Sometimes you get lucky with your neighbours. In the depths of the countryside, the neighbour thing has a different flavour. In the city, the main thing you hope for your neighbours is that they don’t have a sadistic dog, a child learning to play the bagpipes or a bee in their bonnet about your hedge margins. Where we live now, it is impossible for anyone to make enough noise to be a bother, even for us to notice – in fact to the over-silent extent that we have considered offering placements for student brass sections.
I digress. Our neighbours – and there’s only one lot that matters because only one is even within sight of us and then only from the roof – are like a king and queen. Queen Guida and King Daniele. And when I say a king and queen, I mean a king and queen from fairytales or from Sweden, not our rum old British lot. They are elegant, unostentatiously glamorous, witty, sardonic, erudite, modern but learned about the past, lovers and practitioners of art, admirers of creativity and ideas and Daniele makes a very very fine espresso. That’s about where he draws the line cooking wise, but who wouldn’t if your fellow kitchen dweller was Guida. This is a woman who can turn a molehill into a mountain. A woman who could sew a sow’s ear into a velvet purse. A woman who would never mix her metaphors.
I think it all starts with her name. She was meant to be a boy. The boy was meant to be called Guido, a common Italian name, strangely really, since it also means ‘I drive’ (we have another, man friend called Guido and when we’re off on trips with him we always have a little joke amongst ourselves about who is going to drive. Oh, how the days fly by). Anyway Guida wasn’t a boy she was a girl. So she couldn’t be called Guido because that’s a boy’s name. But her parents weren’t venturing far and settled on the non-existent name of Guida. And that was it, from there she was a girl apart, a girl with a boyish name, freed to be a new kind of character, someone who can have a weakness for shoes and know how to reheel them with fresh leather. Someone who can grind wheat to flour and make her heavenly biscuits. Someone who lives near enough for a spontaneous cup of tea visit. Lucky old us.