Saturday, 28 January 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 12. Termites

 “Termites? Termites? There’s no bloody termites in that house. If they find any termites in that bloody house I’ll eat my bloody foot.”
Don wasn’t happy.
“Don love, it’s all part of the process” soothed Marie “it’s simply like having a survey done in the UK. Here in Corsica they’re hot on termites and asbestos…”
“Asbestos?” spluttered Don.
We had made an offer to buy the house and, though it was accepted there were the obligatory legal hoops of fire to jump through.
Marie stroked Don’s forearm “As it’s Brit to Brit there are non of the usual local complications; there’s often a cross eyed cousin who opposes the sale of a family pile out of ignorance or spite. The only one who’s cross eyed here seems to be Don.”
‘Termites!” tutted Don, shaking his head.
We shared a local lawyer with the Adams family, a ‘Notaire’, to oversee the process, which seemed surprisingly straightforward. Once the checks had been made we arranged to meet the Notaire in nearby Calenzana with Jacques Levy, the father of a local friend, who would translate for us and act as benefactor. We’d met him only once but he was happy to help.
We arranged a rendezvous with Jacques and Don and Marie in Calenzana, from there we would go on to our meeting and hopefully the signing. We’d arrived in the Piazza Communa shortly before Don and Marie. There was grumbling as they approached.
“I told you there were no bloody termites in…”
“Don, you promised!” interrupted Marie.
We sat beneath burgeoning bourgenvilla in the luster of early morning, at a café overlooking the church of Saint Blaise, admiring its Baroque bell tower.
“They reckon there’s five hundred Germans buried beneath that tower”, said Don
“Austrians actually Don,” interrupted Marie “although it is referred to as the ‘Cimetiere des Allemands’. The story goes that the then Austrian king, Charles V1, sent troops to help his Genoese allies quell an uprising here in the 1730s, although some say they were not regular troops but mercenaries, which might account for their rough treatment.”
Don pushed his glasses atop his pate, eyebrows raised, obviously impressed by his eloquent wife’s local knowledge.
“And rough treatment’s what they got my dear” he chuckled, “German, Austrian whatever, these villagers had no weapons but still saw ‘em off. They set their own cattle on fire, blocked off the streets with the blazing beasts, then chucked boiling oil and beehives from the rooftops at the cornered krauts. When they were out of oil and bees they threw the bloody rooftops at them; literally ripped the tiles up and bombarded the bastards.”
Marie stared deep into her coffee cup “Shortly afterwards the Genoese withdrew from the area, retreating to Corte. Although it took another three hundred years, the locals still regard that day as a massive step towards their independence. Only about a hundred survived the massacre. The five hundred unlucky ones ended up here buried top to tail. There are many similar stories around the island” she continued wistfully “all that pride, blood and thunder resolving itself as nowt but food for the worms.”
‘And termites” added Don, deadpan.
 “Bonjour!” a smiling face was at Marie’s shoulder.
“Ah Jacques” I jumped to my feet “Don, Marie please meet Jacques Levy our very good friend who will act for us with the Notaire.
“Trev” whispered Di.
“Jacques is the father of Sandrine, the first friend we made on the island”
“Trev”. Di again.
 “Jacques, please meet Don and Marie Adams.”
“Enchanted”, said the still smiling face “but my name is not Jacques. I am Xavier your waiter. A coffee maybe?”
Di rolled her eyes, Marie eyed me with pity while Don roared himself cross eyed. All talk of termites was forgotten as Xavier plied us with tar black espressos. Within minutes the real Jacques Levy arrived and we strolled to our meeting, Don giggling at my reddening neck.

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