The road into our village has fallen off the edge of the mountain. Just plum fallen off. I got off the aircraft from a brief pretending-to-be-glamorous trip to London ( fooling no one) to hear the news. Well, I say got off. I mean sort of staggered off. I am not the happiest flyer the world has ever known and the only thing that helps is white wine.

Unfortunately, it helps with a wide variety of other events also: summer evenings, winter lunches, boring programmes on telly, joy, misery …you get the picture. I decided, picking my baggage up off the carousel (heavy with expat cliché: Bovril, Maldon salt, Cheddar cheese), that I am tyrannised by alcohol. I am hoping that this new incarnation for it, as fascist dictator constantly tapping me on the shoulder in his camp uniform and demanding to be admitted, might help me to shake off the yoke of oppression. Anyway, when my son said: “Barry’s road has fallen off,” referring to the English builder who lives on it, I assumed that I had drunkenly misheard.

The newspaper Il Tirreno reported that our village had been evacuated because of the landslides after six solid unrelenting weeks of rain. If it has, then my family was not included in the operation.

A reporter probably came up here and assumed that we had all been evacuated because of the absence of any known life forms. The village becomes distinctly ghost-townish in winter and has a macabre tendency to be swathed in eerie fog. Only about eight other people live here full-time in any case and they mostly stay at home and watch telly between November and March. Italians don’t like it when it’s not sunny.

It will be six years ago in April that we decided, over a lot of wine (yuh) under a Tuscan apricot tree in the kind of idyll that is reserved for tourists only, that we could both work our backsides off doing jobs we hate to maintain a tiny-gardenless-two-bedoom-flat-with-two-small-children life in London every moment of which we also hated, or we could sell flat and move to a huge house in rural Italy up a mountain and have a fruit-orchard-wine-drinking-children-gambolling -Vespa-riding dream life. Win, win.

Obviously, however, one can’t count on these kinds of things going entirely to plan and we were soon home again so the kids could go back to their sophisticated London school where they learnt massage, collage and street dance. Here the emphasis is very 1950s: fun is for after school, if you’ve got time – because there is a lot of homework. So, in London we lived with my mum when we were very poor, rented when we were a bit less poor and in the holidays we came to Italy where our stuff was. The other sock to the pair was always “in Italy”.

“Will you live in Italy and go to the yellow school if I buy you a dog?” I asked every half an hour for five years. Last April the children, imagining, naturally, the kind of dog that is a puppy for ever, said: “Yes.” Puppy, who leapt beribboned out of his box like in an advert, is now a big dog, outside digging up the fruit trees. Kids are at an international school an hour away on the train. They set off in the dark every morning with their mobile phones round their necks like little evacuees, waving out of the steamed-up windows as Marmite and I run along the platform.

I feel evil but, apparently, they have made friends with a nice couple who play High School Musical Top Trumps with them every morning all the way to Pisa. Rather them. Husband is in England living it up (I assume). And me? I’m at home looking at the road that has fallen off the edge of the mountain.

It is quite dramatic. Gone. And all sorts of pipes are exposed, which is a bit of a shocker because we don’t have gas mains up here and only a few people are connected to the water mains. Phantom pipes. It’s not as bad as Il Tirreno makes out because there is another way round the village to civilisation 6km ( about four miles) below, precarious-looking though it may be. It is still raining, of course. “Just like England,” the Italians say, somehow blaming me, delighted.

Since the whole place is in a cloud again I skulk off to the fridge in my slippers (a vital gone-native fashion statement) to see if there’s any wine left. I am beginning to feel that this jack-booted fascist tyrant is more misunderstood than evil.

I found this very nice article on Times on Line


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