassingly sizeable non-organic rubbish bag when a car slid to a halt beside me. I had just enough time to register teeth and eyes before I found myself holding a number of letters and parcels. I said 'Grazie'. In return, she asked me what was in the parcels. Being a rather private person, I was a little stunned at her intrusiveness but I heard myself explaining anyway. 'Produtto per saluti della mio marito', I said, 'Vitamine'. I think she heard me but she might not have. I saw her disappear in the distance just as I finished my sentence.

I stood for a while in the mud with my rubbish bag beside me, trying to make sense of the warmth I was feeling.

Today was our third visit to the open air market in the centre of Canelli and several of the vendors now recognise me.

We stopped at the frutta e verdura stall first and brought a week's worth of fruit and veg for under EUR 10. The stall owner gave us mandarins to taste and a free lemon. We then wandered over to the salciccia stall for a few days's worth of salami and a dozen free range eggs. The stall owner gave us three salami cacciatori. Finally, we found ourselves waiting in line at the caseificio to buy a selection of cheeses. At all of these stalls, there was a sense of joy and celebration. Joy of life? Celebration of food? We weren't sure...but we were so inspired that we continued to the supermarket to get a few extra items. Sadly, the gloom of the supermarket was all pervading. The eyes on the woman behind the cashier were glazed as she asked if I wanted a bag. It was a dismal contrast to the market. No joy. No celebration.

In an attempt to lift our spirits again, we dropped into our macellaio on the way home to ask for 'una pezza carni per arrosto'. Our butcher and his wife smiled and yelled conversation at us before wobbling into their freezer and bringing out a piece of meat that could feed us for a month. I panicked. 'Soltanto uno kilogrammi per favore', I said. What I hadn't realised was that the butcher wanted to share the joy of this wonderful piece of meat with me in all its freshness and beauty. He even asked me behind the counter so that I could watch him tie it before he cut our piece off.

I shared his joy.

For my whole life people have been talking about 'community' and I've never really understood what it meant, much less appreciated it.

Now I think I'm starting to understand...even if it does involve stalking...

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