Well you will have surmised that we survived the night. Perhaps I am being melodramatic about the fires, none of the Italians around here pass any comment on the still smoking tranches of land and the string of yellow aeroplanes pass disregarded. Indeed there have still been fireworks set off most evenings, sometimes quite dramatic displays. There was a particularly impressive one in the grounds of our own pool area late this evening, though I did not personally witness any of it. We had been herded out of the swimming pool early as they finished setting up the big event.
The preparations started just after midday. We had swum and dried off and were treating ourselves to lunch by the pool. The ongoing preparations provided an entertaining floorshow. First our reluctant bar man, he of stout girth and truculent manner, started carrying the padded mattresses from the big wooden loungers off to behind the pool building. He did this rather slowly, spilling the pillow each time he moved a mattress and neither stopping to retrieve it or modifying his technique when he came to move the next mattress. By the time he had shifted half a dozen he was stumbling over scattered pillows and decided to pick them up. He then dragged the wooden bases about to clear a space. The helpful bar man, he of tall, slim stature and pleasant disposition, who seems to work all hours at all of the venues here, gave a him a hand carrying one and stacking it on top of another. This was just in the nick of time as two hitherto unseen workmen arrived on the scene carrying a huge stretched canvass between them, like a sheet of plate glass in a comedy sketch. They sidled slowly along the edge of the pool turned the corner and balanced the canvass directly across the water from our table. The adjacent loungers were still in the way and one man held the canvass as the other dragged these further to one side. There was some discussion with the man who should have moved them. He shrugged and wandered off stage right. The duo then opened the canvass like a huge book and it trembled, glowing in the sunshine, before they lay it face down on the pool deck and walked all over the back, in order to pull out some of the wooden framework to make an angled stand. They lifted the canvass back up and the good side had remained miraculously pristine. It stood before us cinematic in scale, but teetering slightly on its wooden feet. The men solved this by screwing the feet to the floor, drilling down into the pool deck beneath. Satisfied the pair exited stage right. We speculated that a projection of some form from our present position might be happening after dark, though this would cause the handrails to the swimming pool ladder to cast a rather distracting shadow in the left hand corner of the magnificent screen.
A pale looking man arrived toting beach bag and paperback novel and regarded the clutch of bare sunloungers. He parked his bag, routed round behind the building and emerged with a mattress and pillow. He placed them on one of the loungers, lay on top and started to read his book. Our food arrived, prawns. Mine were sautéed and piled on lemon mashed potato, John’s were deep fried in tempura and piled on his plate. After this we ordered espressos. As they arrived the two workmen came back with the man in charge of the pool restaurant and a woman. They all looked at the screen. The woman indicated the curved arms of the pool ladder and gestured as if to ask whether maybe these would be in the way. The party headed back inside. As he passed the pool ladder the man with the drill gave it a pull, to see it could be moved. Obviously it would be unthinkable to move the screen, what a man has drilled to the spot stays there, at least till next day. We sipped our coffees, which are invariably excellent here in Italy. A group of young people, crew from one of the super yachts, arrived to survey the massed mess of empty wooden sunbeds. They had a word with the helpful waiter. He smiled and showed them where the mattresses were hidden round the back of the pool house. In one trip they brought them all back round, laid them on the clustered beds and settled on top in a nest. The tall waiter brought them drinks in plastic cups so they could take them into the pool. As John and I stood to go back to our own loungers the shorter waiter was complaining to the taller one about the unravelling of his morning’s work and the taller one smiled enigmatically down at him.
Our loungers were round the corner of the building on an area of grass, which is cooler than the immediate pool deck and there is some shade provided by sails strung above. We read for a while. Then an army of workmen arrived. There were two electricians trundling a massive black toolkit, who looked to know exactly what they were doing and who were left alone to get on with it. Other men carried the wooden loungers round from the pool deck and stacked them in pairs to make a Heath Robinson counter running along the side of the building. The manager came out and nailed together a much more rickety makeshift table on which a group of women then stacked crockery to Disneyesque heights. At the gate behind us a different pair of men were unloading a lorry full of metal sofa frames, which they began to stack two by two neatly along the line of the hedge.
We went for a second swim. The electricians had fitted spotlights on stands around the pool, the white glare of their lights dissipating in the sunshine. The young people had been relocated further along the pool so their loungers could finally be removed and were in the process of being served a pail with bottles of chilled fizz by the smiling waiter. The guy with the paperback had not moved and was still reclined with his book. Around the pool the usual business of extended families taking turns to sleep and glamorous young mums chatting was proceeding unperturbed by all the preparations. In the water all was hectic. A bald man was powering down the middle taking no prisoners with his front crawl. Then a gang of tiny children sporting bright armbands, some also hanging onto rubber rings about their middles, jumped into the deep end and wiggled erratically like a cloud of butterflies down to the shallows. They arrived en mass and wriggled out onto the pool side, water dripping from small brown limbs, leapt to their feet, water droplets sprayed into the air and dashed back in front of the big screen and along the ranks of sunbeds to jump in at the deep end again. Then three of the young men, plastic glasses aloft started throwing a rubber dart shaped ball about. It was more hectic than out on the grass with the workmen. We swam up and down a few times to cool off and then went back to our loungers. Just as well we did, for any unoccupied ones were being rolled away and stacked at the far side of the grass. The pair unloading sofas had nearly reached the gate with their neat line. As they headed off for another frame a man came, picked up the one that had just been set down and carried it off to set out on the cleared grass. On arrival with the next frame the sofa men paused and looked around for the one they had just unloaded. When they realised what had happened they looked at one another and promptly dumped the one they were carrying where they stood before heading back out. We were becoming an island in a foment of uncoordinated activity and decided to call it a day.
We ate on board that evening and expected to hear noise from the party, but all was quiet until the loud bangs of the fireworks after we had turned in for the night. John said they were spectacular, but by the time I had found my glasses and wormed my way up the companionway past where he was stood blocking the hatch, they had finished. One of these nights I will see an amazing display of fireworks.