It is now July, we are back in Naples and it is literally burning.
John, Lara and I had returned home at the beginning of June and spent the month at home for the first time in years. The roses were glorious and there were so many other aspects of the early summer garden we had either forgotten about or had burgeoned beyond our recognition. The vegetable garden was in full sway, Emma and Johnsey having worked really hard, and we were able to savour new potatoes, radishes and the first of the bean crops. Our time at home was blessed with some lovely weather, though we still moved the chairs round to sit in the sun, rather than seeking the shade. The English sun being rarer and less fierce than the Italian version.
That said, we left a cloudy England, our aircraft climbing through turbulent thunderclouds. The descent into Naples was even more bumpy, but on landing we emerged into thirty degrees of heat. Thankfully the taxi was air-conditioned and the smoothest transfer we have had yet. On our way through the outskirts of Naples we noticed several bonfires strung out along the slopes of Vesuvius, the rising smoke an ominous reminder of the volcano’s presence. Back on the boat we had a more mundane reminder in the shape of a layer of red dust coating everything, including the cockpit as the cover and spray hood were missing. This absence was expected but still strange to see, Lyra looking rather bald without her red hood. Just resting the bags on the deck covered them in dust, so we took everything carefully below and John hosed all the surfaces down before we opened the hatches. That night we watched yellow sea planes swoop low over Castellammare to scoop water from the sea, which they flew off into the mountains with to fight wildfires.
Our missing spray-hood is a result of a triumph. We have finally found someone to replace it and the cockpit cover. We have tried to do this over each winter since we started out, men have come and quoted, some have even measured up, but then nothing happens. It was the same when we asked at the boatyard if we could arrange to have canvass work done overwinter here. Then, before we set off on our travels with Lara our need for a new cover came up in a chance conversation with a couple on the marina. They had managed to have the boatyard arrange for similar work on their boat and described the location of the upholstery shop in Castellammare that had actually carried out the work. Unfortunately we had then both set sail and all John and I were left with was a rough description of the shop being on the right on the road into town, near the centre. The morning after arriving back from Sorrento, leaving Lara asleep, John and I set off to walk the road into town, as we could think of no other way to find the shop. It was a long hot walk, but nowhere near as far as we thought, having covered the route in the shuttle bus, because the traffic can make the bus creep along slower than walking pace. Just as we were running out of steam we found the shop, a tiny place full of fabric catalogues with a couple of heavy duty sewing machines. The young man in the shop spoke no English, but had a very smart phone. We had to all stand out in the street for him to pick up a signal and then took turns to speak into the phone in our own language for it to translate. The upshot was that he would come out the next day at ten to see what we wanted; we should let the marina know so they would let him in. We celebrated with cappuccinos on the sea front, although we had been at this stage before and then walked back. John said it had been worthwhile to realise the town was in walking distance and we had found a lovely supermarket next to the coffee shop. Next day we entered new territory when our hero arrived bang on time. This was even more impressive when we realised later that the day was a public holiday. John had spent some time on Google translate and had a few pertinent sentences in Italian at the ready, but in the event the young man brought along a friend who spoke English. Together we all surveyed our existing spray hood, which looked much shabbier under such scrutiny. There were the bits we had painstakingly mended, first with a spidery looking running stitch and then with the chunkier lockstitch of the awl. There were the slits in the clear plastic, where the rope had lashed it, cunningly bodged with strips of black electricians tape. There were a few places in the process of unravelling, with pieces of twine dangling tempting fate. Yes they could replace the cover and do the plastic window and fit new fixings. They could do this in the month we were to be away. John asked how much and our man phoned his Dad. The quote was good. We all shook hands, exchanged contact details and arranged to call into the shop with a deposit. The next time we heard from them was as we were waiting for our luggage to come out on the belt at Naples airport. The covers were ready, could we go into the shop and arrange for them to come and fit them?
Day 2 back in Italy we trundled the shopping trolley into town, called at the upholstery shop and were shown three shrink-wrapped packages of red canvass work. The boss was there with a carefully rehearsed English speech, they could come fit the covers tomorrow, first thing, then we should pay. More hand shaking and we were out on the street again. We went round the supermarket, where everyone is also really friendly and look to be related, and then we stopped off at the café for two cappuccinos and they brought us complimentary biscuits. All in all a good start.
Back on Lyra we unloaded and then headed off to the pool. Vesuvius had disappeared in an opaque fog, smoke from the various fires we had seen the day before, which were now running rampant along the foothills of the volcano. That night we watched the yellow planes ply to and fro again, but this time they were dumping water on the mountain in front of us.
Day 3 and we were up and ready early. Father and son arrived, with a third hitherto unseen young man. They were all very crisply dressed in immaculate shorts and new T-shirts. They were a couple of hours fitting the spray hood and cover, which looks great. I wish they could refurbish me. We paid the balance and thanked them. After the long wait it was hard to believe it had been so straightforward. We just have the Bimini to sort out now.
On the fire front three planes have been plying to and fro all day. A change in the wind has lifted the smoke so that a massive dirty yellow plume is rising from Vesuvius and sprawling across to Pompeii, in much the same way that the pyroclastic flow must have done in the Roman eruption. We can now see ribbons of bright orange flame breaking out along a wide stretch of the foothills, above where the massed houses are, but not far above. It is a long way from here and we continue swimming in the pool and reading our books, but I looking at the range of the windswept smoke I wonder if people in Pompeii carried on with their day to day events sorry for the poor folk at Herculanium, so near the erupting volcano, but feeling safe at their own distance from the event.