Alas, my mini break by the seaside with my middle aged gal pals has come to an end. No more watching card games until 1am in the morning. No more getting embroiled in squabbles around the stove over how much olive oil to put in a pot of boiling fava beans. No more queuing around a water pump in 35 degree heat, waiting to fill up eight gallon bottles of water to boil pasta in. In a strange way, I think I’ll miss it.
On route back to Brindisi my aunt asked if I’d mind popping in to see her auntie. ‘Lovely lady she is’ she said.
Was quite a shock when the door opened and it was a nun.
I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but we are rather lacking in nuns in the UK. Before I went to Rome, my only encounter was with some TV footage of Mother Teresa.
After a flurry of kisses, we all traipsed into the kitchen (where all social gatherings in Italy take place) and my auntie kindly introduced me to the rest of the family as if I was an impoverished relative she’d taken in from a third world country, whom she had taken in with only the goodness of her heart. Can only assume she thought this would get her into God’s good books.
It's very disconcerting sitting opposite a nun. Especially when they wont stop staring at you with their very large blue eyes. Was overcome with nervousness and spent a lot of time examining all the magnets of Pope Francis adorning the fridge to avoid awkward eye contact.
I’m not religious in the slightest but being in such close proximity to a nun had a very disagreeable affect on me. I was overwhelmed by a horrible self-inflicted form of confession, where I felt compelled to think about all the untoward things I’ve done in my life. ‘She knows. She knows about that. Remember that, bet she knows about that’, then kept telling self off and trying to stop myself from thinking about them all because ‘SHE CAN PROBABLY READ MINDS. STOP IT'.
The nun auntie doesn't live alone. She lives with her sister (a large, jolly woman) and her husband (an equally large, jolly man in a string vest). A lovely pair who seemed baffled by my reasons for coming to Puglia (but, why, here?’) but thoroughly interested in the novel I am supposedly writing (explained here).
We all sat around drinking coffee and watching the news for a long time. She kept her silence up, just shaking her head, whilst my cousin launched into the intricate details of her husband's latest dental operation.
I really wish I could've taken a picture. It was the most Italian thing I have ever seen. Sadly it somehow didn't seem very appropriate to whip out my phone and say ‘hold on just a sec! Just be yourselves. Perfect, so Italian. My instagram followers will really enjoy this’.
So alas, you will have to use your imagination. Imagine me, sitting around a table with a nun, a balding Italian in a string vest, a large Italian woman, several cousins and an auntie who is quite clearly doing all she can to get into Heaven.