I have a lovely friend who rents an apartment near the Duomo in Lucca. It’s a bright, airy third-story apartment, complete with living room windows that provide a picture book view over the Piazza S. Giovanni. She chose this location, and particular apartment, because the kitchen looks out over an inner courtyard and has big glass doors that allow one person to step out onto a tiny balcony and carefully place a foot amongst the pots of fragrant herbs.
“Ah yes,” she pondered, when she first viewed the apartment. “It’s just like in the movies I can slip out onto the balcony when I rise in the morning and sip my coffee while gazing at the ancient Lucchese rooftops, so close that I can almost reach out and touch them – well amost.”
She loved the view and had no hesitation persuading her husband this would be their home for the next three years. Her husband was dutifully happy, as he knew that if the kitchen was good with a “clincher” view, his desires of delicious Italian meals, cooked expertly by his culinary wife, would be plentiful.
As in the movies, everything was great the first few weeks they moved in. She savoured the early mornings squeezing (not quite stepping) onto her tiny balcony with her coffee, as she prepared her daily menu.
As in the movies, it all came unstuck one morning when she enthusiastically bounded into the kitchen to step out into her little potted garden to see before her not only several coloured pegs, but what seemed like an oversized white bath towel strewn on the rooftop right before her. She gasped in horror as she turned her gaze above the mess to a large open window from which an abundance of assorted pieces of clothing each secured by a single clothes peg flapped in the sharp breeze from a thin piece of rope.
“Well, there’s the rest of the pegs!” She snarled at the pegs now littered on the roof in front of her.
Suddenly a young girl seemed to hurl another object in the direction of the line, so my friend quickly called out in her best Italian, “delicious Italian meals”. The girl looked in her direction, half smiling. My friend waved and gestured to the towel and pegs on the roof before her and reverted to Italian, asking the girl how she was going to retrieve the articles to tidy up her vista as quickly as possible. The girl frowned and shrugged her shoulders and slammed her windows shut, to which my friend reversed from the tiny balcony into the kitchen, bounded down the three flights of steps, opened her front door and stopped, looked around and muttered loudly, “Which bloody apartment does my vista belong to?”
Wanting answers, yet totally bewildered at which door to knock first, she turned and went back to her kitchen, marching to the window and calling out in vain for the young girl to show her face at the open window. Alas, to no avail.
My friend remained in her kitchen all day, and late into the evening (too put-off to create the normal feasts she usually prepared) all the while hoping the young girl would retrieve her daily wash, but alas midnight came and my friend, exhausted from window spotting all day, fell asleep.
Awake early next morning, she flung open the glass doors to see the washing had been retrieved without her knowledge, but the huge white towel and the brightly coloured pegs were still in full view. Urgh! She was now even more annoyed.
The dramatic change to her daily routine, didn’t initially bother her husband, but not long thereafter the succulent deliciousness of his daily meals began to suffer.
My friend and her husband methodically sought to find out in which apartment the “culprit” lived, but for quite different agendas, of course.
After several more days of quite clearly miserable meals, the husband took it quietly upon himself to resolve the dilemma. After his wife had gone to bed one evening, he quietly went into his study where he had, under cover of darkness, been working on setting up his fishing rod. Almost ready and after adding a large hook and sinker to the thin yet sturdy line, he squeezed onto the tiny balcony, placed one of his oversized feet between the plentiful herb pots and carefully aimed his fishing line at the lumpy white towel gleaming laying on the tiles under a full moon.
He flicked the line out into the stillness of the night, narrowly missing the towel, but entwining three pegs, which he carefully dragged until they tumbled down to the concrete courtyard below.
He tried to cast again, and then again. He remained there in the moonlight, casting and missing, casting and missing. Just as he was about to give up because his arm was steadily tiring from all the flicking of the line, there was a sudden snag and automatic tug to which the line gave a jerk. His casting arm had now gathered so much strength that the towel was flung from its lodging to the roof above.
“Oh, no!” he mumbled. He then stretched his body around, almost tumbling out over the tiny balcony railing, in an attempt to see the towel’s new resting place. Where? No idea, he couldn’t see it. It was gone and he was elated.
So that damn towel and three more of the pegs were flung to the heavens (well sort of). He smiled and packed up the rod and quickly snuck back to bed and quickly eased into a deep sleep with a smile on his face, just as the sun was sneaking up over the horizon.
My friend sauntered out to her kitchen when she rose that next morning and reluctantly glanced out the glass doors to be confronted by five orange pegs! She looked over the edge of her little balcony, thinking the towel might be strewn on the concrete below, and was delighted to see that it was nowhere in site.
“Those orange pegs don’t look too bad,” she said to herself. It was the towel that had really bugged her.
She mouthed a silent “thank you” to whoever had removed the towel, and then headed towards her bulging pantry to select ingredients for a most beautiful breakfast for her husband, who all this time was standing out of her view, rubbing his hands in glee.