Friday, July 27, 2007

Phew! Temporary digs

It wheezes with the effort of a heaving asthmatic, bravely soldiering on some 50-plus years after its creation, struggling to keep its charges cool in the sweltering heat of the Marche summer. What is it? A fridge. An old one, still chugging along in the old farmhouse that we find ourselves in for the 10 or so days before we leave for South Africa.

This monument to Indesit is a true relic, and one of several quirky features of a house that is huge, only occasionally inhabited, and partly used as a farmhouse along with its surrounding fields that have been worked for the past 38 years by Mario from Paterno.

The ground floor is home to several dozen rabbits and chickens, giving the place a distinct whiff, one that is no doubt quite pleasing to the rather large and pink pig which wallows sadly in his small concrete pen, no doubt waiting out his days – unbeknown to him – until he becomes so much prosciutto, speck, and rag├╣. It’s hard not to feel for the poor animals, but us born of the city perhaps don’t appreciate the business of rural survival and working with reality, as it were. It’s made Maria reconsider her meat-eating habits, particularly her pork ones, given their living conditions, diet, and apparent lack of friendliness to the human system.

We’re one floor up, in two bedrooms, a central room, a bathroom, and a kitchen, with the other two bedrooms stacked to the rafters with the boxes and packets of “stuff” (clothing, books, household goods, you name it) that are supposedly destined for Poland where one of the co-owners of the house, Marino, is a priest. The other owners are his brothers the doctor in Colmurano, and Piergiovanni, hiking friend and husband of Ornella (deputy mayor, mother of Margherita, Julius’ class-mate, and provider of photographic work for me), and they generously offered us the place knowing our precarious predicament.

(We were offered two other places at €500 for the 10 days, apparently quite reasonable for this area and time of the year, but we – mostly Maria – felt it was too expensive. She was prepared to stay in our caravan in this hottest summer for over 100 years without a bathroom, a kitchen, or electricity. I was reaching for my wallet when Ornella came along with this life- and marriage-saving offer.)

Needless to say, we’re hugely thankful. And it’s been an experience, already after just two days. Almost half of the windows are home to wasp nests, either populated, abandoned, or under construction. And on two of the nights we’ve had bats flying around inside our rooms for at least half-an-hour until they found – or new helped them find – the way out. Their apparent struggle to locate the path to freedom – the same as the way in, the window – has thrown my previous admiration for their sonar capabilities into some question.

There’s also a ghost in the water system, a sort of delayed alto-tenor’s wail every time a tap is turned on somewhere on the property.

It certainly has one thing that a lot of more recent or reconstructed houses don’t have with all their new finishes, fittings, and furnishings – character, and loads of it. What a great project it would be to give it back some of its lost glory, while keeping its idiosyncrasies.

But that’s no matter, we have our own “character study” to worry about, one with its own set of idiosyncrasies, and I can more-or-less guarantee that there won’t be a pig in ours…

Arte Strada - a (renowned?) Italian festival

Arte Strada is a phenomenon in Colmurano. It is, apparently, nationally known, and according to some, is one of the largest festivals in Italy, attracting anywhere from 10-40,000 in 2006 year depending on who you talk to and how close to the date of this year’s event you speak to them. I’m skeptical, but then I’m just a natural-born skeptic.

In 2007 it ran four nights from Thursday July 12th to Sunday July 15th, and included 6 “formal” performance venues accommodating 16 performance acts ranging from music to dance, and magic to juggling, and a variety of informal spots where fire-throwers, single-wheel bicycle funny-men, and the like did their things.. I went every night, and it was, in a word (or three), a total blast.

Music ranged from California rock to Italian Celtic, and ethno-Germania to Italian pipes. Top of the list for me, though, was an African drum band, who lost themselves in their rhythms, simultaneously intoxicating countless members of the audience who gave themselves away with inane grins of ecstasy. Up there too was another African outfit, an acrobatic dance troupe from Kenya, whose energy and smiles lit up the central stage and filled the ancient piazza every time they performed.

Stalls selling the usual art-and-craft-type stuff were there – most of it rather good quality and interesting, actually – along with a leather-vested, dead-head-looking palm reader and a portly middle-aged Tarot card reader. And, of course, food, a fixture in any Italian gathering of more than 3 people. None of the beverages or edibles was easily accessible, but it didn’t stop the lines, which, for any Italian gathering of more than 1 person, is a social event in itself.

“Buzzing” is a word that comes readily to mind, perhaps more aptly than I’ve ever used it before.

Scattered around the place was a diverse set of oversized, painted wooden statues of curious design and undertone. I’m not sure if the theme was Egyptian, ancient European, or other-worldly, but these erect, horned, and exotic-growth-adorned creations were an intriguing addition to a top class event.

I had the privilege to be part of the preparation – unwittingly but not unwillingly – when I went to get an ice cream at Amanda’s shop the night before it started. Roberta, Colmurano’s maintenance man and father of Julius’ classmate Eduardo, saw me and roped me into helping move a few of these statues. It gave me an insight that made the smoothness of Arte Strada’s operations even more impressive. Here’s why.

We had to move one of these large wooden fellows, fairly heavy but not dauntingly so, and yet stilll heavy enough to use a forklift on one side and a cadre of men (most of them with cigarettes dangling from their lips) on the other (the statue was “lying down”, as it were). We moved it to the appointed (or anointed?) spot.

Or at least near to the appointed spot, because there was a car where it was meant to go. A car, that is, standing right under the “All vehicles forbidden from yesterday until tomorrow” sign, and a car that was clearly visible in its current spot before we started moving Basin Man (my name for the statue).

So now the car owner was sought … and found. He came to move his car. He got in, started it up, started to reverse … and stopped – Basin Man was in the way. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to those that knew where the statue was headed, and yet no-one seemed in the slightest bit thoughtful about the order we’d chosen to do things in.

So we moved Basin Man a few feet, this time with more difficulty since the forklift had disappeared somewhere else along with some of the muscles that helped him over in the first place. Car reverses a little more … and stops. Basin Man’s still in the way.

Finally we moved him far enough out of the way so the car could reverse out of the space. But instead of continuing to reverse all the way out of the piazza to one of the clearly visible parking spaces about 50 feet away, he goes forward, heading straight into the piazza with its “busy” Italian congestion making the maneuvering of a car well nigh impossible. It didn’t stop him from trying, and, I must say with some admiration, succeeding.

While the car driver was contributing to the central chaos, we were putting up Basin Man – we formed a sort of human lever and pulled him up onto his rostrum to the full extent of his height, some 12 feet or so. We examined him. Unfortunately, our efforts to allow the car to get out had moved him off his stop by about 10 feet.

So we had to move him. This was a far more difficult prospect when he was standing up than when he was lying down. It turns out that the leader of the pack knew that we were lifting him on the wrong spot, but waited until he was up to point out this fact. No surprise or remonstration from anyone though when we found out, and then struggled to move him without toppling him or falling over each other.

Finally, there he was, in place and ready. It had taken a good 30 minutes. It should have taken 5.

I must confess I watched this unfolding with a sort of dumb incredulity at times, at others with silent bemusement, but never (it should be emphasized) without a smile. I was educated, enlightened, and enchanted. In Italy, it’s all about the process, the opportunity for interaction, and the propensity for animation.

Therewith endeth today's Italian lesson.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Is it just us?

“Is it just us?”

Such simplicity in a question, and yet such resignation at the same time.

Aside from the standard quota of things not going according to plan, it seems that we court “irregularity”, should we say, with what is becoming a particularly annoying regularity.

Case(s) in point –

Our (foolish) plans to make living arrangements according to our building contract – which had us in our house by July 1st – had me once again toiling in the heat of an unusually hot July, preparing for a move. The memories of last year’s brutal experience (recounted here) came flooding back in equal measures of sweat as I moved things from one place to another, frequently up stairs and down steep driveways, with my wife and son enjoying the coolness of Germany (just as they were a year ago), and without North Carolina’s air conditioning and close proximity of household goods and container.

Maria and Julius returned to participate in one last sweat-filled heave as we moved out of the rental home and into our temporary digs at an old farmhouse down the road.

It was a log, tiring, baking hot day, which started with a knock at the door first thing, around 7:30am – the carpenter who had given up his Saturday and Sunday to lay our wooden floors was the bearer of bad news. It seems the “first grade” oak boards that I’d made 4 trips to the other side of Amandola for – a 50-minute drive each way – were no better than fifth grade, with different widths, missing tongues and grooves, knots, and rough surfaces. The black plastic covering had done a good job of hiding their quality.

So a snap decision was required – continue as best we could with the stack of planks we had, or try and recoup our costs and get the wood elsewhere. The latter prevailed, leaving Claudia and Paolo the builder with an unenviable task of approaching the sawmill guy on Monday. This is the same very crusty fellow, a particularly unembellished man, who had brusquely and unashamedly breathed a frustrated “O Dio!” into the phone as I struggled to understand his rat-a-tat explanation of something or other a week ago.

So the floor upstairs remains unlaid, and chances are it won’t be before we leave for our six-week South African trip on July 31st. I had planned, on the basis of a finished floor by today, to store several items in the house (the doors and windows supposedly arrive today) while we’re gone. Another plan of folly, based on an anticipation of things going according to plan. I’m either a slow learner or a fool after all.

Talking of July 31st, a chance requirement to furnish Maria’s passport details revealed a concerning fact – her passport expires on September 2nd, prior to our return from South Africa. Another hitch – the need for a new passport in 10 days. The Germans in Germany said no, you have to renew it where you live. Turns out the closest embassy or consulate in whose jurisdiction we fall is Rome, a good 3 hours away. Maria would have to go there in person to be issued a temporary passport to tide her through the South African trip, but with her boss calling her in Germany to confirm her return to work, her ability to go there is “uncertain”, at best.

Needless to say, Maria’s return from Germany uncovered all sorts of problems at the house, in spite of my daily attention to it and its intrusion on my working time (along with preparing for the move). Now it should be stated that these are all problems that are patently clear to her, but not to me or the builder. It is just as needless to point out where the fault lies ...

It is all so tiring. Last night I lay awake in the heat thinking how it should have been right at this point – me lying in my organic bed in my own home with everything inside it, comfortably ensconced and with no other pressure than to prepare for a 6-week trip home to see my family, something that could be easily accomplished a little bit each day.

The ponderance of why it isn’t like this is the ultimate stimulus for the question which opened this blog entry. Unfortunately the “test of character” and “test of our true desire to be here” answers are a little worn at this stage. So I’m convinced it is actually us – we harbour some sort of magnet in our bodies that draws us as inevitably to the bump in the road as a dog is drawn to a lamppost.

Having said that, I have heard tell of people whose eyes have completely lost the bright enthusiasm that they once had at the start of the renovation of a home, the beginning of a dream as it were, and are reduced to a “whatever” attitude to every question their contractor asks. For them, the trials of it all have defeated them, the luster is gone, and it will be a long time before the spark returns.

I’m happy to say I’m still a long way from there yet – every time I go down to our metamorphosising house, I can see myself comfortable in its cool walls during the summer, savouring its warmth in the winter, and feeling utterly and simply “at home”.

Yes, the dream’s still alive. It’s just taking a long time to get to the good part.

This, of course, is the good news.

What remains ahead is a network of roads littered – just as it’s always been – with as wide and numerous an assortment of bumps as there are opportunities …

Friday, July 13, 2007

House update

The house, the house – what to say about the house. I suspect that we’re going through similar gyrations to most other foreigners renovating a rural Italian house. Of course we think it’s harder for us. Stepping back and being a tad more objective, however, I suspect that our case is probably milder than most.

However, that is scant consolation when one considers that:

  • contractually the house was due to be finished by the end of June, and isn’t
  • it is unlikely to be finished by July 23rd when our landlords arrive, and we need to vacate our rental home
  • we have nowhere to stay until our departure for South Africa on July 31st, and it’s the height of summer holiday season (which means accommodation is both scarce and expensive)
  • nothing is done here in August – and when I say “nothing” there isn’t a smidgen of exaggeration in it – and therefore it’s unlikely to be done by the time of our return on September 10th

Besides all of this, the builders continue:

  • to make “design” and “style” decisions on their own without consulting us, in every case getting it wrong by an order of magnitude that neither they (in their incredulity at our taste) nor we (in our incredulity at their taste) can believe
  • to ask the same questions four, five, and six times, and in spite of receiving the same answer on each occasion, do something contrary

Our theoretical contract manager, the architect, has created a mire of a situation by:

  • sticking his head in occasionally and issuing instructions to either the builder or us – but never, ever both – that frequently cause all sorts of disruptions because they depart from the track of those of us who are living this thing every day
  • getting annoyed with us – even tearing a strip off us – for daring to differ with his opinion, which he clearly regards as something loftier and more concrete than a simple personal preference
  • telling us to go off and find our own plumber and electrician, without telling the builder (who thought that was his job), and then getting irked with us for bringing in our own people

Why don’t we fire them, particularly the architect? Because it’s my belief that it would be costlier and take longer if we changed horses in midstream. And you have to have one (a contract manager, that is) in order to get all the permits – your average man-in-the-street is not allowed to apply for them.

Stuck. No wonder there’s a homogeneous nature to so many houses here. The plumber has complained about us wanting things that are “non-standard”, and that he’s finished three other houses while he’s struggled with ours. I responded by saying that we weren’t “standard” people. He said – very wryly – that somehow he knew when he met us, but he didn't realize just how "non-standard" we were.

In any event, the roof is nearly complete, the walls are plastered, and the electrics and plumbing are being done as I write. What’s left? The floors – wood upstairs (we have the wood), concrete and cement downstairs (we have neither the cement nor the artisan to put it on) – the windows and doors, the heating system (it’s been started), the drainage, the septic tank, the lowering of the ground around the house.

Compared to everything else, this seems moderate to minor. But with the feria (holidays) looming – that’s the August shut-down – everyone’s scrambling to get finished what they already have on their plates, and so finding the necessary personnel to complete the special tasks to meet our “non-standard” tastes is proving difficult.

Last week I had a heated exchange with Paolo the builder, a very frustrating experience in my limited Italian and his (deliberate, in my mind) inability to understand. He was bemoaning the state of the project, and the risk of not getting finished before the feria. He complained about the “outside” plumber and electrician – this is when he responded in disbelief upon discovering that the architect had told us to find them instead of leaving it to him (the builder). I responded by pointing out 3 periods of delay (or his absence), totaling 11 weeks, that were the direct cause of our dire situation. He kept on coming back to the plumber and electrician. I kept on bringing him back to the 11 weeks. Eventually he changed the subject.

I asked Paolo where we should go when our landlord arrives to occupy our rental house. He missed the point – he simply said “Io non so” (I don’t know) and walked away. Attempts at subtlety are futile.

I didn't ask Paolo who was going to pay for the extra cost of not being in our house by the contractual June 30th. That's because our contract has a 75-a-day penalty clause for every day beyond June 30th that we're not in the house. I've heard it may be difficult to impelement the clause. But I'll tell you this - we're going to give it one hell of a try. And if they're not done by July 31st - which means it'll be September before we're in - you can bet I'll be counting every one of those 31 dead days in August.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Monte Vettore and surrounds ... in pictures

Summer in a small Italian town

Summer is definitely here. Temperatures have been up in the 30s (Centigrade, that is), and there’s plenty of sweat to go around. There’s no air conditioning here either, certainly none in people’s homes, and not much in stores and offices either. This is where the thick brick-and-stone walls come into their own, keeping houses cool during even the hottest part of the day. Thankfully it’s not humid like the soup of North Carolina which I remember without any longing whatsoever.

HRH the boy king is obviously on holiday, now in his fourth week of it. A week ago we had our final parent-teacher conference where we were given Julius’ report card, which, I’m hugely proud to say, came back with a “distinto” (distinction, the second highest grade). Following this, we had an outdoor dinner with the parents and teachers of the schools fourth and fifth graders. It was a somewhat haphazard, disjointed affair, in other words very Italian, but that was no matter – the overall sentiment was one a warmth and harmony, and it just felt good to be part of it.

The first week of holiday HRH spent rolling around the house in agonized boredom until I took him up to Colmurano in the afternoons. The school playground in the center of town seems to exert a sort of popular gravitational pull, and so I frequently just drop him off there for a few hours, comfortable in the knowledge that soon there’ll be a throng of kids there, mostly ready to play football. The throngs extend well into the night, when the Italian habit of socializing takes hold, turning the playground and its surrounds into a buzz of conversation, companionship, and contentment.

The whole fabric of it all has been bolstered by the opening of an ice-cream shop right in the heart of it. Michael and Amanda Smith. Irish friends of ours and parents of Julius’ classmate Jack, once owned a chocolate factory in Ireland, and decided to give the ice cream thing a go here. They’re already fully integrated into the community anyway, and so their store enjoys a loyal patronage. The fact that the ice cream is made from raw milk and is delicious doesn’t hinder any either.

After a two-week visit by an American friend of Julius’ and his mother, which involved a fair amount of exploring in the beaches and mountains, the boy king is now on a summer camp, which involves four mornings a week at the beach, and one full day in the mountains. While 7:30am is a very early start for this household, we embraced the prospect of a healthy experience outdoors, swimming and such. Turns out that the beach mornings so far have included but a half-hour in the water, and a whole lot of contentious “playing” with kids from other schools. The “mountain” trip involved a drive down the road to the Abbadia di Fiastra, a working farm, hotel, church, and ex-monastery complex with fields to play on, and a good league or two from the mountains. So much for the hike in clear Apennine air that I envisaged. Oh well, at least he’s outdoors and enjoying more stimulation than he would get alone at home.

Next week Maria & Julius will be in Germany for a family visit and a dentist appointment (!), during which time Colmurano will have its renowned Arte Strada festival, with music and all sorts of performers in the streets. Apparently people come from all over the country for it, and last year there were some 30,000 people in the tiny piazza on Saturday night. I look forward to it with mixed emotions.

August, of course, all of Italy shuts down, and generally goes to the beach. We, however, won’t experience the phenomenon. That’s because we’ll be in South Africa. I think it will be easier to be down there than staying here and seeing absolutely nothing happening on our house. (More on this subject in another Daily update.)

Invisible sleep-deprivers

You’re just drifting off into a beckoning dream, the silky clouds of sleep settling softly onto your wearied body, when … zing! An attention-getting bite pierces your skin and renders you instantly awake … and scratching. Having satisfied the immediate itching urge, you set about looking for the culprit, but it’s nowhere to be found. No noise, no trace … gone.

I remember that first episode about a month ago. The predator has occupied our nights ever since, and has given rise to strategies and tactics that I’ve never had to consider before. The bites have lingered for weeks, spawning must-scratch-right-this-very-second itches at random moments, and leaving pock-marked arms and legs from the frantic, no-holds-barred gouging that constitutes the only release from itching hell. A stinging pain, as it turns out, is a less deranging prospect. At one point one of my fingers sported 5 different bites, each one calling louder to be scratched than the others.

I took several paths of attempted remedial action – went upstairs, they were there already. Downstairs? Already checked in. Even slept outside a couple of nights – this worked fine while it was windy, but as soon as the wind died, all resistance faded, and I became a smorgasbord once again.

After weeks of enduring their barkless bite without being able to identify the transgressor, we finally found the culprit – a tiny, transparent-winged fly-like thing, somewhat like a midge. Its crude and basic shape and proportion make it look like it was designed by an apprentice caricaturist.

So we patrolled the walls of our bedroom before going to sleep, decimating the population to the best of our ability. But they’re elusive, these skin-piercers, they’re hard to see, and they’re soundless, so our efforts invariably fell short. The bite-fest continued.

It even became a talking point in a few of our circles, such is their pervasive and penetrating effect on the population. One friend says that he rubs himself with insecticide spray before going to bed – no thanks. Another said that they’d be gone by July – false. We heard too that 5 years ago they weren’t around. This last item is particularly worrisome – what else might we be breeding with our new ways of doing things? Will they be worse next year?

Regardless of the empty consolation and untenable remedies, the onset of night and the prospect of going to bed – once a welcoming kingdom – became a dreaded ordeal. So we took action – we bought fans. The point? Cover ourselves with sheets (the fans cooling us enough to endure the hot night under covers), and provide a layer between us and them. Of course they’re also determined, these blighters, not to mention being equipped with deadly accurate heat-seeking radar, and soon our foreheads, ears, and cheeks – the exposed bits – were sporting similar scars to our now-covered limbs.

It seemed that there was simply no escape – we were doomed. But then something strange happened. The itching became less intense, at least for me. Friends that arrived to stay seemed to be going through the same early-stage desperate scratching as we did, but somehow it seems as if I’ve build up a mild immunity. I’m still getting bitten, but they don’t itch nearly as much. I’m not sure if it’s me, or it’s them. Or perhaps it’s this cooler, windy spell we’re having.

Needless to say, I’m hoping it’s an immunity. But it’s not over yet, and so I’ll not hold my breath.

And even if the immediate irritation has passed, there are other flies to fry. Maria’s taken to collecting their corpses. Yes, it is a little strange, but then you see, she’s going to … well, that would be giving it away, wouldn’t it?

Monte Vettore hike ... in words

Monte Vettore is Marche’s highest mountain, as well as being the highest in the central Apennines. It’s been the aim of the boy king (our son Julius) to climb this beast ever since we got here. We had promised him on his birthday (January 8th) to do it, but our first attempt (Jan 28th) was stopped by ice, so we waited until June 24th for a good snow-free day, and one that was agreeable to all social calendars.

This last point is no small feat since we did it with an Italian family that we’re friendly with. We hike with them often, and it’s almost always an event. We were five (us three and Julius’ friend from the US with his mother). Ornella’s family is four. There were 22 of us. This is normal – the supporting cast frequently outnumbers the lead players. This is hiking in Italy – the “popular” (or perhaps populous) way.

At 2,476m (8,123 feet), Vettore isn’t exactly a giant, but it’s still up there for us minnows. Getting up there is, if it’s not already obvious, a hike, not a climb. But it’s a fairly long one, and in places it’s rather steep. So it’s a full day … and then some.

We had a diverse group, ranging in age from 7 to 74. Gilda, the oldest, is a phenomenal woman, who apparently doesn’t stop going all day. She was the third person out of the 11 in our group that made it to the top. Alas, the youngest, Esther (Ornella’s daughter) turned back with her mother when a few drops of rain threatened to douse our enthusiasm.

Fortunately, the rain’s threat was nothing more than that. It was, however, a blustery, (thankfully) cool day, providing the necessary wind for the paragliders and microlites that soared invitingly above the soft green Piano Grande that stretched below us into Umbria.

In the distance sits Castelluccio, a gem of a town perched on a lone hill in the middle of the huge flat bowl surrounded on all sides by the Apennini. June is wildflower time, and impetus for the annual festival for the blooms that come with the maturing lentils for which this region is renowned. A poor rainfall, however, has rendered a poorer show than usual, and even though the place was busy, the festival’s organizers had to dump gallons of lenticchie and salsiccie (lentils and sausage) that were prepared for the throngs that never came.

In a group of 22 predominantly Italians, there were naturally several subplots. Gilda, the septuagenarian rock rabbit, was obviously the central character. But a few others coloured the day with the spice that always flavours such outings. HRH the boy king (Julius) twisted his ankle on the way down, resulting in free rides down on the backs of a few of us with enough energy and strength in the legs to carry him – one of these is a strong Colmurano woman who carried him with perhaps greater ease than either Giovanni or I. (It’s also somewhat unclear to me how much the injury might have been influenced by the need to divert Margherita’s attention away from the hovering Jack, but that’s a whole other plot for another time.)

Another subplot featured Ornella’s nephew, twenty-something Andrea, whose arrival with his new (and first serious) girlfriend was eagerly awaited. He was late (as he was the only other time he came hiking with us), but he didn’t disappoint in his choice of girlfriend (at least from a visual perspective). They made it to the first stop (for lunch), after which they were not seen again as we made our way to the peak. Turns out he – and therefore his girlfriend – thought we were going to have a picnic in the mountains. There was no expectation of having to work for it, least of all on the region’s highest peak. I’m told the girlfriend was unpleasantly surprised by this. I haven’t heard if they’re still an item.

From the top of Vettore one can look down over the edge of a steep incline into a bowl, in which lie two steel-blue lakes – the Laghetti di Pilato. Legend has it that Pontius Pilate is buried there. We haven’t been there to verify it, but we will soon.

Turns out that the legend of Pilato isn’t the only one around here. In fact, the place is rich with the myths of the Apennini Sibyl and the cave that she lives in somewhere in the area. In fact, the scree on the mountainside is supposedly created by her fata whose scrambling goat-like feet broke the stones as they hurried to re-enter the cave before sunrise (and therefore preserve their immortality) after a night cavorting with the local population. Apparently there are all sorts of “interesting” things that go on in the cave. I looked all over for it, but couldn’t find it. Perhaps I’ll creep back up there one moonlit night. And I’ll be sure to let you know what happens … if, of course, I decide not to stay …