I have been in Lucca now for 14 weeks and have slowly come to grips with hanging the washing out the third floor of our apartment window, as well as overcoming the stress of ensuring I stand in the correct line to purchase a stamp at the local post office. So when you make the decision to leave your homeland to live life like a local in Italy and you are like me, you pack up all you think you will need for a year or so on the other side of the world and off you go, not giving too much thought to all the “incidentals” you leave at home saying to yourself you won’t need them.
Take the little pin you use for sewing. You seen them everywhere in Australia and you can even purchase a pack at the local supermarket. They were not on my incidentals list but now I desperately needed these little pins to assist in me taking up a new pair of pants. So off to the supermarket I went to search (unsuccessfully), every single isle. Yes, they have one full isle of pasta in our amazing supermarket plus three full isles of alcohol, not to mention more cheese than Australia manufactures in a year all around the store, but not one little packet of pins.
My American friend here in Lucca told me that little sewing pins are referred to (among other things) “notions” and I remembered there was a shop full of material around near Puccini’s house, so into the shop of “notions”. Two ladies in line before me and 35 minutes later, I was told they sold material and some cottons but no pins. Really! If you sell cotton, then surely you must sell pins. Out I came feeling very dejected and looked across the piazza to spy what I thought was a wool shop. In to the shop I went and right before my eyes was row upon row of buttons in boxes. Looked to the right and there was a wall of ribbons of different widths and beautiful colours so pins were looking promising. This must be the “notions” shop. Three ladies before me this time so I took a seat on a lonely chair sitting in the middle of the shop and listened to each customer as they made their purchases of cottons, buttons and buttons. Came my turn so up I got and softly said “piccoli perni per cucire ” in my limited Italian speech. The shop assistant looked quizzingly at me, so I repeated it again while spying one little pin stuck into a roll of ribbon, whereupon I pulled the little treasure from the roll and waved it at the assistant. She instantly smiled and wandered out the back of her shop and returned with a box of pins containing something like 500 for 6 euro or a “spinning wheel” arrangement of about 40 pins for 4 euro. That was all I needed so I graciously gave her the 4 euro while she parcelled up my purchase in fancy wrapping paper stuck down with a load of sticking tape. I smiled at her, turned around and left the shop happy I had found what I needed.
I was so eager to get home and cut into my new pants so I could pin up the hem with my new colourful purchase, all the while thinking I could have the pants ready to wear for dinner out this evening.
Why is everything so difficult in my new home. Tried to insert one of the pins into the pant material and the pin end was blunt. Not a good start, so pulled out another and it too was not going into the material. “Dud pins” I cried out in frustration as I ripped them from the spinning wheel testing each of them for sharpness. The stretchy material of my new pants did not like the blunt pins and resisted each prick. Bad bunch of pins that didn’t pass the pin prick test on the production line I thought.
Okay, so what next? Back to shop of course and buy the packet of 500 pins for 6 euro! The shop assistant lifted her head from a box of buttons as I entered the shop. Rather than complain about the blunt pins, I quietly asked her in my Italian lingo ….”Ho bisogno di alcuni pin piu percio per favore dammi la casella di 500” which says “I need some more pins so please give me the box of 500.” I told her not to bother wrapping them as I was eager to get home and get the job done.
The shop assistant smiled and took my 6 euro and as I turned to walk out the door I walked into the chair sitting in the middle of the shop. I went flying and so did those 500 pins out of their little plastic box – all over the merceria (haberdashery). I looked at those 500 sharp little notions spread across the floor and knew there was no way I was wearing my new pants to dinner this evening.
Postscript – I was wandering around the supermarket yesterday and there they were – all standing in line with other assorted notions!