Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The day we arrived in Nice

It's Armistice Day today or Veterans' Day in the States,  the day set aside to celebrate the end of the First Great War.

It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiegne, France.  The signing took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning... "The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. 

 It was on this day more than 20 years ago that Monsieur engaged a truck and a driver, left at 4 am, and travelled down with him to Nice with our parrot,  Digby Willoughby, in a cage beneath his feet.    I took the train down rather than be packed in with boxes and a parrot. 

We were amazed upon arriving that we were able to unload the truck without a soul trying to get past it.  Our street was barely able to accommodate the truck.  Later we realized that it was because of the "jour ferie" which is celebrated in France but not in Italy where Armistice day is commemorated on November 4.   

La Galleria, Milano    (photo unrestricted stock)
The week before we left Milan an incident occurred that was sadly not so unusual.    Monsieur saw two young boys about 7-8 years old on the six story high roof across from us, trying to pry open a dormer window. 

 He shouted at the boys and they "flipped him the bird" and continued their mischief.  But "Seniore" continued shouting until they finally slunk away. 
 We knew that the parents of these young thieves used their children to do "break-ins" as the children would not be prosecuted.  Mostly when caught, the kids played dumb about who their parents were and so the problem perpetuated. 

 In August, when the traditional summer holiday came and apartments were empty of residents, there was a major theft of Milan residences each year.   I wonder if that situation has changed since we left as it is still a way of life for the nomadic families that come (mostly from Middle Europe) and make thieving and begging their life's work. 

 In Nice there have been several visible solutions taken to contain this problem.  Theft and begging by Romani was much more of an issue when we first arrived.  The best avenue seems to prevent the godfather of the clan from sending the families down in the first place.   My sympathy is always with the kids and young mothers who are raised in this system. 

Anyway, Monsieur decided that the situation of the kids on the roof should be reported to the concierge (called a portinaio in Italy) of the apartments being raided and went over to have a word.

 The concierge in Italy is a very important person who is paid very little.  He is usually an uneducated man who raises his family in the small quarters afforded him on the first floor of a big apartment building.  The Portinaio who managed our building on Via San Marco was called Ezio and his wife was Pina.  Ezio had many stories,  among which was that as a small boy he was present at the Piazzale Lorreto when they hung up Il Duce in the square after the war.    see the story:

 The day before we were to leave Italy,  Ezio called to tell us we had a visitor.   The man we encountered was the gentleman whose apartment was behind the dormer window. 

 He told us that all of his work on a three year architectural project was on his computer and it had not been backed up.  He realized what the theft would have meant to him and had come to thank us for preventing it. 

 But then he asked an unusual question: Why did you do it?  

We were puzzled but then he said " of course, you are foreigners"("stranieri") answering his own question.   No one in Italy would get involved, he explained.  

 This, I believe, is one of those cultural differences that has developed from one's country being occupied or besieged during war. 

 In America we are blessed not to have these same kinds of fears left over from war.  We have our own tragedies and fears, of course,  but superstition of one's neighbors is not one of them. 

This man wanted to invite us to dinner the next day but alas, after finally meeting one of our neighbors, we were off to our adventures in France. 

PS.  I have no control over the size of the  font.  It seems, today to have a life of its own. 


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