Friday, September 09, 2005

Tio Alex and the Asparagus

Alex is our next door neighbour, and a source of many things - confusion, annoyance, amusement, weather reports, updates on real estate prices (especially of his own house) and masses of rotting vegetables. Michael has taken to calling him Tio Alex, which seems to wash over Alex like water off a duck's back. Or should that be a chicken's back? Alex sometimes refers to himself as Chicken Brain. We think this is a reference to something his brother once said to him about buying a house in our area, rather than somewhere more salubrious. Alex has been in this suburb for fifty years, and it is now becoming trendy and higher priced. Alex cackles at the idea that his place is worth as much as it is, and gleefully refers again to himself as Chicken Brain.

He's an old Italian, with not much English, but thinks of himself as the Padrone of the neighbourhood. He's extremely nosy, and always has an opinion. Most of the neighbours are wary of him, but he's harmless. He really should have been a farmer. When he was younger he colonised bits of spare land around the suburb, wherever he could make a deal, and would grow vegetables for the local fruit shop. Sometimes we would get some. As he gets older, he still has an arrangement with the fruit shop, but doesn't grow anything any more. The deal with the shop seems to be that he helps unload and pack stuff, and in return gets to take the older fruit and veg that don't sell. A couple of years ago we got quite a few trays of swiss brown mushrooms. I dried some, and some I put in jars preserved with oil. I gave him one of the jars. Next time I got trays of mushrooms, jars were included. Hmmm, subtle hint. He liked the mushrooms. I made them again.

The trays of stuff he leaves are a challenge for me. I get out my old book of jams and preserves. Sometimes I make pickles, or freeze what I can. I hate waste. But sometimes I am defeated. The stuff is too old, or I haven't got time to do anything with it. Here is the latest offering - a tray of asparagus. The label says it is fresh, but believe me, it isn't.

Asparagus jam? Asparagus chutney? Asparagus pickle? I don't think so. Aha! I know what I'll do with it. I cut all the plastic tape off the bunches...... ASPARAGUS COMPOST!

I wonder what will be next. Oh, and by the way, Jonty loathes Alex and tries to bite him whenever he catches sight of him. Alex seems not to mind, and asks when Jonty is going to get the needle. Alex thinks this is funny.

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