Francavilla in Sicily, 11 – 18 May 2013
Karen, our leader in Sicily, surveyed the debris of our 4 course meal on our last night and said wistfully, ‘ I remember when the Ramblers bought a bottle of wine on the first night and it lasted all week’. In front of her was the evidence of modern Ramblers; glasses and bottles bore evidence of aperitifs, wine, beer and after dinner liqueurs.
We had had a fantastic days walk in the hills around Francavilla, led by Fred (Karen’s husband); steep climbs and sharp descents with a smoky Mount Etna in front of us. The sun had shone, insects and butterflies making the most of the Mediterranean flowers we had waded through. Back to the ample and flavour filled food of the hotel, where fuelled by wine, good food and good company we were happy.
Enter the musicians: 3 middle-aged men with red scarves around their middles which announced their intention that this was to be a flamboyant entertainment. We threw ourselves into whatever they offered. We clapped, beat the table and linking arms down each side of the table, swayed to the music. Happily we shouted the refrain ‘Hee haw’ on cue. But there was poignancy too. Each time the trumpeter played, Karen’s eyes flooded with tears. Karen had been a delightful leader full of joy and laughter, but also we saw that night, with a whole range of emotions.
And then 1 of the band members pulled me to my feet indicating we were to dance. He held my right hand and gestured I should lift my ribcage, hold my head high and look him straight in the eyes. Part of me wanted to rush back to my seat and another part felt okay about making a fool of myself in front of these people I had walked with over the week. My partner put a firm hand on the small of my back and I was dramatically striding backwards being steered between tables, stopping occasionally for a strange dance move that demanded a shudder from our shoulders to our knees. Then he was saying something I didn’t understand but I sensed he was preparing me for something. Suddenly he went for the back swing; I was thrown backwards from the vertical to the horizontal. In alarm I went rigid but suddenly realised I was supposed to let my head fall back. Well why not ham it up to the max? The response of the group encouraged him to go for this move a few more times. Eventually the music stopped and I went back to my seat to the rather generous applause of the group and my heart racing.
We all danced; as couples, individually and of course the obligatory conga around the tables. Young Sue took the mic to sing ‘Imagine’ with us all joining in where we could remember the words. Karen cried some more.
The next morning I felt the unease of embarrassment of ‘the morning after the night before’ but it didn’t trouble me for long. This was a group of broad minded and generous people. A group of full blooded Ramblers who knew how spend long days walking and long evenings having fun.
A final message to Fred – Don’t you dare put it on Facebook.