Back in 2010 while I was on holiday in Italy, the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull erupted spewing ash into the atmosphere and grounding planes. This meant that we couldn’t fly home at the time we had booked to do so: no great hardship to be honest. We rescheduled with Ryanair to fly back six-days later from Rome, which meant a coach journey from Pescara in Abruzzo to the capital. I blogged about this back in the day, the link is: The Purple Shirt and Carrier Bag Drama. So were stuck in Italy and we decide to spend the time looking at houses for sale, I wont bore you with the details of the house hunting, but suffice to say it was an experience like no other. The result of our being stranded is that we found a nice little house in a rural location and agreed to buy it.
I was telling a friend about my experience of purchasing a property in Italy and the restoration that will need to take place to bring our little piece of Italy up to a comfortable and habitable standard. “What you need to do,” my friend said, “is write a book about it.” I shook my head and responded that there’s already a multitude of books out there and is the world ready for yet another, I started a new life in Italy book? I’ve read so many of these books, some tell of restoration of ancient vineyards, others talk about reconstructing ruins into remarkable palazzos, (actually the plural should be palazzi), but the one thing they all seem to do is romanticise their story. I know Tim Parks’ books tend to record a more honest account of his life in Italy, but to be brutally honest I find his style dull so gave up after his first book.
It’s this romantic notion that starting a new life in Italy that the readers seem to want. No one wants to hear about your fight to get the water company to realise that as your house once had a fully functioning bathroom and kitchen there must be a pipe underground connected to the newly installed water meter. (Yes we’ve had an on-going debate about this with our water company, who say the house has never had a water supply, despite them fitting the new meter within days of us buying the place). But my friend argues that with my comedic writing style I could write a different kind of I started a new life in Italy book. I ask why he thinks people would be interested and says that because of my ability to do or say the wrong thing, it’d make a more refreshing read, rather than endless passages of descriptions of olive groves and old ladies clad in black. I smile and think back to one of the incidents, again blogged previously as How a simple vowel. “Surely,” I say, “People want books with practical advice.” My friend then points out that the people who purchase these books are looking for escapism, they want to hear about the authors dilemmas but they also want to believe in the prospect that life in Italy is as idyllic as the Dolmio adverts.
I’m not sure, maybe when I’m there I’ll keep a diary for a few months and re-read any blog entries I post and if I think my musings are worthy of a book, then I’ll decide what to do, until then it’ll be onwards and upwards with my fictional book, ‘52’ and concentrating on those non-fiction magazine features that should get my undivided attention, for it’s those pieces that will be paying for the new windows for la nostra casa in abruzzo.