A Life in the Slow Lane

(Not quite) Pink Flamingoes

This morning, after a supposedly quick call at the local supermarket, where queues were longer than Sainsbury’s on Christmas Eve, we set off for Matera (about which more tomorrow or the day after). We could have driven down a dual carriageway and been there in just over 2 hours, but we took the coast road. When you’re living a life in the slow lane, that’s what you can do. You just can.

It was a beautiful day, again, as we Basil rattled and crashed over Italy’s excuse for roads. At one point the road was closed for repairs and the diversion just took us over an un tarmaced farmers field! I’ve never seen anything like it in Europe. But it was all worth it. The turquoise mediterranean sea on our left hand side and the sun in the sky, all was right with the world.

Sunday seemed to bring the seaside towns a little more to life. We passed through a couple of markets and umpteen roadside stalls. On sale are the ubiquitous oranges and lemons, but more unusually sea urchins. We’ve noticed these being sold at the roadsides throughout southern Italy. A hole is cut in the top of the urchin and parts of the interior are eaten raw. I saw Rick Stein eating one on TV recently and recall enough to remember that parts of the urchin are edible and others not, but not sufficient to know which is which. So I think I’ll steer clear for the sake of my health!

After a couple of hours we passed a small brackish lake and much to our excitement spied flamingoes through the reeds. Luckily on this occasion there was somewhere to park Basil’s not inconsiderable bulk. In fact half of Italy seemed to have stopped for a view. I whipped out my massive birding lens and off we went to get some photos. My 10 inch lens attracted much attention and I’m sure if I understood Italian there may have been some snide remarks using the words “manhood” and “compensation”. But luckily my Italian is not that good and so I just got on with my photography.

(Not quite Pink) Flamingoes

50 miles into our 120 mile journey we spotted a rough area of ground next to the sea which seemed ideal for lunch. So I swung Basil to the left and off roading we went. It was indeed ideal. We opened Basil’s door and watched the Med only 50 metre away as we had lunch.

A good place to stay

By then it was 2pm and we still had 2 or more hours to drive and so we discussed the possibility of just staying where we were for the rest of the day and the night. That is just what we have done. It’s great when you’ve got no timetable and you’re self sufficient. So we are parked on a piece of grass, next to the sea tonight, for free (
40.296650, 17.505626). Google maps doesn’t even have a name for the place, but that’s fine with us.

Sarah models knock off Crocs

Basil posing for the Hymer calendar

Finally another in my occasional series of vague generalisations about the nations of Europe, based very little evidence. There is a phenomena in Italy, which used to be more frequent, but which still exists, where you sit in your car (or Basil) at a traffic light on red and before your mind even registers that the light has turned to green, let alone begun to let out the clutch, a cacophony of horns erupts from the queue behind. A good Formula 1 driver reacts to the lights in 200 milliseconds, your average Italian is much quicker than that. In days gone past this would unnerve me and lead to me letting the clutch out too fast in a panic, causing wheelspin or even worse stalling. Now Sarah and I just look at each other and laugh.

(BTW the title is a homage to the outrageous John Walters film (look it up))