The Italian who arrived in the smallest car…

THIS guest appears a little eccentric. He is smallish, black-bearded and Italian. His English is good, but he talks quickly and his conversation rushes out on an exasperated sigh.

All sorts arrive and then go, blending to a blur, but I think this guest will stay in the mind longer than some.

He is from close to Naples. “Near to Mount Vesuvius,” he says, wiping his forehead.

He is hot and tired, but who can blame him. He pulls his tiny white car in from the road, then bustles back in and reverses, so that he is facing the right way to leave. The front of the car is bashed in a bit.

“A crazy driver in France,” he says, holding an imaginary steering  in a crazy driver mime. “Pulled right out in front of me. But maybe I was a bit distracted, too.”

That car was sound enough to drive, and drive it he has. All the way from Naples to the Orkneys. In a Fiat 600 – a car with an engine fit for a lawnmower.

He has just come from the Lakes and drove up Honister Pass to visit the slate mine. “I like it very much,” he says. “My car less so.”

Hadrian’s Wall – he had a look at that too. “I nearly drove all the way to what’s it called? Ah, Newcastle.”

He removes two bags from the car boot, looks at one as if wondering why it is there, shakes his head and puts it back in.

My wife overhears the rapid burst of conversation, words flying out in an overheated rush, and goes to sit in the garden.

Our Italian guest talks as I show him the room, and talks as I back down the stairs. Then he goes for a shower and I join my wife in the garden.

A little later, he wanders into the kitchen where I am cooking. He tells me that he teaches Spanish. “I speak six languages,” he says. The others are Russian, English, French and German – and fast Italian, too.

He tells me he lived in Russia for two years. “But I came back because of mother,” he says.

When he leaves our house in his minuscule white car with the dented front, he will head for the Channel Tunnel, then drive through France. He has always wanted to see the Palaeolithic cave paintings at Lascaux, but these are not exactly on his way home. “South west France,” he says with a sigh. “But I have a friend in Turin and he may be able to help me.”

He mocks up a phone with his hand. I can’t see how Turin helps but decide not to ask.

Later I Google ‘Naples to York’ and discover that his journey home ­– not including ancient cave paintings – is 1,483 miles. His two-week holiday from school will have seen him drive those 3,000 miles – plus another 1,000 or so for the Orkney excursion.

Amusingly, the ‘Naples to York’ inquiry brings up the route… “Head south on Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi towards Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi…” I give up after that.

Has anyone ever driven so far in such a small car in their school holiday? No way of telling.

Now it is morning and I can hear our guest in the shower. I shall stop typing now and brace myself for the whirlwind.

Post-breakfast footnote:

V has now gone, whirling on his way. Over breakfast he was chatty, passionate, said he loved his job and hated the politics of his country, and wondered in despair why Britain was leaving the EU. “You belong in Europe,” he said. “You are an important country.” Then he got back into that tiny car and buzzed off on his way.


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