Saturday, November 22, 2008

All that you can't leave behind...

Just look at the bounty from our garden.

Our wanderings to and thro from Italy, inevitably involve foodstuffs from the garden, who's weight in a sore arm and hand luggage sometimes outdoes that of their taste, especially if they are slightly out of season. But we just can't leave them behind to rot in the soil.

While we are in Positano in autumn, resounding thumps in the garden announce the demise of yet other melon-sized grapefruits, that have lost their precarious hold on the tree and have fallen dizzying heights from one terraced garden to another, landing on the lawn the equivalent of four storeys below.

Out comes the juicer, struggling with the segments containing four to six pips apiece and requiring the courage of a hardened gladiator to drink. I watch my fifteen year old son and his father try the juice, placing them together in front of me so I can see their reactions. My son downs it in one gulp before his taste buds try to send a 'no go' sign to his instincts. Two seconds pass before a involuntary grimace masks his features and his eyes redden. My other half is a veteran at bitter-grapefruit-juice-sipping, boasting that he had one everyday he was in Positano. But still his eyes stream and his face contorts. These grapefruit are bitter to end all bitter, guaranteeing to suck your cheeks in and grow hairs on your chest.

The mandarines, on the other hand, are to die for. Such is their perfume on breaking open the skin, that I can't waste it and make delicious marmalade to spread on my croissants in the morning. The oranges, still slightly under ripe, get a similar treatment and the tangy perfume of cooking jams fills the house that day. I cover the top of the jam with half a spoon of Grand Marnier before sealing the lid on the jars and will wait a few weeks for the taste to infuse the jam before consuming it.

A Grape Harvest Cake makes the most of the last bunch of home grown table grapes, using the untreated lemon and orange peel from the garden, and even the flowers stalks from the basil are put to use in sauces and soups because of their strong flavour.

Come to think of it, the sore arm was probably worth it's weight in gold...

Did you spot the punk orange?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Phantom Neighbours.

When you live in a small village with international fame, you don't necessarily get to know your neighbours. You may overhear snippets of conversations or pick out a foreign accent from over the wall, but you may be just as likely to learn more about them from a third party. I heard something from a third party which really saddened me.

About five years ago, one of the properties was sold, with which we share a neighbouring wall. A construction company mysteriously appeared and the flat was gutted and completely redone. A pretty bench inlaid with tiles, a wood-fired pizza oven and BBQ adorned the patio. New floor to ceiling windows replaced the old ones in order to drink in the view and dichondra grass was planted between pavers for the finishing touch. The ancient bignonia creeper planted in the corner over fifty years ago, was pruned, but left to act as a pergola shade for both the two flats above the house.
The painters were in, the carpenters and tilers, then nothing for five years.

No one came. A local family had the keys to the house but were not caretakers, so the place became overrun.
In Sleeping Beauty style the climber grew and grew until it completely covered all the facade, windows and doors included. I don't know what the musty interior was like but mould and mildew must have been equally as rampant. Season after season, leaves and dirt piled high in the patio and the paint began to peel off the walls.

Until late last summer.
After years of silence, one day, my other half said that he had heard voices next door who seemed to be speaking in English. From the other side of the wall I discerned what seemed to be a young man with a New York accent and another woman speaking English with a foreign accent. They were very obviously sweeping out the patio of the rustling dried leaves.
'That's good', I thought, ' someone is finally taking charge of the place.'

Last week my other half was in Positano again. There was activity in the property once more and the painters were in. Asking about the owner, they informed my husband that the flat belonged to an American model who had the place refurbished. She then died without ever having used it.

Her parents going through her files came across the deed to the place which she had never mentioned owning. They had they discovered it only recently, five years on.

Shattered dreams. Isn't that sad ?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Profumo di Nespole

At the moment the garden is a buzz with bees concentrated on the Nespoli or loquat tree in full flower. The creamy white flowers, clustered in posies inundate the terrace with a heady sweet fragrance. Offerings of nectar to the bees are raised on furry erect twigs. Broad dark leaves crackle underfoot, the tree shedding all year long like an annoying dog.

The roses in the garden are little competition for the large tree. It is the only fruit tree in our garden to flower in autumn and the first to bear the seasonal fruit in early spring.

All winter long the fruit will swell maturing to a rich yellow in April. The fruit is best eaten straight off the tree as it quickly loses it's flavour once picked. Although our Nespolo, as the tree is called in Italian probably grew from a seed, it's fruit is tastier than any you could buy in the shops. We gorge ourselves on the abundant fruit looking at the sea, and repopulate the gardens with the seeds. Dried and very sweet, their natural fall off the tree in summer is the delight of tiny lizards which nibble the casing, that is, if the dog doesn't have them for breakfast first.

Monday, November 03, 2008

You know that you're in Positano at the end of the season if...

  1. With all the talk about the US Elections on at the moment, I thought I'd change the argument entirely :

You know that its the end of season at Positano if...

  1. The sea becomes rough more frequently and reaches right up to the restaurants in Fornillo.

  2. The Mayor issues a by-law which ensures that at least one bar, one restaurant and a few shops remain open by rota in each of the six localities of Positano, to ward off the ghost town effect.

  3. Your favourite Pizzeria warns you that it's closing down at the end of the week, but warmly invites you to come up to their place to eat instead.

  4. The much maligned dock, which has been under construction for some years at considerable expense to the town, gets inundated with the first, not very rough sea, of the season.

  5. Houses built along the mountain become so damp, that if you are absent for any length of time, you are likely to find that the clothes in your wardrobe have sprouted a beard.

  6. The cemetery candles on the tombs for All Souls Day are visible from afar like twinkling stars in the night .

  7. You hear Napolitano (dialect) being spoken more than English.

  8. You easily get a seat on the internal Positano bus and getting back to Positano from Sorrento, is no longer a problem on the Sita bus.

  9. You suddenly find yourself going for walks in the mountain more readily and come back laden with wild rosemary and pine cones for the fire.

  10. You have to tread very carefully as the paths are sometimes worn, have fallen boulders and are missing chunks of steps.

  11. Young children stay indoors playing video games and teens invite themselves over each other's house as there is no where else to go.

  12. There are only a few lonely souls on the beach.

  13. Trails of smoke from grass fires on properties continue to burn even if the council has issued free compost bins for those with gardens.

  14. The pensioners sitting on the wall chatting at Chiesa Nuova at the top of town and at the Grotta bus stop sport a beanie.

  15. At first glance you don't recognize the bagnino (beach hand) from the beach bar because he has clothes on.

  16. You can stop spraying against ants.

  17. The ninety year old lady puts away her bikini and takes up crochet.