Sunday, 11 December 2011

“On such snow as this, said he, ‘he won’t go far, for he is a fat bear. He will settle down before evening; or if not, I can overtake him on snowshoes.’ “ (from an autobiographical account of a bear hunt undertaken by the young Leo Tolstoy).

Without fanfare, Italy has passed a new law.  It decrees that all vehicles must carry snow chains when traveling on designated roads.  Failure to do so carries a fine.  These roads have blue signs depicting a tyre covered by a snow chain: pretty clear.  Some, but not all,  of these signs give the the months when this requirement is effective:  novembre - aprile.  Peter has, by chance, got chains in the Land Rover, but, currently, I am driving around illegally in the Honda.
Snow chains we are told, “cannot be had for love nor money”; one of the more publishable phrases we have heard describing this “crisis”.  There has been a run on snow chains!  Italians have been stocking up on snow chains!  We have visited any number of outlets likely to sell chains.  Some salespeople dismiss our request almost before it is uttered; some sympathise; others philosophise; some take our telephone number promising to ‘phone if a delivery arrives before Christmas.  Then there are those equally frustrated customers, each with his own sorrowful (and lengthy) tale, including the obliging gentleman who discreetly followed us out to our car to advise us to request a written attestation of the total unavailability of snow chains signed by the “gommista” (tyre fitter) so that when we are stopped by the carabinieri, we can prove we tried to buy chains.  All of this had the same effect on us - helplessness.
Last night, whilst out for cocktails with Paolo, Peter took the opportunity to talk, as one does, about snow chains.  Yes, Paolo had bought himself a set that very day!  But where?   When he tells us, we realise it is the Agip station we have already tried, and they didn’t have the right size for our tyres.  (Although at this stage that hardly seems an important criteria, if it ever was).  I asked Paolo how many times in his life had he used snow chains.  “Mai” (never), this in his most matter of fact tone.  What a relief!  The thought of trying to fit snow chains to my car has the same effect on me as that of me trying to change a tyre - helplessness (sorry, girls).  Now, where around here do you think they might sell snow shoes?
Oh, the cocktails were to celebrate the Commune’s decision to approve the plans for our “project” in its entirety.  We will be signing the final contract (Atto) before the year end.  After that there’s no going back.
I should add that, towards the end of his life, Tolstoy greatly regretted ever having hunted that bear.

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