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U3A Writing: View Romance

Merle Parkin tells a choice tale about a fellow with an eye for blonde young ladies.

“Ilario’s gone forever this time” bawled my neighbour Gina.

She’d brought me a letter she’d found in the dirty dungarees he’d left behind. She said she’d misplaced her reading glasses, so would I read the letter for her? She was sure it would be Ilario’s version of the “Dear John” missive, a fond farewell to his faithful partner. That Gina was illiterate in both her native Italian and the language of her adopted country had long been apparent to me, notwithstanding her claim to crook eyesight and lost specs. T

he first time I obliged with one of Ilario’s letters, I paused halfway through the first line and told her “This is pretty personal stuff, are you sure you want me to read it?” “Yes, yes, you read please” she begged, in floods of tears.

The letter was not a fond farewell to Gina, but the rough draft of a plea he’d sent to the personal column of some sleazy little journal: “Country Gentleman, tall, athletic, good-looking, and with new car, would like to meet blonde young lady, view romance...” I almost choked at the thought of how the blonde young lady might react when she met the pudgy, balding Ilario. The “new” car was a marginally younger model of the ancient lemon they’d traded a couple of weeks before.

“Wah! Ooooh-waah!” howled Gina. She gradually howled herself into hiccupping sobs. “You get me a job with you, picking fruit? Me need money to pay for Ilario’s car.”

I let her wail on, thinking that if I’d managed to offload Ilario onto some blonde young lady, I’d be turning cartwheels. Let’s just say that Gina’s treasure never did a moment’s work he could possibly wriggle out of. The hard-labouring Gina fed and clothed him and swept around him while he spent hours of grappa-induced semi-consciousness on her kitchen floor.

“Let the lazy sod pay for it himself!” I exclaimed.

“Oooh no” said Gina. “Ilario forget, then bank take ee’s car!”

On Monday Gina started work with me, to pay the car instalments. A few days later Ilario returned, and Gina glowed with love and gratitude to see her prodigal man. Ilario swore off blonde young ladies till the next time they traded their vehicle.

I lived near them for several years, and the imminent arrival of a newly purchased sedan always heralded the imminent departure of Ilario. I became used to reading out the “Would like to meet...” messages Gina always tearfully brought to me. She’d blare like a kid who has skinned his knee and tell me “He’s gone for good this time”. “He’ll come back” I’d comfort her, and sure enough, when she’d made one or two car payments, Ilario would show up, broke and exhausted.

Once when Gina was noisily distressed, I showed her my new frypan, and cooked a snack for her. She was so mightily impressed that she forgot to bawl for her man. Just after his inevitable return, he bought her an identical pan. Soon after, he went into smoke once more.

Gina bawled her way across the paddock, toting the usual “Country gentleman” screed. She was not to be comforted. “He’s gone for good this time!” she kept wailing.

“Oh Gina” I admonished, “What makes you think that this time is any different?”

“Because” she howled brokenly, “THIS time he take the bloody frypan too!”

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