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Spotting the unusual

I am intrigued by the strange and the bizarre and I’m sure I am not alone in deriving pleasure from spotting something completely ‘off the wall’ that others pass by or take for granted.
So it was with some satisfaction that I managed to spot and photograph the contents of this Ventimiglia shop which proudly displays a tap, a padlock, nuts, bolts and spanners all made entirely from chocolate. Inside I could have bought a chocolate paintbrush (used) or chosen from a range of other chocolate items – a drill, a hammer, a coffee mill, an ash tray complete with cigarettes (symbolic, this one – eat away your habit), even a sewing machine, all of which sit happily side by side with more conventional confectionery items. I didn’t spot the chocolate teapot but I’m sure it must have been in there somewhere. Our young friend Maartje, who is currently holidaying with us, was attracted to the shop and being a lover of sweet things she made a beeline for a rather tasty spanner which the shop’s owner kindly gift-wrapped for her. Maartje’s appetite, however, proved stronger than the wrapping and the spanner was consumed with gusto before we arrived back in Torri.

The chocolate has provided her with enough energy to tackle some of our higher mountain paths accompanied by our son Ben who is also on a visit, and more recently to go walking with our village’s only two donkeys. These are working animals who wander at will on tracks and roads around Torri but their owner felt that, it being Winter, they might have been missing their usual human company so he was happy for Maartje and Ben to take them on the track up the valley to Collabassa. One of the donkeys, quite by coincidence, is also named Benjamin.

And whilst on the subject of walking, and for those interested, Kate’s knee seems to be healing well and she is walking a little further (and higher) every day. She is still not quite up to the rougher paths so caution is still needed but our 61 steep steps up the apartment door are causing her less problems every day.

We came across another piece of bizarre-dom in San Remo, just along the coast from us and a substantial modern city within which lies the medieval ‘città vecchia’ or old quarter. Once fortified against marauding Saracens from the African continent, the place is a maze of alleys and steps dating back to the 11th century with a nearby tower that was also once part of the city’s defences. Growing beside the tower is a substantial palm tree which has become the home of the city’s entire pigeon population, their small bodies lined up side by side and weighing down the branches until they droop. Why these birds should have chosen this tree, amongst all the others, is a mystery and just why the sight of this struck me as strange I cannot say – maybe it has something to do with the juxtaposition of the exotic and the banal placed centre stage in a city so proud of its heritage.

I do need to conclude by saying that the bright sunshine evident in these photos should not lead to the conclusion that we are experiencing Mediterranean-like warmth here in northern Italy. The cold spell that is drowning Britain seems to be Europe-wide and the population of Torri is also experiencing an unnatural chill; the cold air just seems to drop to the valley bottom as soon as the sun disappears behind our surrounding mountain tops.
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