Friday, 4 May 2007
An Italian Sort of Day
Wednesday 2nd May 2007
If this weather carries on I’m going to have to change the blurb under my blog title! Everything’s on its head. It’s usually us poor folk up here in the north west hills that have to watch the sun streaming down all over the country while we wallow in mud and mist and rain, whatever the month. I’ll always remember my days in Milan where I would snigger smugly at the Sky News weather reports which had this constant pulsating symbol over the UK which represented rain, storms and every other ghastly metereological happening while I wafted around in linens, gently fanning myself and improving my tan. Yet tonight, sweet revenge! As I watched the Big Football Match over in Milan between Manchester United and AC Milan I could barely see the players for the curtain of rain that was falling, or hear the commentary for the thunder and lightning going off in the background. I looked out of my window here onto a scene of bucolic perfection. Fields bathed in a soft evening light, the bright blue sky that had spent the day with us just beginning to fade at the edges. Marvellous.
The game was a wash-out in all senses of the word. It had been hyped on the North-West news since there was a chance that the final (in a couple of weeks’ time in Athens, strikes allowing), for the first time ever (or in Lord knows how many years) was possibly going to be between two English clubs and, moreover, the two big red rivals of the region – Man U and Liverpool. It was eye-opening how much of a frenzy everyone was in about it all – it was the lead story, bumping off into second place that of some poor young innocent girl who had been shot dead through the head this morning outside her house. I was intrigued by the editor’s priorities (not for the first time in recent weeks, eh!). So, all revved up (I love a good game of footie – my father has been a sports’ journalist all his life and, when I was young, used to go off every Saturday to report on matches, returning home always with a rattly box of Maltesers for us – it’s his treat now to our girls when they visit), I sat down to watch the match. After endless speculation from the commentary team and pictures of boorish Brits shouting at the camera with the obligatory beer in their hands, cluttering up the magnificent Piazza Duomo in central Milan, the match finally started. Within minutes you could tell it was going to be dull, even before the first Milan goal. I switched channels to check out another programme which sounded interesting and was. I shall talk about that another day. I flicked back to the footie, saw it was 3-0 and blew a raspberry at the TV screen. I couldn’t help thinking of the family of the poor girl shot in the head who had been relegated to the bottom division by the BBC. Imagine if it was your child? I think I’d feel hurt.
So, throwing the football to the winds and rain, what else did the day hold? Well, actually, a rather pleasant lunch with my dear Italian friend on her alpaca farm deep in a valley below a village which goes by the dubious name of Flash. And if that wasn’t enough, there is also a Flash Bottom. You couldn’t make it up if you tried! Flash also basks in the fame of being the highest village in England at 1518ft. Actually, I think it featured once in Country Living (aagh, quick - garlic, crucifixes!). It formerly had a reputation for being a centre for illegal activities such as cock fighting and counterfeiting (hence 'Flash money'). According to some sources the counterfeit money used to be exchanged at the nearby Three Shires Head (where Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire meet) on Axe Edge Moor. Hah, bet you didn’t know that did ya! Well, now you do. So, a lunch with a dear friend who keeps me sane and a little insane and reminds me of my other lives, was enjoyed outside in the sunshine with a foreground of white male alpaca’s (separated from the pregnant females) clinging to a steep hill and trying desperately not to look like sheep. Since I have known Gemma, their numbers have increased year on year and they are now looking to sell some (any offers?). But back to lunch. Chilled white wine, dry cured ham, cheese, mushrooms and artichokes, and the spiciest rocket from her father’s vegetable garden just outside Milan (she’d been over there just last weekend, flogging English pottery to eager Italians at the monthly antiques market in her home town). Once sated, Guilt pulled us to our feet and took us for a delightful little potter along the banks of a stony, tree-filled stream. We chatted endlessly, took photos of butterflies and bluebells, paddled in the stream and returned happy and fully digested to her wonderful farm. I looked at my watch and realised I was about to be late to collect the children from school (what’s new! I hear you cry), compounded by the fact that I suddenly realised that the petrol tank was empty – again. Not just a bit empty. Really empty. With great trepidation I set off up her very steep drive and upwards, upwards to the heady heights of Flash village. A little bit more uphill on the Leek to Buxton road, then, finally, a downhill coast to the petrol station. £52 pounds in the tank. Yep, very empty.
The only other element in my day was Brownies. The days are now longer and I no longer have to collect in the dark. When I turned up this evening all I could hear was a cacophany of bleating lambs, filling the air as the buzz of insects. The sun was golden, the mood mellow. A friend’s father had come to pick up his granddaughter in a shiny maroon MG, soft top decidedly down. We chatted for half an hour about MGs (my second ‘serious’ boyfriend’s mother used to have a green one and I loved it when he picked me up in it), convertibles (we had one till I wrote it off on the lane – sad, sad, day – the origin of ‘Mummy’s Corner’) and this sublime weather. He informed me, having lived here all his life, that he didn’t reckon we’d had such a good Spring since 1947 – following one of the coldest winters on record last century too. I’ve certainly never had one like this in the four years since we’ve been here. The days are truly beautiful, I feel totally content. But I am aware that the ground is rock hard and the run-off streams have dried up - and it’s only the beginning of May.