27th January 2008
Just before we left England, in a kind of panic to cling on to some remnant of my old life, I persuaded marito to buy me a running machine. This he did, at some expense, over the internet. It was to be delivered to our new home in Italy. Of course, shortly after our arrival at our enchantingly rural money-pit, I realised how completely frivolous and inappropriate the purchase was.
The tranquil white roads beckoned and I was seduced. I began to run outside, early in the mornings, my feet crunching on layers of frosty leaves, sun rising in an opalescent sky and air so pure and cold that it crackled through my hair and caught my breath. It was exhilarating. I began to dread the arrival of the tread-mill. However, as the weeks and months passed by, it dawned on us that the machine was not “on it’s way”, “just about to be delivered” and that we had, in fact, been had. An internet con.
Now, not only had I coerced marito into making a reckless purchase that we could ill afford, but we were also unlikely ever to see it. The running machine began to symbolise all my foolish suburban naiveties as well as our financial ineptitude. I felt a sickening shame whenever I thought of it.
Marito, however, was on the case. He tracked the shyster down to his hideout in deepest Cambridgeshire and, with a little help from the local police, organised a dawn raid. Fortunately the ‘dodger’ turned out to be an equally inept criminal and quickly confessed all. We had not been his only victims and other witless fitness fanatics had been similarly fleeced. The courts gave him a conditional discharge, he must pay back his ill-gotten gains or face the consequences. I had my doubts and carried on running with a heavy heart.
This morning, a year and 2 months later, a cheque arrived in the post and I am astonished. He has made good, paid his dues and bought me a reprieve. I can run free from the chains of guilt that had held me back. So, as the dog bounds ahead around a corner, momentarily out of sight, and I quicken my pace to catch him, I may not know what lies ahead but I do know one thing for sure. You cannot take your old life with you to a new country, you must evolve and embrace the new. Thank you Steve, whoever you are, it may have taken a year and a bit but you did the right thing and maybe we are both better for it.
The best thing I ate;
A quince is an ancient fruit. It looks like a mixture between an apple and a pear but in fact is not. It cannot be eaten raw and, when cooked, has a taste and texture like neither. It is intensely and beautifully fragrant. A strange, hauntingly, honeyed fragrance so lingering that I have read that great bowls of quinces were left to rot in order to perfume the Renaissance houses of Florence.
The quince season is fleeting and they can be difficult to track down. Luckily for me there are plenty of them growing around here. I have eaten them at a neighbour’s house added in chunks to a fig crumble (home bottled figs, no less) and their luscious, grainy texture stole the show.
For myself, I poached mine in cheap Vin Santo , filling the kitchen with a warm, heady fug and watching as the coarse rock-hard flesh softened and turned gloriously rosy.
Where to get them;
Good luck. They’re hard to find…