by Alan McElwain
FRIENDS from abroad with whom I was walking in our suburban street were much impressed by the fellow in the fetching blue smock. He smiled benignly upon us. removed his cap and. bowing low from the waist. honoured us with the snappiest version of a curtsy it would be possible for any male to perform in any language.
Regretfully 1 informed my beaming friends that this was no faithful retainer from my adjacent family estate (top floor desirable villa, all mod. cons., use of garden at hours to be arranged). This was the garbage man, warming up himself and us — for his Ferragosto This demonstration of excessive
courtesy in a city renowned for its
militant rudeness involves postman. milkman, dustman, baker. maid and all other doers of service, major. minor or infinitesimal. It engulfs us three times a year at Ferragosto, Easter and Christmas.
Ferragosto occurs on August 15 and is Italy's counterpart of England's August Bank Holiday. Every living soul who can walk, ride or totter leaves town for seaside or country. And every living soul who considers. often irrationally, that you are under the slightest obligation to him or her thrusts out his or her eager hand. At Easter and Christmas. the dose is repeated as before.
If you are on the giving end of this threefold ritual you have no option. Traditionally. those on the receiving end are cot/tied to their largesse. riot as a favour but as a right. Yours not to reason why.
The Subtle Reminder or Softening-Up Play usually gets about a fortnight's head start on the actual giving. It can take many devilish subtle forms. There is the courtly street approach. favoured, this Ferragosto, by my garbage man. (Last year, he brought our empty tin, usually flung. lidless, into the drive, upstairs to us, offering a coy• explanation which, roughly translated, meant he was just passing and thought he would drop Or in.)
there may be a disarmingly
discreet ring on the doorbell and, lo, there stands on our front step an obsequious, solicitous family friend barely recognisable as our normally sour postman. Although he has had no trouble deciphering your curious foreign name in the past, he has dragged his weary feet all the way up your three flights of searing marble steps because he is just a tiny bit doubtful whether this particular letter is for sou, in which case, Signore, it would be unthinkable of him to defile your letterbox with it Fee, inclusive of somewhat
laboured exchange of cordial good
will, 500 lire I 6:-/.
Normally, o u r downstairs
pori.ees sole claim to recognition is his positively mystical flair for disappearing when he is needed. Behold him now, however, cheerfully illustrating that beneath every Hyde (arid what a hyde) there lurks a gentle Jekyll. For days, he has been lashing himself into a perfect frenzy of service with a smile.
Nothing is ton much trouble for the good man, to whom annually, Ferragosto (and Easter and Christmas) bring a miraculous dissipation of the agonising, crippling complaints which. for the rest of the year, completely immobilise him. Now, in an excess of seasonal benevolence, he has even
foregone h i s long standing pleasure of lolling against the wall while my wife carries her own heavy parcels upstairs to our flat.
Fee, inclusive. etc.. as above.
Why am 1 working, as usual, this humid Ferragosto? Well, after all, Christmas will soon be round again and there's not that much time to save up the largesse for that season's annual "touch".
Suit of armour
ROME'S only English language newspaper, The Deify American, publishes an editorial which will appeal to those tourists who have been lucky enough to escape from the Eternal City without external or internal damage to their person
"As traffic grows worse, and th e heat intensifies the antagonism which exists between motorist and mere pedestrian, we have adopted a simple formula which we hope will save life and limb.
"Before stepping off a curb, even on to a 'zebra stripe' official crossing, we presume that every approaching motorist is driving without brakes or
"It's either that or a suit of armour".
Name game ITALIAN children may he called Winston, Reginald, Hector, Alexander, Percy, John. Mary. Jane, Jean or Gertrude if a bill now before parliament becomes law. Presented by 60-year-old
Socialist Senator Giorgio Fenoaltea, it aims to abolish a 1939 Fascist decree — which still makes it an offence for Italian parents to give their children foreign Christian names.
A much-quoted instance concerns an Italian ex-soldier who wanted to ,name his son William in tribute to an Englishman who had befriended him in a prisonerof-war camp. The authorities prevented him and he was forced to use the Italian equivalent, Gliglielmo, Senator Fenoaltea says it is ridiculous that citizens of a democracy cannot give their children the name of a dear friend, or a favourite character in history, he it English, Russian, Indian or of any other nationality. He also points out that under the old Mussolini law, an Italian child cannot be named Ivanhoe although one of the greatest Italian patriots of the last century was Ivanhoe Bonomi, Under the law, it is also illegal for parents to give children the same Christian name as the father, if he is still living — there are no "juniors" in Italy -or the same name as a living brother or sister. The law also bars family names as Christian names. The 1939 decree also holds that children of unknown parents must not be given family names which are "ridiculous, shameful or contrary to public order, morals or national or religious sentiment".
The increasing number of marriages between Italians and foreigners is put forward as one good reason why foreign Christian names should be permitted in modern Italy.
MONSIGNOR LORIS CAPOViLLA. devoted secretary to the late Pope John, may become the new Bishop of 'Bergamo, the diocese in which Pope John was horn. That, at any rate, is a current whisper round the Vatican. The Bishop of Bergamo, Mgr. Giuseppe Piazze who was 55, dropped dead recently in a street while holidaying in Switzerland, He was a close friend of Pope John and. of course, of his brothers and other members of the Roncalli family in Sotto 0 Monte, where the late Pope was born.
One Italian magazine has reported that. after Pope John died. Monsignor Capovilla, asked to he appointed parish priest at Sotto it Monte and thus maintain a direct link with the master he loved and served so well. Pope Paul, however, has preferred to keep him at the Vatican as one of his staff. Monsignor Capovilla is 47 and was horn in Venice, where he was secretary to Cardinal Angelo Roncalli before his election as Pope in 1958. The monsignor wrote a book, devoted mainly to Pope John's discourses, and revised it not long before the Pope died.
FOR the Gourmet (Not-OverFussy Division): Fishermen in Cagliari, Sardine, are experimenting with producing caviar from sea carp. They say it won't be as good as the genuine Russian variety, but as it will cost only a fraction of what that exotic stuff costs, it should get bre