So I’ve struggled out of bed still feeling a little groggy after the previous day’s mammoth drive and am ready to bask in the glorious Tuscan countryside and soak up some of the promised sun on the first day of Spring.
Fat chance as it turns out. Admittedly the scenery is as breathtaking as ever – it never fails to impress – but the weather isn’t playing ball and venturing outside again will mean getting soaked to the skin.
I had already made my morning pilgrimage to the local supermarket to stock up on all my favourite treats for the weekend. Vitello tonnato – slices of veal in a tuna sauce, fresh ingredients for a caprese salad - mozzarella di bufala, organic tomatoes and basil, Parmesan cheese and ravioli alla zucca. Hardly appropriate food given the storm clouds that have gathered and I would be have been better advised to buy ingredients to make a wholesome stew. But I’m going to take full advantage of unhinging my jaws and tipping back as much delicious Italian nosh in the short time I have here.
The weather doesn’t really matter too much. I’ve come here alone this Easter weekend to contemplate my navel a bit, gather my thoughts and most importantly to have a chat with my mother, whose ashes are buried beside a tree planted in her memory on one of the terraces behind the house.
Besides a little bit of rain never did any harm, and we Brits are supposedly made of sterner stuff. At least that’s what I tried to convince myself as I grabbed a raincoat and headed outside.
Several minutes later I found myself standing in the middle of a downpour, not so much talking as just allowing my thoughts to run freely. Somehow it seemed more appropriate and certainly a lot faster than trying to articulate what I really felt. Anyway, I always used to joke that my mother would take a trip around the world’s news subjects in 80 seconds – butterflying from one subject to another.
It’s a habit I’ve acquired and honed as I get older. It now seems quite logical to me. I’ll start off taking about one thing and then another idea will pop into my mind from which I’ll make a mental connection to something else. Unfortunately I often miss out the middle bit in a conversation, so others have problems understanding how I’ve made an apparent “Neil Armstrong” leap (I wish) when really for me it’s simply a sequence of totally related ideas.
All right I’m digressing. So there I was “thinking” my monologue and sometimes expressing it aloud to myself of course. A real stream of consciousness – perhaps a little lazy, but it allowed me to cover a whole raft of topics simultaneously and in random order.
Of course it was also bloody freezing - first day of spring indeed - and I discovered that the zip fastener had broken on my windbreaker. How wonderful that the inane can interrupt the oh-so-serious for a moment. I must have looked like the proverbial wreck of the Hesperus, but it hardly mattered as there wasn’t a soul around and I rested my head against the tree, tears streaming down my face, feeling pretty miserable and clutching hold of a €6 bunch of flowers I had bought. They were the sort of Chrysanthemum I hate, but my mother loved so much. Couldn’t believe that after nearly a decade, such emotions could surface so quickly. And they weren’t superficial ones either, but real humdingery strong feelings of loss.
Have to puff out my cheeks and sigh even as I think about it.
Perhaps part of the problem is that in recent years I’ve become such a big girl’s blouse and so many things seem to set me off. But that’s no bad thing either, I’ve decided. In fact it’s akin to admitting in the 70s to liking Abba (er – remember what I thought about making a leap of thought in my mind?) Back then it was definitely uncool and untrendy to admit to such musical tastes. Pink Floyd would have given me definite street cred. But I was never very “proud” or pretentious” when it came to such things. So I was quite happy to accept the ribbing for knowing by heart all the words to Dancing Queen. In fact I considered it almost a badge of honour to be unhip.
Similarly, it’s not really manly not to be able to control the waterworks – along the lines of not eating quiche. But once again I think “what the heck,” and go for the all-out blubber attack. Maybe it’s going to be the new thing to do shortly.
After several more minutes completing the process of getting well and truly drenched I squelched my way back to the house, promising that I would set aside some more time the following day – weather permitting, or not as the case may be – for another quick commune on the terraces.
To be quite honest, it really is the most magnificent view of the village and the valley my Ma would have from next to the Linden tree, where her ashes lie – fine or foul weather. If only she were around. But there again I suppose she is for as long as I am to remember her.
Morbid thoughts perhaps, but sometimes it’s good not to forget. That’s not being sentimental, just honest.
Spiritual talks indeed.