Back in early September I had a meeting with our builder, Antonio or Tonio as he will now be called. His father, Giovanni, our current landlord, also attends. They are worried about our optimism of moving in, in November. “If it is an issue about money and not being able to pay the rent”, says Giovanni, through their friend who has come along to act as translator, “then you don’t have to pay for the final months.”
“It’s very generous of you” I said, “but it is because I want to move my parents to Italy as soon as possible so I can look after them here.” As soon as the translator has said what I say both Giovanni and his son have their head in their hands, “Ohhh the Mama e Papa!” They are both talking quickly to each other. Giovanni met my parents when they were over last year and treated them with care and attention like he would his own. He brought my mum little gifts and always asks after them. ‘Bring them to live in the other apartment beside you, no additional rent.”
“Again that is very generous of you but my mam can’t walk up stairs. There are no steps downstairs in our new house so it would be perfect for them. I need to get the ground floor finished. ”
“If only we had known this we could have waited to do the roof until next year.” says Tonio. Now he tells me, I’m gutted. “We could have waited?”
In hindsight I am glad we are doing the roof now and didn’t wait, the dirt and disruption after settling in to the house would have been a nightmare.
“I will put an extra two men on the job to speed it up,” announced Tonio.
And that’s exactly what he did. All the scary stories I had previously heard about builders disappearing for weeks and work being delayed has been the complete opposite of what I have experienced so far – long may it last. There are a gang of workers on site every week day.
However, I think the last six weeks must have been the wettest start to autumn in Italian weather history. Or maybe I am just more conscious of every drop that falls from the sky because we have lacked a roof during the whole time. The bad weather does not seem to have affected the work on the roof that much but it has soaked the inside walls.
We brought Lucia up to have a peak at the destruction progress this week. It’s looking awful. It’s like watching someone you love have open heart surgery. Black plastic pipes are sticking out from every orifice like unattended aortas, the walls look like they have been slashed open by a fake surgeon who forgot his glasses and possibly doesn’t know anything about anatomy so just keeps cutting deep until he hits the right spot. “The house feels so sad,” I say to Ronan and Lucia, “I can feel the house groaning and asking ‘What have you done to me? I thought you were here to help?’ But she’s saying it in Italian so I don’t quite know if I am getting the translation right.”
“The house has been sedated for the surgery, she’s sleeping through it,” says Ronan, trying to ease my gutted feeling of the house being gutted.
Lucia isn’t thinking of life saving surgery instead she is thinking it as cosmetic, and exclaims in an animated way, “She is going to wake up and go ‘wow look at my new boobs, look at my new waistline, ohh I have cheekbones again and my wrinkles are gone, I look so young,’ she will be so happy, don’t worry.”
Thinking of it this way does make me feel better, until Lucia says, “But you have moles in your walls.”
‘Moles in my walls? What the hell, is that a thing in Italy?”
“Yes they come because of the rain, look I show you.” She leads me up the stairs and points at the damp stain on the wall that has strangely formed into the shape of Ireland.
“They are there?” I’m thinking that’s an ironic place for them to take up residence as we don’t have moles in Ireland.
“I think when the heat is working the moles on the wall will go,” says Lucia matter of factly.
“Ohhh you mean mould.”
I’m not letting mould or moles stop our plans we still intend to be in the house for Christmas. Watch this space!
La Talpa – Mole
La Muffa – Mould
il miei genitori – My parents (who are not moles or mouldy)
If you name your son Mario in Italy, it seems you are writing his destiny to be a plumber. I’ve met four plumbers in the last two months and three of them have been called Mario. One of them actually looked like Super Mario with the same moustache and twinkly eyes and smile.
I got quotes from several plumbing companies for the work to be done in the house. All were similar in price but the contract went to the company which can do plumbing and electrics, could start immediately and have the work finished by mid November. I chose well, I signed the contract on a Friday and there were six guys working in the house on Monday.
The manager of the business is Danny Boy, he’s young and looks like he constantly has a migraine or hung over. My chief plumber is called Mario. He’s great so I call him Super Mario. He has about 100 words of english and I still have only about 300 words in Italian so google translate comes in handy. However, looking back on the texts sent between us on the first day the possessive tense tends to come in at the wrong time.
On the Monday evening that they started work, he texted me and through google translate I answered, this is how the conversation went translated back into English:
Super Mario: I need to meet with the geometra asap, otherwise we can’t continue.
Me: What is the problem?
Super Mario: It is a serious problem with the drainage of the sewerage there is no pit. You only have an old small hole.
I try not to take offence.
Me: I think you are looking at my old hole which is no longer in use? It was there before the house was connected to the public system. The house is on the public sewerage (black water) system, I was reassured this several times when I was buying the house.
Super Mario: Are you sure?
Me: Well that is what I was told, I’m quite sure my old hole is no longer in use.
Super Mario: Tomorrow we meet at 8.30am with the geometra, as we cannot continue without knowing if your old hole to the rear is still being used.
Again I try not to be offended.
So at 8.30am I arrive. There were four guys standing around staring into the old hole in the back garden. I have only met Danny Boy, and I don’t know which one is Mario.
I walk up beside them and stare into the hole, there is a hose filling it with water. Danny Boy arrived shortly after, I didn’t recognise him as it was the first time I saw him without a mask and didn’t realise he had a beard.
My anxiety to find a solution to this problem which could cost thousands makes me forget that none of the guys around starring at my hole know who I am.
“Ahh she is the owner!” says a stocky guy with a great face in Italian, who turns out to be Mario. They all laugh, I didn’t realise that none of them knew who I was, other than just some randomer who walked in off the street who is not responding to their questions, just smiling and nodding.
“Have you put water down the toilet pipe?” I ask in broken Italian.
“Yes it arrived here. But there is another pipe out of this pit so they will fill it with water and try to find where that goes,” says Danny Boy.
It looks like it is heading towards the lake. This could be costly. Very costly.
We’re all walking around the garden looking for something that might be a cover to an opening of another mysterious hole I might own and eventually Mario sees a concrete step between us and the neighbours fence with what looks like a potential lid. After much effort they lift the lid and there it is: water running from a pipe that is in the direction of my old hole. There is also a feed in from the neighbours garden and then between the two pipes a larger concrete pipe that runs back up between the two houses on my side out towards the road. Relief, the house is on the mains sewerage.
Mario reassures me that my old hole is still in perfect shape, I do not need to replace it, it will work perfectly again in the future as old holes were built to last, they are much better than new holes.
The only problem is that the pit, or my old hole as it is now fondly known as, is in the position where I dreamed of eventually putting a pool. Maybe we could combine the two and have some therapeutic mud bath?