Saturday, 9 February 2013

"All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair - The bees are stirring - birds are on the wing - And Winter slumbering in the open air, Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring! And I the while, the sole unbusy thing, Nor honey make, nor build, nor sing." ("Work Without Hope" Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

It is Monday morning, the start of the working week and a momentous one for us. This week the tilers will come to lay the floor and bathroom tiles.  The carpenter will come to put in all the windows, the marmista (marble mason) will measure shelves for the bathrooms - layers of finishing touches which will make the house a home, before we make it our home.  I note there is no vocabulary in Italian to distinguish "house" (casa) from "home" (casa).  Something to thank the Saxons for.

It is early Monday morning, before 9am, and outside the house vans and cars are parked. We approach, smiling, with an air of expectancy and curious to see the unfolding of this watershed day.

As we approach we know something is amiss. There is much muttering, walking around in circles, swearing, names of prominent politicians flung, together with gesticulating arms, into the frozen air.  On seeing us they stop talking, discard their cigarettes, stare at their boots.  We quickly learn that a new law has been passed (when? where? how?) which prohibits more than one artisan from working on the same building at the same time.  We are told that, if caught breaching this new regulation (and sure as eggs is eggs they will be caught), the fine is 10,000 euros!

Now, one could waste time speculating as to the rationale behind such a law - is it to stop these massed artisans from arguing? to stop them wasting time gossiping? to prevent them tripping over each other? to delay a week so they can finish off another job? (too cynical?) to ensure at least one party is paid?  Such speculation is futile.  Much better for them to waste considerably more time trotting off to the local  tax lawyer and pay him a hefty fee.  For this the "commercialista" will help them form an "associazione" thereby enabling them to work as one.  The paperwork and approval will take a week to be drawn up and approved.  Meanwhile all work ceases.  The gates to the site are chained and locked, the key is left to rust and we are left to rage.

But it could have been worse.  Later in this idle week we idle into our regular greengrocer, only 12 kilometers or so from the site of the house.  He is effusive in his welcome and full of sympathy for our plight.  We haven't said a thing yet, honest.  He knows all about how the work on our house has had to stop, how the tilers were caught breaking the law, how they were fined, how aggrieved they are, how innocent folk for miles around are outraged at the injustice of it all - and so on, and on.  We are, to say the least, a little taken aback.  We buy some blood oranges (like gossip unbelievably juicy at this time of year) and reassure him that he must have misunderstood the story somewhere along the line (how long and tangled that line!).  Unless, of course, the misunderstanding is all ours...

We speculate on how this will impact on the rest of our re-structuring.  All the workmen are specialist artisans (artigiani) from Sandro the stone-mason to Gabriele the plumber; from Mirko the electrician through to Reimund the carpenter.  Will they all have to tip-toe onto the site one at a time with no two allowed to work together?  We are not too discouraged, after all we have some reason and sufficient experience to suspect that this week of enforced idleness will have been put to good use working out an appropriate "scappatoia" (escape route or work around!),

The week is at an end.  It is Saturday; the temperature has dropped.  We have had some snow, but now the sun is shining and we can all enjoy our day of rest.  

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