Monday, June 30, 2008


Walking back from work with shopping in 37 C this evening, I must have paused a couple of times on the "home stretch". "Signora, it's heavy and I will carry it for you", uttered a familiar voice behind me and before I could reply a male neighbour had relieved me of my bags, raced up the road with them and deposited them at the entry door to the condominio. I not only reflected that this has never happened to me in the UK, but started thinking about the other "little courtesies" that I encounter during my daily life in Sicily:

When you enter Raffaele the hairdresser's, for instance, you are invited to "sit down and rest yourself" whilst you are served a refreshing cold drink; only when they consider that you have recovered a little from the heat outside would they dream of starting your shampooing process and that's fine with me! When I first started this blog and had few readers I also mentioned that, during that first, stifling summer when I was in the little house in Modica Bassa, I had come up to Raff's for my hairdo and he instructed one of his staff to drive me back, as he didn't want me waiting for a bus in the heat. His thoughtfulness at that time is something that I always remember at this stage in the year.

Recently, at the Altro Posto, Giorgio the manager has been filling up my ice bag for me almost daily so that I can put it on my ankle at work and get through the afternoons reasonably comfortably. I wouldn't even dare to ask in a UK bar but here you are assured it is no trouble at all.

Then there is the other helpful neighbour who always asks if I need some packs of mineral water and brings them regularly. Believe me, when you don't have transport, such a gesture is really appreciated! [In such a case, it is not so much that people in the UK would not help you if they realised; it is , rather, that sometimes those who have transport simply cannot visualise that being without it can be a problem .]

Last week I told my neighbour upstairs that I have a British friend staying with me and she immediately offered to drive us around to all the nearby beach locations so that we can take photos, enjoy them and, of course, blog about them. And we shall go, reader, just as soon as the weather cools a little.

At the deli down the road Mr T.... is always concerned that the carrier bags into which he loads my purchases are comodi [comfortable] and he stretches the handles to make them so. If I've bought a bottle of olive oil, he gets very worried and double-warns me each time not to just dump the bags on the tiled floor in relief when I arrive home, thus breaking the container of the precious substance. [Sometimes I think Mr T.... would make rather a good psychologist!]

When James's missing suitcase finally arrived in Modica after a fortnight, the student whom I was teaching when I got the phone call from the carrier didn't hesitate to offer help. "Let's go now and meet the carrier in my car - we can't take chances." There was no comeback from either her or my boss later. Human needs at that time prevailed.

Of my long-term friends here I have written often and gratefully: they know I could never have managed without them and, as I approach the third anniversary of the day I moved into this apartment, I recall the summer of 2005 and all the help they unstintingly offered me. I thank them now, as then, from the bottom of my heart.


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

You might have some bad points about Sicily, like the water and the post office, but to have such kind and thoughtful people in your daily life is a blessing!!!

Here they would most probably charge you for the ice, not warn you about the bags..

How sweet of your neighbour, they all sound so caring!!

My boss is very caring and helpful, it makes a big difference.

CherryPie said...

How times have changed over here... It is the me me me society. What you describe is how people should treat each other.

I have reason to be grateful for my boss when my Dad was ill earlier this year. Just a simple go when you need to don't worry about it. It was quite a refreshing change from the norm!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Anne. Yes, the kindly, good folk I meet daily make up for the bureaucracy. I do agree with you about bosses , and with you, too, Cherrypie. I know from my own experience that it is bad enough being frantically worried about a loved one who is ill and the last thing anyone needs at such a time is harrassment from work. You are right about how people should treat each other.

jmb said...

How wonderful to get help when you need it. I have never understood English people who are so reserved on so many occasions when others are not. But then the Italians are especially thoughtful and courteous.

James Higham said...

Great post and the thing for me is that I now know first hand that of which you write.

Claire said...

I think people are generally kind and helpful but we have lost the art of the spontaneous offer of help which is sad. Generally people in the UK are much more selfish then your neghbours in Sicily sound. A good maxim is to treat others as you would like to be treated it seems to work. What sweet people you live amongst.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I meet with these common courtesies I am so appreciative. What a nice post!

sally in norfolk said...

I do have kind and thoughtful people in my life BUT not in my daily life and sometimes this causes me a great deal of stress and can also make me feel very alone :-(

Whispering Walls said...

La creanza crea cari uomini (or something like that - can't think of an Italian word for man beginning with c)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. May I put in a plea for the Brits here, though? We just don't like to bother people, you see and we don't mean to be unhelpful; it's more a belief that the other person might actually prefer to be left alone. - Daft, I know, but there it is. Thanks, James. Totally agree, Kissa, but excusing the Brits a little as above. Thanks, Maryann. I do appreciate your comments. Sally, I do empathise. You are right: we need thoughtful people in all areas of our life. Believe me, I understand what you are saying. Excatly so, WW.

Maria said...

What an ideal way to be and live with one another! Consideration is something so kind it's beyond wordds. You are truly a special person to have such consideration come your way! I know firsthand!

In NYC you are lucky you are not tripped or hit with the door on your way out!

Wishing the kindness you experience could spread throughout the world! I am sure it would make it a much happier place! :)

All the best always,

Nunyaa said...

You would not find such manners and goodwill here where I live, what a pleasant place to live Welshcakes :-)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You are so kind, M. I am horrified by what you say about NYC. Take care, my friend. xx
Hi, nunyaa. Yes, the general kindness here makes up for lot of the shortcomings. Love from Si9mi and me xx


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