Saturday, 2 March 2013

"Allan didn't know if the prime minister was Left or Right. He must certainly be one of them, because if there was one thing life had taught Allan, it was that people insisted on being one or the other." ("The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared". Jonas Jonasson)

The Italian elections last week proved, if proof were necessary, that "Allan", despite the wisdom of his hundred years, was most decidedly wrong.

I spent this morning talking with our lovely bathroom lady about bathroom accessories, in particular, loo brushes. She started by showing me three extravagantly produced catalogues of the most marvellous bathroom accessories I have ever seen. Seeming-precious metals and semi-precious stones designed by artists deserving of that title and produced by artisans worth their weight in gold. What was more amazing was that I might have been tempted to buy if it weren't for the prices. However, I was quickly brought down to earth when told that none of these products was available. All three companies had gone bust. "This is the state of Italy today!" said our lovely bathroom lady. These companies had been selling to the rich, the famous and the aspirational all over the world, now the market had completely dried up. In Italy, she said, no-one is fitting new bathrooms and, where they are replacing the worn out, they go to IKEA. The sales of bathroom accessories in IKEA, she knows, have increased by 300%.

In the shop she just happened to have one loo brush remaining from one of these extinct companies. Last of its kind - a beautiful, bronzed dinosaur, and, just for me, it came with a "sconto" (discount). I bought it, how could I not.

And why was I shopping for bathroom accessories? Because our bathrooms have been tiled! A week of blood sweat and tears getting our awkward-sized tiles and our complicated walk-in shower unit around the "squadrati" (not squared) walls. Added to which, only one tiler was on site, the other having to care for an injured relative. This lone tiler, using his knowhow gained from years of experience, and with bountiful concern for our wellbeing, advised us that the "fuga" (grout) which we had originally chosen wasn't quite right. The whole of Le Marche then had to be scoured (by us) to source precisely the "right" fuga.

Last week too, the windows and external doors were fitted and look amazing - framing all the views out, that is, before we have to bar some of them in. This is on Paolo's advice and we're still not sure whether it's for security or for aesthetic reasons.

An example of traditional Marchigiano window ironwork

So then the "fabbro"(blacksmith) came.  Paolo introduced him in flamboyant style, "Never been to school, but can fabricate any piece of metal to any design with the greatest of skill!" Looking at this diminutive, shy, old man we wondered...  His son had ferried him in the company truck. After dropping his father off the son deftly backed the truck straight into Paolo's ironwork gates which crumpled on impact. The son got out of the cab and looked at the sorely bent gates and said cooly, without hint of a grin, "Good thing we're blacksmiths'. The father walked up to inspect the damage and pronounced, "If I'd made that gate it wouldn't have crumpled like that." You've got to give it to them, that was some sales pitch!

Paolo's gate after the event

Next Monday morning we have a 10 o'clock appointment to confirm our order with the blacksmith's daughter.  Taking everything into account, perhaps these Italians know what they're doing after all.

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