Was perusing a big beefy Italian recipe book, trying to work out the difference between various salumi, when the neighbours come in all guns blazing saying 'e pronto!, e pronto!'
Much excitement in the house as everyone scrambles to get their shoes on and M says I must come for a 'new experience'.
Claudia and her husband, who live across the road, have had their annual delivery of wine from Emilia-Romagna. Every year, a supplier from a small vineyard delivers vats of wine to the house, to keep the family in good stead for the rest of the year. This year, it arrives in the form of nine large 36 litre barrels, which we all dutifully carry from the front of the house to the garden.
Claudia lives in a large peach coloured house, with green shutters and a large garden full of flowers. Her parents live upstairs and her great-uncle downstairs. It is the archetypal Italian home, complete with wood-fire oven.
Once we've all congregated in the garden, we're all assigned various jobs in what initially seemed to be a fun afternoon activity but is soon revealed to be a tightly monitored factory-like process. Claudia's husband deals with the funnel instrument which siphons wine from the barrels through a large pump, Claudia's eight year old siphons the wine into the bottles, Claudia hammers in the corks, I attach metal webs to the corks and M runs up and down the stairs collecting empty bottles and depositing full bottles. The grandparents, il Nonno and la Nonna, order the bottles in the cellar. The wine is Bonardo Secco (both red and white variety) and needs to be left for twenty days, after which it will become 'secco', beautiful bubbly stuff.
Nonna is a right old character, with a crooked back and a wicked smile, she refuses to believe I don't speak Italian. Nonno has had two heart-attacks since Christmas so Claudia says he is taking his health very seriously now, though I catch him having a cheeky cig at the front of the house.
This has been an annual event since Claudia was a small child and it seems Nonna and Nonno are struggling to relinquish control to their son-in-law and daughter. Every now and then they come up from the cellar, armed with walking sticks to say hello and to have a little 'passeggiata' but I suspect they are carrying out a not-so-discreet quality check on the siphoning of all the wine.
Three hundred bottles later and many tastings later, my Italian is bloody marvellous and Nonna and I have a fantastic conversation about the weather.