Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Towards the end of June last year I received a call from the Swansea removal company informing me that the container of all my worldly goods would arrive at the Port of Napoli on Friday, July 1st. They also asked me to “take a copy of your passport in” to the Neapolitan removal company which would handle things from there, for all the world as if Napoli were just around the corner! I faxed a copy.

On the morning of July 4th I received a call from the Italian company telling me that it had all cleared customs and would be with me early the next day. Hooray! It had been just over five weeks but seemed much longer.

So I came up to the apartment on the Tuesday morning and dear Gina, bless her, came along to provide moral support and in case there were any unforeseen problems; and thank goodness she did.

The removal men – one Beppe from Napoli and his mates [one of whom had the eyes of Frank Sinatra] arrived at around 10 am. Beppe, had he been a Spaniard, could have stepped straight out of Robert Louis Stevenson: long, ringleted, black hair tied back in a ponytail, drooping, black moustache and long, black beard, an enormous gold earring and sporting culottes and a gilet.

The first problem was that all the men had heavy Neapolitan accents and I found it difficult to understand a word they said – even Gina found it hard – and the second was that they announced that they couldn’t get the container up the road! Luckily Gina’s husband had thought there might be a problem and had told her of a nearby small removals agency that might be able to help. So we all marched down there and they said they would be able to transfer the contents of the container up to the condominio parking space but that we would have to wait 2 hours or so for them to finish another job! Well, there was nothing we could do about it so wait we did. The container was parked in a nearby street and, whilst the men went to a café for refreshments, Gina and I walked along to have a look at it. Neither of us could understand what the difficulty was and, to this day, I still don’t; if the water lorry, which is longer and wider, can get up the road and reverse into the condominio parking space, I don’t know why the container couldn’t have been thus manoeuvred! Gina pulled me away from the container rather quickly when I suggested we take a hammer to it, such was my anxiety to get at my stuff! [The hiring of the van and the men from the local removal company cost another €200, by the way, on top of what I’d already paid.]

Finally the transfer was begun and all you could hear for the rest of the day were shouts of “Ehi, Beppe!” as all 175 enormous packages were loaded into and sent up via the lift. Then you would hear Beppe muttering, “Meglio cinque pianoforti che tutti questi libri” [= “I’d rather shift five grand pianos than all these books”].

Now, I had paid to have everything unpacked by the men at this end but Gina, being more fussy about dust than I am, decided it would be better if the 4,708 books and 912 ornaments [!] remained in their boxes so that I could sort them a little at a time. I’d wanted the books unpacked and stacked so that I could sort them back into categories easily – I’d been horrified, in Cardiff, when the men said they would have to pack them in boxes according to their size, not their subject-matter – and I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift the boxes. But Gina’s word prevailed .

She had to leave at 2pm for a meeting at work and, although the cavalry arrived later in the afternoon in the form of Marco, a lot of other, larger items that should have been unpacked by the men were not. What could I do? They said they had a load to pick up from Messina that night and they could have cited the delay in the morning as the reason for not doing a full unpack. It was also a blazing hot day and we were all tired. I thought of complaining but, my imagination perhaps running away with me, I decided that, on the whole, I’d rather not have a visit from the Camorra [Neapolitan mafia] so, with Beppe literally breathing down my neck, I signed the form saying the service had been good. To be fair, I was also somewhat mollified by the fact that everything seemed to be there and the only thing that had got broken over all that distance was a flowerpot which didn’t matter; that does say something for both removal companies.

The thingamajig that should have held my bed together plus the special screws needed to reassemble a wardrobe were nowhere to be found – not the fault of the Italian company – so the first night that Simi and I moved in we slept on the settee; I could have slept anywhere that night! The next day I got a carpenter in and all was fixed efficiently and he put up some bookshelves, too.

I swear that the piles of books grew surreptitiously during the nights because, although I’d brought all my bookshelves with me, both freestanding and wall-mounted ones, there just wasn’t enough space to accommodate all the precious tomes. So I ended up purchasing three new bookcases here.

It took me till September to sort all the books back into categories [yes, I should have been a librarian!] partly because of the lifting involved and also because you could only do so much at a time in the heat. Marco’s son and his friend came to lift the final boxes.

And now, as I sit in the apartment, g and t in hand and shutters open during these balmy evenings of another summer, I gaze around at my ornaments, pictures and books, all here and all in place. And I think back to the events of a year or so ago and wonder how I managed to re-sort everything and where I got the energy to do so!

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