In country Italy, tradespeople don't seem to finish jobs; they leave the finishing up to Louie.
Stu keeps wondering who Louie is because Lilo, our plumber, keeps saying 'Louie will do this, Louie will do that'.
Today, Lilo came to finish the instant hot water installation. He screeched up the driveway right on time. We were dressed and ready for him this time. As he bounded out of his van, his black curls danced around his wide grin.
I pounced on him with the bad news.
'Noi abbiamo una grande probleme! Nostre canale sono blocco!', I screeched. We have a bigger problem. Our drains are blocked.
I'd prepared the sentences the evening before.
I detected a twitch in Lilo's facial expression. A certain distaste. A squirm.
He wandered around the immediate area, shrugging his shoulders. At one point he asked us where our septic tank was which was met by blank stares. He continued shrugging his shoulders (which in Italian means 'This situation is hopeless; I have no idea') and finally announced 'Geometra' (which in Italian means 'This is too hard for me; you'll have to ring your renovation go-between')
He then muttered something vague which sounded to me like, 'Bad luck' then continued around the back of the house to recommence his hot water job.
Clearly he didn't have much interest in drains.
Stu and I looked at each other. If your plumber isn't interested in your blocked drains, where do you turn?
Lilo's work lasted all morning, which was good because it gave him ample opportunity to see us doing some serious work in the garden.
At about noon he started looking at his watch. Siesta. His eyes glazed over. No doubt he was thinking of pasta. He quickly packed his van, told us that if there were any problems we should phone the manufacturer and that we should also phone the technica to set up the water purification system once Louie had installed a power plug.
'Grazie', I said.
'Who's Louie?', Stuart said.
We waved Lilo off, feeling like we'd been dumped. We were alone in Italy with blocked drains. It doesn't get any worse than that.
We crept inside, our confidence squashed between our toes. Negative thoughts abounded. How naiive we'd been to think that we could cope with renovating a 'casa vecchia' in a foreign country.
I phoned the Geometra. No answer. I texted the Geometra. No reply.
A short while later, he phoned back. After I explained our problem, he said, 'No problem! If a house is not used for a while it can go hard in there!'. I was imagining the hard stuff as he continued, 'I know a company that can clean your septic tank!'
'Va Bene', I said, graphic pictures of hard stuff looming.
Suddenly, there was a screech in the driveway.
Lilo jumped out of his van, waving a plastic contraption which had a circle at one end and a handle at the other.
'Chiave!', he shouted, clearly enraptured with the tool.
We smiled back. Stu told me afterwards he thought it was 'one of those wand things that you wave over the ground that beeps when it locates your septic tank'. Sometimes it's sad being an optimist.
Anyway, we followed Lilo to see how the chiave worked. To our great disappointment, the chiave was used to change the filter on our water purification system. Lilo probably noticed our distinct lack of enthusiasm. Surely he saw that our 'canale blocco' problem was oozing from our pores?
He must have. Because a few seconds later, he suggested we ask our neighbour if he knows where our septic tank is. Our neighbour is a long term resident of Canelli. The stone house attached to ours used to be his mothers.
I phoned our neighbour and put Lilo on.
While our neighbour talked, Lilo walked around the house taking measured steps against our neighbour's directions. He walked to the window near the bagno in the casa grande and took 4 large paces into the driveway. This was the location of the septic tank for the house. He walked to the corner of the house outside the kitchen and pointed down. This was the location of the septic tank for the rustico.
We were overjoyed! There is nothing quite like the joy of knowing where your septic tank is!
'Louie scavera', Lilo suggested.
'Si', I replied.
We waved Lilo off.
'Who's Louie?', Stu said.
Stu is trying really hard to understand Italian. The 'Louie' he keeps hearing is in fact 'Lui' which means 'He'. Stu didn't know it yet but Lilo and I had just volunteered Lui to dig for his septic tank...