Wednesday 27 May 2009

Oh, our Italian cousins!

One of my favourite moments in Blackadder is when he's strolling in Traitors' Cloister with the Queen making conversation and says in an ingratiating tone "And in Genoa, 'tis now the fashion to pin a live frog to the shoulder braid, stand on a bucket and go "bibble" at passers-by." To which the Queen replies in a tone of indulgent mock exasperation "Oh, our Italian cousins!"

Which is by way of introduction to a post, not about an Italian cousin, but one of my Italian neighbours. And at the risk of the usual digression, I use the term "one of my Italian neighbours" advisedly because, notwithstanding that this is a small and remote Portuguese island, I have two (unrelated) Italian neighbours. And there was a time when I had three but that's another story.

Anyway, that's a picture of the chap in question. We call him PL and I took the picture a week past Saturday as he was driving us to Lajes for the Noite dos Sabores Internacionais (International Cuisine Evening - I'll tell you about that another time). The vehicle we were in was one of these 4WD, SUV type jobs. Diesel. Two gear levers. PL has a guesthouse and he uses this car to give guests tours of the island and transfers to the airport etc.

Anyway, see that dark smudge on the road there? That is all that remains of said vehicle! The bloody thing only went on fire whilst en route from the airport with a couple of guests and burnt to a cinder!

We heard about this yesterday, the day it happened, second hand (as you can imagine, it was the talk of the town) but I met PL today and got the full story. Apparently, he was driving along when he began to notice a smokey smell. Then there was the appearance of smoke in the cabin. He stopped, opened the bonnet (hood) to find a small fire burning. Emptied the fire extinguisher into it, then a 5 litre bottle of bottled water but even after that there was a still a persistant small flame feeding on melted wires. He reckoned that if he'd happened to have bought a second bottle of water, all might have been well but he hadn't and it's been very dry lately so no nearby streams to get more water from. So with no further fire-fighting opportunities to hand, it was judged prudent to promptly remove the clients' luggage from the boot (trunk) and repair to a safe distance. Apparently 10 minutes later, flames were shooting 10 metres in the air with a plume of acrid black smoke visible in Long Island as the tyres (inc. two spares) took hold. (No dramatic explosion as the fuel tank went up because diesel doesn't really burn at room temperature and, anyway, that's just Hollywood).

Anyway, this is the "Do you like border collies?" moment of this post: Thinking that if I'd been one of them I would have paid extra for this performance, I enquired how the guests - a couple of British honeymooners - had reacted. PL told me he'd said to them - and here you have to realise that he speaks English in a comedy "Just one Cornetto" Italian accent: "I told zem eet was zer passion, eet was zo hot, eet burn my car." I bet he did and all! Only an Italian could get away with that!

By the way, if anyone had passed as I was taking a picture of a dark smudge on the road this afternoon, I think the only reasonable thing to have done would have been to go "bibble".

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