While his wife, Ursula, puts away the dishes, Grandpa John asks me – conspiratorially – if it’s easier nowadays to ‘get your leg over.’ He then proceeds to call me Barbara, yet I look nothing like his first wife.
Oh, he’s insufferably English, and tells me about pious Aunty Lizzie who sang – with poor John beneath the pulpit – more slowly and tremulously than any other in the congregation, embarrassing him horribly as a child.
My mother’s green Fiat 127 – in which I used to try and hide under the front seat – doesn’t even come close in the humiliation stakes, I don’t think.
A “brief” tour of the garden rather fills the morning, though we do manage to store some heavy wine-making equipment in the “cantina”. (Grandpa has very sensibly decided that the machinery may be a little too much for an octogenarian to lift while balancing atop a stepladder.) Breaking for lunch, I just take a minute to breathe the fresh air and savour the vista.
Grandpa decants a gallon or so of San Giovese red wine, plucked from his own vines, while I think of my good fortune: I’m still being paid, yet here I am halfway up a mountain, enjoying an inestimably fine view of Central Italy.
There are no diesel fumes and I have one of Ursula’s mountainous plates of carbohydrates to look forward to. This is how life should be, isn’t it? How idyllic to take a nap in such a higgledy-piggledy house – there are four doors to Grandpa’s property…on four different levels.
Ursula, giddy with excitement, makes her first-ever mobile phone call as we loiter in front of a 1630 fresco.
The call is to Maggie, another eccentric ex-pat, living nearby with nine cats and a dog. ‘At 65, she may be a little old for you,’ says Grandpa, dashing any notions of romance.
A meal at a trattoria in the town of Sant’ Anatolia di Narco has been organised, and, as we dip biscotti into fortified wine, Grandpa begins a familiar story. You see, sporting shoulder-length hair at sixteen, I was once mistaken for his second wife in Nigeria..