The Philosophical Cleaners


San Casciano is a beautiful little hillside town to the West of Chiusi, in Tuscany. It has intricate little streets, a fantastic view over to Monte Amiata, but best of all, the hot springs. This particular day there were no other people at all, so I was able to bask in the hot water in a state of total relaxation, except for the fact that there were a lot of insects. As I climbed out of the baths in a state so laid-back as to be almost unconscious, two 'commune' workers arrived to empty the waste bins at the springs.


As usual, wanting to use my Italian, I remarked to the two men, dressed in the usual fluorescent orange overalls, 'No people today, but plenty of insects', not for one moment expecting the response I got. 'Ah but remember,' began the younger of the two, a large man of about 50, 'that man is not the head of nature: and if we no longer had the insects then there would be an imbalance of the natural. And..' he added, 'remember also that man only arrived on the earth during the last fifteen seconds of the day.' 'You are familiar, of course, with the concept of the creation of the world being condensed into a single day?' enquired his colleague, a small man in his sixties with skin like leather. 'Er, yes', I replied truthfully, but somewhat unsure of where I stood in the pecking order with these intellectuals. I mean I was only making conversation, and didn’t really expect my casual comment to invoke a major debate on Man’s place in the overall scheme of things.


The younger man looked me up and down and asked 'How come you speak Italian so well?' With a certain pride, I explained how I’d lived in Italy for three years but my confidence did a swift u-turn, when he very seriously asked: 'Are you familiar with the works of Origo?' I confessed that though I knew the name, I had not read anything by her. He then went onto explain how to get to La Foce, which was the house were Origo lived, though he informed me, that it was open only on Wednesday. As he was explaining the route to me, his companion was leaning on his broom and with a slightly faraway look in his eye, he spoke: 'I first read it when I was a young man, but when I eventually went to the place, the reality and fantasy came together in an…' He searched for the words. 'Orgasm of delights.' his younger colleague offered. How could I not be totally enchanted by the very idea of the place? Sadly I had to explain that I was about to leave for the UK in the next few days. I thanked them for their help, promised (honestly) that I would visit La Foce on my return, after all how could I not visit the place that promised the orgasm of delights?

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