Language isn’t what matters
By Rebecca Gethin
July 15, 2023
July 15, 2023
My grandfather, the second son of an Alpine contadino,
used to scythe grass with his sister on the slopes
of Monte Saccarello for hay. To look down from there
to the chasm of the tiny valley makes my head reel.
After the war he walked away from his village home
to start a new life in a seaside town. And when
he was working as concierge in the Grand Hotel
in San Remo… stop, right there! Have you ever
been through the revolving door of the Grand?
Seen the colonnades, the chandeliers in the hallway,
heard the piano being played in the dining room,
stood under the palm trees or noticed the giant tortoise
roaming the garden? How did a village lad land that job?
But it was there that he met a rich signorina
who wore long pearls and furs and was wintering
on the Rivieria dei Fiori for the sake of her lungs, on the run
from her Northern English home. They married
and she gave birth to my father. I’ve seen pictures
of her leaning over the swaddled newborn. A great aunt
told me my grandmother employed her to look after the boy
while she swanned around coffee shops in San Remo.
I imagine silky 1930’s dresses, long cigarette holders
and cloche hats. Somewhere along the line my grandfather
became a croupier in the famous casino so perhaps
he was raking it in. But she was an heiress.
I don’t remember her ever coming to England.
What I do remember is that my grandfather spoke
no English and my grandmother no Italian.
Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and 2 novels. She was a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Her poems are published in magazines and anthologies. Vanishings was published by Palewell Press in 2020. She won the first Coast to Coast pamphlet competition with Messages. Her next pamphlet will be published by Maytree Press in late 2023. She blogs (very) sporadically at www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com.