Sicily sits on the edges of two completely different weather systems. The edges overlap.
What this means in practise is that Sicily gets way more weather than other places.
This weekend, for example, Africa blew the Scirocco wind at us. This starts in the Sahara desert, builds up to 150 degrees centigrade (I never exaggerate) and picks up tonnes of red sand before departing from the shores of Libya, expressly for the purpose of tipping it all over any Sicilian cars that have just been washed.
It wasn’t even Saturday lunch time before Europe retaliated.
The cool Maestrale blew down from the north with all its might and blasted some of my laundry away. It was a stained dish cloth and a sock with a hole in it, but that’s not the point. Whilst the two winds battled it out head-to-head, my washing line became a tangled mass of sheets twisting themselves up in knots, with simply no idea which direction to flutter in. They were also red with embarrassment – or was it Sahara sand? I decided to bring them in before they took off, too.
At that point, the rain came.
This wasn’t African rain and it wasn’t European rain either. I’m sorry if you Indians didn’t get your MONSOON this year – it sneaked away and doused Sicily instead. We ended up with an almighty meteorological mess which left most of Palermo under water.
Click here for a slide show of pictures taken by waterlogged citizens.
Go on. It’s worth it.
I didn’t take any photos at all, because I was barricaded inside my house, toiling alongside my dear hubby with a mop and a bucket trying to stem the tide of muddy water creeping across our garage towards our precious, floor-to-ceiling stack of winter fuel.
Our winter fuel is pellets, which would turn into solid sack-sized lumps of papier maché if they got damp. The reason we run our heating from a pellet-burning stove, instead of a gas boiler like normal people, is because here, in Weirdland, they don’t send gas to our houses. We have to buy it in bottles of the kind normal people only use when they go camping (if the kind of people who like to go camping actually are normal – I still haven’t made my mind up about that.)
Outside, the scrolling garage door was exactly ten centimeters deep in water. The only thing that stopped the water gushing in freely was the rubber seal along the bottom of the door, which pressed against the tiles on the floor. If you ever want to buy a strip of self adhesive rubber seal, I do suggest you order one from Sicily. It’s about the only thing they make really well here.
I know the external water height was ten centimetres because a helpful neighbour was standing right outside, giving us a running commentary.
He was wearing a pair of thigh-high green waders he had borrowed from one of the fishermen in the village. Even though this man is one of the more “traditional” sized Sicilians, one of the sort whose kitchen sink would look like a bidet to anyone of normal stature, that water was nowhere near his thighs. It was round his ankles (OK, maybe his calves).
So exactly why he wanted those waders, and even more amazing, how he had convinced that fisherman to lend them, remains a mystery. Yet I can confirm I saw them with my own eyes, when I dashed upstairs and peered down at him from the kitchen balcony during a quick investigation of the rain situation. He was keeping his upper half dry with a pink Tweetie Pie umbrella.
It was still raining like the Niagara Falls.
“Car approaching too fast!” warned Wader Neighbour, just seconds before a great slurry of water and mud sloshed at us under the door.
“Thoughtless fool” shouted Hubby in Sicilian after the reckless driver. “Go to That Country, you piece of donkey!” That Country is a euphemism for hell, a word Sicilians will never pronounce aloud either in Italian or Sicilian.
“They’re Horned Ones” shouted Wader Neighbour in agreement. Horned Ones is a euphemism for devils, another word Sicilians will never say aloud. He sounded angry. He probably shook his Tweetie Pie umbrella after them menacingly.
We mopped and we squeezed and we emptied buckets like maniacs. My back hurt. My mop handle was too short, I realized, and I was stooping.
“Why do they make the mop handles half size?” I muttered grumpily, mainly to myself.
“They’re for traditionally sized people,” said hubby, who was stooping over his mop worse than I was.
“Most people in Sicily are normal size,” I objected.
“Just keep mopping!!!!!!” he shouted. The stress was getting to him. “How’s the rain?” he called out to Wader Neighbour.
“It’s still raining like dogs and cats,” answered Wader Neighbour. I imagined him moving his Tweetie Pie umbrella to one side to check the sky. “That’s what you say in English isn’t it?”
“Kind of,” I said, slurping my mop to and fro against the garage door in a kind of hunchbacked frenzy. I felt like Quasimodo trying to transfer Lake Windermere into a bucket using a paper tissue.
Eventually Wader Neighbour gave us the very welcome news that the rain was abating. The mopping slowed down, and at long, round-shouldered last, I could go and have a cup of tea.
It was the best cup of tea I had had in about ten years, I reckon. Before I got to the end, though, I was telephoned by a friend whose son is in my little boy’s class.
“Have you heard about the school?” she asked. “Apparently some vandals broke in, smashed the windows, destroyed the furniture and caused so much damage that the school is closed until they can repair it. We have to home school the kids until it reopens.”
Home schooling? Oh dear God.
I tell you, it never rains but it pours.