On the phone beforehand, the salesman told me his name was Marco. Italian, right? And yet puzzlingly he spoke with a broad Scottish accent. This is going to be interesting, I thought.
It was. Marco looks Italian. He's on the short side. He's dark-haired, has a prominent nose, and is carrying a bit of weight. Like most Italian men he dresses nicely. He has a charming manner, but not in that too-smooth way typical of some salesmen. And yet there's this Scottish brogue.
As he was leaving I said to him (but only because he mentioned that he thought I was South African), "Clearly you're Italian, what's with the Scottish accent?"
"Ooh," he said, in that way that Scottish people do, "that's a wee story."
"Tell it to me," I said.
It turns out his Italian father met his Italian mother in London, not long after the war. They married and stayed in England, but when Marco and his brother came along money, which had never been plentiful, got very scarce. In order to give the two boys a "fair crack at life", in Marco's words, they were together sent to Italy, one to stay with his maternal grandmother, the other with his paternal grandmother. Apparently the two grandmothers didn't live too far away from each other and, according to Marco, the boys had an idyllic childhood - running barefoot through the wheat fields, stealing fruit from orchards, etc.
|Image courtesy Google Images : Coleman: Women in the Wheat fields|
When the younger boy turned six (I never did find out which one was younger) and school loomed, they were sent back to England. Why, I didn't ask. Perhaps the grandmothers decided they'd had enough; perhaps the parents had a bit more money by then. Only Marco's parents were no longer in London, they'd moved to Scotland; hence the Scottish accent.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the grannies - to have this child that you'd nurtured and loved taken away from you, and not seen again for who knows how long. It must have been very painful. And then I think of it from the mother's point of view - two of her babies sent away from her shortly after birth, and not seen again until they were six. How do you ever get over that?
I suggested to Marco that he should get this all down one day, that it would make for captivating memoirs, but he said he didn't think it was all that interesting.
Not all that interesting? I disagree. Don't you?