Saturday, 31 January 2009

When life gives you lemons...

Because it is character building I sent my kids to spend half their summer holidays with my parents in Italy.

My parents live in a tiny landlocked village where nothing much happens apart from the odd murder or blood feud. Since the beach is an inaccessible 50 miles away, it can, understandably, get somewhat boring for little children. Naturally they will make their own entertainment.

The house my parents live in is the penultimate house in a narrow cul-de-sac not 8 meters wide. Outside the front door is small area with a table & chairs and a lemon tree, all enclosed and separated from the pavement beyond by a tiny wall perhaps 2ft tall.

Because life is boring even for adults, one kind of taedium is often replaced by another and so boredom gets averted by such fanciful means as walking back and forth. Endlessly. It is the Mediterranean way.

There is this 80-year-old man who lives on our street who does just that: he walks to the end of the road, turns round, walks back and then repeats the process many, many times a day, giving a cheery hello if you see him for the first time, or a simple nod of the head if you've seen him for the 9th time already.

My 6-year-old boy has noticed this, so he thought it would be fun to play a little prank on this man. He and a friend shook some lemons off the tree in front of the house, stockpiled their yellow arsenal and crouched in ambush behind the 2 ft wall.

Bearing in mind that ours is the only lemon tree on the street, that ours is the last inhabited house at the end of the road (the one with loud children playing outside climbing on a lemon tree) and that it is the house just after which the man executes his turn, and bearing also in mind that a 2 ft wall hardly affords any cover to two giggling six-year-olds who had just been seen (many times), it strikes me as an odd plan to carry out.

But small children aren't noted for their ability to plan complex military ambushes or foresee the consequences of their actions (he really is a chip off the old block).

No sooner had the man walked past (on our side of the street) they pelted him with lemons and quickly dropped down again, giggling, to hide behind the 2 ft wall.

The astonishment (and then the terror) on their faces when the man turned round and walked straight towards them, is something I would have loved to have seen. They fled inside the house.

It's true when they say that it takes a village to raise a child.

The man knocked on the door and informed my mum of the behaviour of these little tearaways. Hollow threats of involving the fruit-police, and a swift tails-between-their-legs apology ensured that the matter went no further.

I can imagine the de-brief: both kids looking at each other confused and wondering just where their brilliant plan went wrong.

I think the character building lesson here is that if life gives you lemons you don't hurl them at old men unless you have adequate cover and an escape plan that doesn't involve running to grandma (who is unlikely to side with you on this).


  1. What fun! For the grownups, I mean :)

  2. You story reminds me when we were shipped off to visit our Grandpapa who lived in a very small village in South Africa.

    The village was called Windsorton, grandiously named after the House of Windsor. It started out as Hebron, a mission station.

    Diamonds were discovered in the river, and prospectors flooded the village.

    My grandpapa was was a diamond digger and we would sit on the river banks, watching him and his workers sort the pebbles to find riches.

    His house was a big old house with a large front and back porch. The back porch overlooked the river, the front porch one of the few streets.

    There was a ghost living in the house as well, but that's another story.

    Your story brings back a lot of memories, Frannyy!


  3. So, your son speaks Italian; lemon Italian. :-)

  4. Every story you write Franny is worth the
    price of admission. I never had any
    grandparents to know, but we've been in
    Italy, spent a month there a few years back,
    so your story has a ring of familiarity to
    it and it's pure and classic Franny! :D

    I discovered you were here via a mutual SU
    friend, so now I can read you all over again
    and have as much fun doing so as I did there.

    I see that I'm going to have a lot of catching
    up to do with you. Great!

    Greetings from The Great White North,