The nun with the baking tray covered in aluminium foil came over to the stop where we waiting to catch the bus from Catania to Taormina in Sicily. A teenage girl instantly stood up and offered the nun a seat, which was gratefully accepted. In return, the nun offered the girl the tray, though this offer was declined.
A middle-aged woman sitting at the stop then looked at me, pointed and said “Tedesco, tedesco?”. She was thought I was from Germany. “Sono Canadese, lui e inglese (I am Canadian, he is English) said my then wife who was sitting next to me. She had been practising, as this was the third time she had said the sentence that morning, the first time had been on the very early morning ferry from Valletta to Catania and the second had been at a nearby coffee bar, where we had drunk a strong cup of espresso a few minutes earlier. I had needed something in my stomach after deciding not to eat breakfast before taking the ferry. Even the relatively flat Mediterranean is sometimes too rough for my delicate disposition.
“Inglese eh?” said the woman, mulling this fact over, before asking us in Italian where we going. When she heard we were going to Taormina, she rolled her eyes, rubbed her stomach and told us that that we would eat very well there and that the food was good, especially the mortadella. At hearing the word “mortadella”, the nun shot up, put her tray down, approached us and I think told us all about mortadella, ending her description with an enthusiastic flourish of her arms that described a circle about the size of a large dinner-plate, which indicated to me that the mortadella in Taormina was large in circumference and probably worth investigating further. Apparently exhausted by her exertions, the nun sat down, but the middle-aged woman, taking her cue from the nun, got up. She came to stand by me, pulled out a creased picture and pointed at it, saying “Mia Mama.” Apparently her mother wasn’t the one sunning herself on the rock, she was the one swimming in the pool. “Molto bella, mia mama, molto bella” the
woman said proudly and went on to say she had two boys herself, one of whom was interested in karate, emphasizing the point by chopping the air with her meaty hands, while making “Ho, ha, ho” noises. Apparently her husband had died, but she still enjoyed dancing and she then began to sway suggestively in
front of me.