Chez Black, Positano


An event that changed our view of the world forever; it happened outside Chez Black, one of the town’s oldest restaurants, adjacant the harbour. We were sitting in the blazing heat, sipping iced lemoncello, and gazing at the tourist boats coming in from Amalfi.
Waiters flitted around the tables, dressed in Merchant Navy uniforms, schmoozing the clientele. The place was done out like an 1940’s cruise ship, with lacquered wood, and brass fittings.
It was popular with Americans, the sort of place you might expect to bump into a well-known actor or a rock star.  There was a guy who looked like Van Halen sitting behind us. He had one of those spoiled rotten little dogs, so he must have been somebody. As usual, the cafe was packed to the rafters, but not especially due to the food coming from the kitchen.
Tina grabbed our attention coming off the boat. We recognised her right away. The night before we had seen her coming out of a wine bar, looking tiddly.  She was some kind of mix, but we took her to be Japanese because of the small, cat like face.

The celebrity spotters glanced up eagerly as she sashayed over to the tables, wearing the same wide brimmed hat as she had worn the night before.

She sat down at a table next to ours. “Buona dia,” she said, “Americani?”
We nodded “Si ” It was too hot to go into detail.
One of the waiters ran up.  He whipped off her hat, wore it, and began larking about in a high voice.  We were surprised to see the short blonde hair revealed underneath the hat.

She said something in Italian, and the waiter went off again, laughing.

We watched her replace the hat, very delicately.  Then, for some unknown reason, she dipped into her bag and pulled out a passport; she handed it to me.

“Irish.” She said, proudly.

I looked at the passport.  It said EU Republic of Ireland. I checked the photo, she wasn’t kidding. I said to Jo, “I told you, everywhere I go, a curse.”

“So you were born in Ireland?” Jo asked.

Tina snatched the passport and stuffed it back in her bag.  “No, Philipines.  My husband is County Leetrngg.”

Jo frowned, “Where?”

“She means ‘Leitrim’. ” I explained. “Back home they call it the arsehole of Ireland.”

Tina burst out laughing. “The asshole of Ireland!!! Very funny!!”

I was mortified. Jesus Christ her English is good.

“So what’s a nice Irish lady from the Phillipines doing in Positano?” asked Jo.

“Learn Italian,” said Tina.

It was a good answer.

“I’m Irish too,” I said.

“You from asshole too?”  She burst out laughing again.

“We all are,” I said.

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Happy Birthday To You Señora


It became colder, sitting out on the restaurant terrace. We were dressed like summer tourists, naturally enough. In the end, we succumbed and requested to move inside.
Our waiter showed us a room, another dining space, which was empty, except for the patron and her daughter sitting at a table, with one of the men who worked at the hotel.
Other than this, we were by ourselves, sitting at a corner table in splendid isolation. The other diners seemed prepared to brave the chill.
I let my eyes wander around the room. To the right of us was a passageway leading to the kitchen, and a hutch area where the waiters prepared the wine, and cutlery. I saw an old, farmhouse style, Italian dresser, nicely carved, and on the walls surrounding us there was an exuberant fresco, spanning the length of the room, primitive browns and burgundies, men fishing with their boats and nets, a biblical resonance.

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These devoted expressions reminded me of my childhood, a soothing balm on the troubled landscape of memory.
Is it faith, or art that heals? Or a combination of the two?