Slowly, with a lot of very British dithering and even-more-British bursts of anti-social behaviour, our society is opening up. A few days ago, I went on the Tube: my first public transport ride since mid-March. Pubs are rumoured to be opening on July 4th, a date saluted by the tabloids as “our Independence Day” (demonstration, if ever there was a reason, that history is not a mandatory subject in British schools). Hesitantly, gingerly, we are starting to consider foreign travel. Which, for most of us emigrants, means returning home.
And what a funny place “home” is. I realise I’ve never really introduced it to this blog, though it featured on a few posts here and there: Biella, meaning “connecting rod” in Italian. Lying at the butt-end of the Po valley where the flat, alluvial land hits the Alps, Biella is a place renowned in Italy for its friendliness and openness. “You can stay there thirty years and not make a friend”, a saying goes. A Milanese chum of mine had a client in Biella, a guy whom he called “November 2nd” due to his particularly sunny disposition and outlook to life (notice for the non-Italian Catholics: November 2nd is the day of the dead, where you are expected to pay homage to long-lost relatives at the local cemetery. Think Dia de los Muertos but without the parades, make-up, music or mescal). Such is my hometown.
I won’t deny it: despite its gloom, the metre of yearly rain and the boneheadedness of its inhabitants I like my hometown. I haven’t lived there for 15 years now, but I still feel bieleìs. You will have me drooling over a good polenta concia, lament the lack of Amaro di Oropa, sneer at the French for daring to hint at owning the paternity of toma and I still check the results of the local basketball team.
Biella is a whimsical experience, a surreal place. Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner’s Roy Batty, came ‘round one day and got lost in our woods, so lost that he had to call the Carabinieri to come find him (they did). Michael Schumacher, one hot summer day, arrived as if directed by something, got an ice cream for himself and his son, and then drove off. Never came back, apparently. If you want more proof, here is some: titles from local news, pearls all from this year. And bear in mind they’ve been unable to go further than 200 metres away from home from February to May. God knows what else they could’ve done had it not been for some bat-eaters triggering a pandemic.
Man who called the Carabinieri to say he was in danger was only trying to check his phone reception
Gang steals two cigarette lighters
Man sneezes and runs away without paying for his groceries
Biella City Council’s website hacked by a Russian prostitute service
A man complains to the Carabinieri of having seen a child driving a tractor
Mayhem in Roppolo: an ostrich evades from its pen and goes walkabout
Two horses and a donkey stroll around Trivero in the night
Woman hit by a kayak on the sidewalk
“That bar’s music is too loud”: but it wasn’t true
An indignant reader complains: “There’s a barefoot man in speedos on the Oriomosso trail”
30-something in trouble for a dildo found in his car
Man blows up cafetière by filling it with petrol instead of water
Songbird trapped in a Ponderano tobacconist, freed by the Fire Brigade
Off-piste skier ends up on the roof of a restaurant
68 apply for 3 jobs as traffic warden. All fail.
APPEAL: There’s a cat stuck on a tree, does anybody know it?
Septuagenarian starts a fight at the post office. “They wouldn’t give me a discount”.