The time of great garden busy-ness is upon us. In the space of a couple of weeks, the garden has switched from winter deadness to a condition in which one suspects that plants – particularly grass – can be seen to be growing. The full range of weaponry, led by strimmer and tractor-lawn mower, are mobilised to beat back nature’s onslaught.
It is a bunch of work. The last week was particularly full-on. Fortunately, Italy offered up a couple of her exquisite absurdities to remind one that in the end ‘Why bother?’ is the most rational approach to life.
First, the postwoman arrived with one of those threatening, pale green, registered-post envelopes. It was a demand for payment of a parking fine from Pisa that was written on 23 February 2000.
A quick trawl through my files revealed that the Commune di Pisa already demanded payment of this fine in June 2004. At that point, the Pisa municipal police demanded I pay them Euro135,77 to reflect the original fine of just over Euro56, plus four years of late payment. Today, I am delighted to discover, they are offering to settle the whole thing for Euro111, 55 — a reduction of almost 20 percent on the 2004 figure.
This is most welcome, but leaves a difficult choice: should I settle now, or should I wait another five years in the hope of paying Euro90? A momentary reflection on the fiscal condition of the nation convinces me to cough up. I will, at least, hold my chin high about town, sure in the knowledge that I have both been dealt a bargain and that I have done my civic duty.
Unfortunately, I now remember why I never paid the 2004 demand. Neither of us was even in the country. But the wife suddenly figures out the answer. In 2000, we had just bought — brand new — the car that incurred the fine and, for some bizarre reason, decided to leave the keys with our hippy neighbour. The hippy’s family, we subsequently learned, comes from Pisa. So, it seems, the hippy borrowed our car and took a trip home. (What was wrong with his own wreck?). When he got a parking fine, the hippy presumably ate it, smoked it, or tore it up into decorative shreds and tried to sell it to a tourist.
I had been thinking that the lesson of the demand from Pisa was that one should only pay Italian parking fines when fully convenient, if at all. But that is only the smaller of two, separate lessons. The second, bigger lesson is to never, ever, ever leave your car keys with a hippy.