Week 6: The foundering of Nelson’s flagship
We have a number of things to do. We should probably draw up a list.
- 1. Write a to-do list.
One of the decisions to be made is whether or not to become Portuguese residents, and we need to decide before we buy our house since it affects the purchase to a small degree. For Husband it’s quite straight forward: he will become a Portuguese resident. For me, it’s less so. I shall continue to earn my money in the UK. Where I am resident determines to whom I pay tax, and how much. This is a tight little bundle of ethical/economic/practical anxiety for me at the moment, something I need to unravel and straighten out. I find all matters related to tax a worry. I’ve been self-employed for decades and should be used to it by now, but the Inland Revenue has always cast a long shadow over my life. It’s not even the money; it’s the accounting for it. I do, of course, pay an accountant to do this for me. However, I have to supply him with all the information in the first place. Husband calls me an Angst-Hase, a worry rabbit, and this was indeed a large part of my problem with HMS Victory.
Our stay in Ravello
We have, as you know, just returned from holiday in Italy. We rented an apartment in Torello on the Amalfi Coast, 669 steps down from the beautiful town of Ravello. We were among lemon groves. One of the pleasures I most look forward to in the Algarve is having our own citrus trees.
The owners of the flat, who lived in the main part of the building, were very kind. They filled our kitchen with their own produce – lemons, olive oil, garlic – and the rest of the flat with flowers. The flowers were a piece of luck, their daughter’s wedding having taken place the day before. Another piece of luck was the trail of rice and sugared almonds that had been showered over the couple, which enabled us to find our way home through the maze of steep stepped paths linking houses, farms and town.
Our apartment’s balcony looked down over the lemon groves to the sea. Inside we had a small kitchen at one end of a good-sized hall; the kitchen had a sea view too (as did the loo – a loo with a view). At the other end of the hall was a large built-in wardrobe, and in between were a fireplace and two large wooden ships fixed to boards and bracketed to the walls. One was called the Bremen; the other, much larger, was HMS Victory.
When it came time to pack and leave, I decided to make use of this good space in the hallway. Husband was watching football in the bedroom anyway. I opened out my case and began to fill it. I rather like packing. First I managed to achieve a most satisfactory arrangement with a pair of shoes I had bought in Ravello. Their box fit precisely into the top left-hand side of the case, and a stack of freshly washed socks fit perfectly around the shoes within the box. It was most pleasing.
I straightened up to get the next items, when the pointy bit on the back of my skull came into unexpected contact with the base of Victory’s board. This gave me a small shock; it must have given Nelson a much greater one, for this impact was so ideally calibrated that it sprang the entire ship from its fixings and crashed it to the floor. There it lay, its masts broken, its rigging tangled. A lifeboat and various pieces of naval insignia were scattered across the tiles.
Husband appeared at the door to the bedroom. He came over and picked up the boat, cradling it in both hands. It was clearly not an easy fix. I decided to go at once to apologise to the owners. My Italian doesn’t stretch much further than saying sorry, so I invited the landlady into the flat to see for herself what I was sorry for. I hoped my face expressed what my tongue could not. At the same time I searched her face for signs of ‘that-old-thing-I’ve-wanted-to-get-rid-of-it-for-years’ but there were no such signs. She looked sad and shocked, like I felt. She said, ‘Pazienza, pazienza, pazienza.’ ‘It doesn’t matter.’ But it looked like it did. She took the ship away. She came back for the rest of the pieces, and left silently. I did not sleep much that night.
The following day was our departure and we went to pay the balance of our bill. The landlady, by this time, was much cheered up. Her husband would fix the boat, she said. It would take a while, but he would fix it. I was not to worry at all, and they certainly wouldn’t accept any money towards its repair.
Because I have a slightly superstitious frame of mind, I have chosen to see the Victory as a kind of lightning conductor, or rather a disaster conductor. Nelson took it on the chin, so that other disasters would not happen. The Angst-Hase is back on her feet.