Sunday, 23 January 2011

Saturday 22 January - Snow, snow & a sliding car

How on earth do I describe today?  This will test my literary skills to the limit.  Of what we have seen and done today, I have no idea where to start.  So, lets start with waking up to see snow falling.

The morning that awaited us
White everywhere.  Just beautiful.  And it was coming down in the biggest flakes I have ever seen.  KP, for reasons, known only to himself, needed to get the beastie out and moving.  Our Plan A for the day was to go into Chieti first thing to book our coach to take us to Rome for our flight home, to buy a chain saw for increasing our log pile and a pair of boots to keep his feet dry.  Plan B was to hole up until the weather had passed.  But Plan A we clung to despite the elements, logic and sanity screaming NO!

Now, let me explain.  We are in a hamlet on the top of a rather large, steep hill with a single track road to negotiate down to the main road, that is "main road" by rural Italian standards.  There are also some rather evil twists, turns and unprotected sheer drops before the bottom.  It'll be fine, says he.  I'll just go slowly.  Hmmmmm......  I interject.  What about gravity pulling you into a slide (and over the edge) says I?  Trust me, he says.  Fine, I say once more, but excuse me whilst I get out and watch.

Down the steep hill he went.  Slowly, slowly, slowly.  Piano, piano.  I felt sick.  My legs gave way and I couldn't watch.  But I did peek a little.  Between my fingers.  Until he got to the first bend.  The car wouldn't turn, but continued down the hill defying the direction of the wheels.   KP and the beastie slid in a straight line heading towards the edge and oblivion amongst the snow laden olive trees looking so forlorn way, way below.

Someone, somewhere, must have been watching over him (certainly not the porcelain doll of the sacrificial burnings a few days previously) as he ground to a halt before the edge.  But the road was now well and truly blocked.  He couldn't go up, he couldn't go down.

Enter the snow plough.  And two Italians, one with an umbrella protecting him against the by now blizzard.  KP got out of the car and joined snow plough man and umbrella man observing the scene with a lot of scratching of heads.  A problem, they said.  I, in the meantime,was a gibbering incoherent mess observing from a safe distance up the lane.
Sliding on her own

And then the beastie began to slide.  All on her own.

How she stopped once more, I'll never know, but she did.  And the three men, kicked into action by this new development, grabbed some old bricks from the side of the road and threw them under her wheels.  Umbrella man then jumped in the driving seat as snow plough man parked his rather hefty vehicle across the road to act as a barrier in case beastie decided to make a kamikaze leap over the side.  Umbrella man was taking no chances either and left and driver's door open (to allow for a swift emergency exit) as he guided the beastie to the side of the road and entrenched her firmly into a ditch.  She's going nowhere fast now, and the lane has a clear passage for the snow plough to go up and down.

Another lesson harshly learnt.

And so they went on their way, and we returned back up the hill to put Plan B into operation.  The sawdust burner was lit and the kitchen fire stoked with logs.  KP disappeared upstairs to sort the very suspect electrics in the bathroom whilst I took the opportunity of being grounded to do some very overdue housekeeping of accounts and records.

And the snow kept falling.  Two foot of the white stuff and growing.  The electrics, flickering on and off, were clearly straining against the weight of the snow on the cables and distant cracks could be heard as far off branches snapped and fell.  But we were cosy toasty with a kitchen full of food, a mantlepiece warming the wine above the fire and a sawdust burner chugging happily along.

Tonight was the night of the festa of Saint somebody or other who was due to be celebrated by the burning of the bamboo in Serramonacesca.  Not to miss out on the fun, we stoked the fire, got wrapped up and braved the above-welly-height snow to walk into the village.  Goodness knows where the burning was taking place, or even if it was still happening in these conditions, but we had fun.

Serramonacesca, still snowing
The two bars were packed.  We felt a little conspicuous as we walked in and all eyes turned on us, but everyone was really warm and welcoming and kept us plied with hot sausage rolls and plenty of olives.  Flying the flag for womanhood, apart from one girl I noticed earlier on, I was the only female, but no-one seemed to mind.  They may not have women in their bars to keep things on an even keel but they are certainly a hardy lot these mountain men.  The electricity flickered then died and not a bit of notice was taken when we were plunged into darkness.  Torches and candles appeared and all carried on as though nothing at all had happened and it was all quite normal.

We have no idea what happened to the burning of Santa Whatsit but, with our tummies warmed with wine and sausage rolls, we eventually wandered back up the hill, listening to more distant cracks and groans of the trees straining under the snow.  Every now and then a brief white flash lit the sky, whether it was lightening in the mountains or arcing electricity we couldn't decided.

We arrived home to find our house in darkness too, and so cooked supper by the light of the fire and our amazing little wind up lanterns bought in Horsham for half price in the post-Christmas sales just a very short time ago, but what seems like an absolute age away now.  Another world.

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