The wonderful evening many years ago

The wonderful evening many years ago Taken entirely from the tenth chapter of Sotiro, this story is the first work of Nicholas Pascale as an author; schoolmate and fine intellectual, former university lecturer in Milan before returning to this green island where he has since worked for several years: it is a delightful book, dedicated to the memory of Salvatore his recently passed on father, full of memorable pages, strong, original and precious. As is this nostalgic memory, going back to 26th July, more than half a century ago: re-reading it now, for one who the festival of Sant’Anna and the summer 2016 are already fond memories, creates a poignant effect which I would like to share with readers. My sincere thanks to Nicola for having allowed this publication. (Ci.cen.)

The lined cliffs almost lying in the shallow waters along the stretch of sea from Varulo to Capitello, delimit the bathing areas, beyond which children could not venture. Then I did not know how to swim, I learned later, and while my same aged friends showed off by swimming and doing breathtaking dives, I ran at breakneck speed on dry sand, still warm from the hot July sun, or helped fishermen pull a boat or two up onto the sand, working hard to position the pieces of wood smeared with grease beneath the keel thus making it easier to move.

The feast of the Madonna del Carmine falls on 16th of July and Peppe ‘u delfino has already prepared the battery of fireworks which officially serve to commemorate Maria, who definitely does not care about noisy bangs and flaming sparks, but much more effectively satisfy the many passionate firework fans in Lacco Ameno.
Whatever the reason, it is a felt and traditional appointment organised annually by Peppe on the beach near his restaurant, close to a small niche in the wall reminding passersby of the ancient devotion to the Virgin.

“Come on, hurry up, I want to eat something and go to bed, I’ve been up since 4.00am pulling in, cleaning and re-setting lobster pots. I’m tired”.
“I know, tell me about it, I still have to take down the parasols and fold the deck chairs, then I want to enjoy the fireworks, smoke a cigarette and go to bed”.
Those summer evenings along the marina have a special meaning for me. The fine sand, clean and full of shells seems to suddenly jump into the clear and calm sea, almost without intermission along the shore. The main road of the town at dusk, with the sun still shining on the horizon is criss-crossed mainly by tourists quietly shopping in small boutiques offering everything they possess.

The smell of pizza greedily eaten by some nearby children, is a sign that ‘O Padrone do Mare, a tried and tested restaurant overlooking the small harbour where the beautiful Riva Acquarama speed boats rest after a hard day water skiing, is in full activity. However I eat ‘u curuccio ( a heel) of bread and tomatoes with zucchini, cheese and eggs that Aunt Maria and Uncle Franco have brought from home. Arriving with Giovanni, Sandro and Cynthia, they open a basket from which also emerges apricots and cherries hungrily eaten as we run excitedly in all directions.
“Nico, are we going to build Vesuvius?”.
“Yes uncle, but you do it, you’re good , mine collapses.”
“Ok, find some old newspapers then we can light it.” Wet sand is normally used to model sand castles, we build that volcano sitting in the background, the same which on the mainland intrigued us. Uncle Franco is good, filling the crater with paper and small twigs which are then lit; the smoke blowing out is accompanied by applause and cheers.. “Beautiful, that’s great.”
“Looks real, huh?”.
“Look, look, Salvatore is coming holding a fishing rod, what’s he doing? He looks like St. Peter. “
“Dad, what’s happened?”.
“What’s happened? I’ve caught a giant squid, there, near the chapel of Santa Restituta. Incredible, it beached on the shore, in this heat ... Franco, Mari, come and see. “
Meanwhile, near the votive niche dedicated to patron saints of seafarers, a crowd of onlookers has already gathered. Bernardo ‘u vescovo ( bishop), Mimi’ and ‘nzogna (fatty) and Savatore’ u luongo luongo (the tall one) are animatedly discussing on the capture of, what seems to me to be a typically white and red sea monster, with tentacles sprayed out in all directions.
“Look what a squid, for goodness sake it couldn’t be pulled on board if we hadn’t been fishing in the shallows at Caruso. Mimi, hand me the big fishingnet “.
“Here, here it is.”

The sun sets slowly amid shouts and laughter regarding this sensational event. But almost immediately, our attention is distracted by the arrival of a boat which at a distance of about fifteen meters away, begins the characteristic fishing method of trawling. Leaving the edge of the beach kept by his brother, Peperipè breathlessly first launches the side net overboard and then that which is an actual death trap for those fish which have not been able to flee from the fishing area: a closely knit sack that leaves no room for the chance of salvation.

The net is then trawled to the other side of the harbour and these skilled fishermen, along with the participation of all of the noisy public throwing stones of every shape and 1964size into the sea to entrap the poor unfortunate fish, trawls back towards land, an indistinct mass of small animals in frenetic movement. Darkness fell and beneath the yellow light of a street lamp which casts timid rays onto the dark blue sea, red mullet, shrimp, whitebait, small tuna fish, sea bream, scorpion fish, crabs, small sole, sea snails and some curly sharp and black as pitch sea urchins can be seen.

The children’s screams of enthusiasm are deafening. The squid forgotten, which Dad and some friends have in the meantime finally managed to admire the greatness of, we rush to where the fireworks lit by Giuliano - with multicoloured pinwheels, whistles and burning drops that seem to come from the mouth of the volcano, exactly there where we had built it, close the early evening.
“Shall we go and listen to the songs?”.
Aunt Maria holding Cynthia suggests something almost obvious: to all go and sit on the sand near the “Regina Isabella” going silently, silently so Vitale the lifeguard could not hear us, he with the grim air of Charon who ferries tourists from the beach to the “Sporting,” we wait for the show to begin.
“Who’s on tonight?”.
“Rita Pavone and Caterina Caselli. Monday its Rocky Roberts, I really want to see him move”.

In an atmosphere of silent waiting ,the sound of a jazz band in the background prepares clients for the event itself, seen in the distance are three, five, then nine rowing boats carrying men, women and children on board which moor up beneath the outdoor terrace from where not before long their darlings of the television will perform. Seeing them is better than listening to them, peering at them from the boat rocked by smooth and imperceptible waves. The ‘ lampara’ fishing lamps on the boats further out, casting their silver reflection on a calm sheet of water calmly abandoned to the new moon, evoke distant times ignorant of today’s clamour.
“Salvatore weren’t you talking about the festival of Sant’ Anna?”.
“It’s on the 26th, that is, in ten days and as every year, the Commendatore Rizzoli organizes a pyrotechnic spectacle for his wife’s name day. Really grand and beautiful Franco, you know ?! Wait and see”.

Yes, Angelo Rizzoli. All the hotels, the hospital, the square, the fashion world, high society snobs and spendthrifts, famous singers, the wellbeing so hoped for by a community of dialect speaking fishermen and farmers , struggling to change their antique and halting way of life for the better.

Even the lined cliffs await 26th July 1964: the departure place of colourful arrows rising up into the sky portraying the night with their lights, creating ethereal and luminous images. Certainly, the cliffs, offer boats safe shelter from the impetuous winter west wind that sometimes blows disastrously along the coast. And they are, perhaps, even a symbolic shelter from the worries and miseries, pains and hardships endured by our fathers.



di Nicola Pascale



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