We understand that having foreign friends gives an italian a certain kudos, certainly Mario likes to show us off in the village and we have a friend in Rome who likes to visit with his companion, I use that word as I don’t understand or like the ongoing relationship with the live in woman who nursed his late wife and never left. This friend believes he can regularly bring strangers to us for lunch, show them round and play the charming host whilst I cater. People who arrive empty handed, eat our food and we never see or hear from them again.
We weren’t that surprised when having arranged to come for lunch on Friday, it’s a given the companion would be coming, as always empty handed, our friend phoned the evening before to ask if he could also bring his friend Andrea who would be 80 that day and was feeling depressed. We met this bloke 15 years ago and thought he was about 80 then, hard to say no so I said yes and ranted.
It turned out Andrea still looked about 80, he was far from depressed, charming and sweet, interested in the food I’d made, the ingredients, my cooking methods, asked to see the garden, gave me good advice and identified plants. He said he’d had a splendid day, I was pleased to have made him happy. So my misgivings were unjustified, though it would have been nice to have had a follow up thank you from the Romans, the bottle of prosecco they brought didn’t go that far between 5, we saved them the cost of a restaurant birthday meal and politeness costs nothing.
I’d been ranting to my Danish friend the morning of the lunch and mentioned that as I approach 70 I need to clear my life of people who don’t enhance it in any way. She told me she’d just dumped a couple who’d been her friends for 60 years. This pair come out to stay with them in Italy every year, buy a few bottles of wine, most of which they drink themselves, a few coffees when they are out together and contribute little else. I can tell you they are treated very well during their visits, my friend is an excellent cook and a generous host, she makes a big effort. Things came to a head when they all flew back to Denmark together recently. My friend had packed everyone sandwiches for the journey
and when they ate these together at the airport the visiting wife went off and bought two small bottles of wine, one for herself one for her husband, offering her hosts for the last 8 days nothing. My friend was understandably furious but didn’t react in the heat of the moment. After a couple of weeks contemplation she contacted the couple and said she couldn’t see them again, there was an exchange of opinions, it’s over.
I think it’s very sad after so many years that friends part like this. We have known the offending couple several years and see them when they are in Italy. We enjoy their company but equally I fully understand that one cannot be made to feel like the doormat in a relationship. It’s hard enough having house guests without feeling totally put upon and a friendship needs maintenance from both sides, even if the major contribution from one is simply to bring joy to the other.
I’ve had one of these culls before and never regretted the clear out, I feel another coming on.