Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Countdown to Christmas

I bought some freshly picked clementines from the veggie seller with his little truck in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, and also a tray of three smaller 'cecchi' - persimmons, which he said were sweet. I was curious about the difference between these and the larger one I bought last Saturday. As it turned out, a world of difference. The were all as soft to the touch as an over-ripe tomato, and I wondered if they were going off when I took them out of the bag at home. They have no characteristic aroma so I decided to try one. I was amazed at the difference between this and the larger firmer one. It's as deliciously soft, sweet and juicy as a mango, best opened and eaten with a spoon. On my shopping list in future, definitely.

A team of contractors was out by the Messina gate hanging the first public Christmas decorations from balconies either side of the Corso. I could see garlands of artificial greenery and electrical cables going up and when I passed again later in the afternoon, lights were suspended from them, ready for the big switch on, whenever that will be. Another work team was out in the Piazza tidying the huge evergreen canopy of the grove of trees in front of Taormina's congress hall. The countdown the the Christmas holday season with a surge of additional guests has started.

It's a pretty tidy town, with plenty of well maintained litter bins. You don't ever see much litter in the streets considering the number of visitors daily. I haven't yet come across any of those horrible noisy street sweeping machines here either, just street cleaners, un-ostentatiously doing their job. I heard a mother by the Catania Gate reproach her three year old for dropping a sweet paper. Then she stopped and picked it up to put in a bin, setting the right example to her little one.

Just outside Catania Gate I found this afternoon a small paved memorial garden to civilian victims of the bombing of Taormina, dedicated on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war. I sat there for a while, enjoying the warmth of the setting sun. No chill breeze today. One of the local old men was perched on the wall nearby, observing and commenting to me, as it turned out, on the obstructive behaviour of some of the motorists stopped outside the Gate.

I didn't quite understand him, which meant I didn't admit to speaking any Italian, thereby depriving myself of an opportunity of conversation. He wanted to know where I was from and tried out his smattering of English, French and German chat up lines on me - no doubt used on the ladies when he was younger. He told me proudly that he was eighty, and looked at least ten years less. Then a van drew up and he got in. It seems he was waiting for a lift home. The van was driven by the veggie seller. From the resemblance between them, I imagine they were father and son, or uncle and nephew, on their way home at the end of a winter's day in the sun.

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