I wasn’t looking for any of the above but somehow they found me. That’s what Naples does.
My elephant – she’s now mine – spent days for sale on the steep, wintery steps outside the huge post office near the city centre.
I passed her twice a week en route to class. It was hard to miss her. My head was full of elephants and there she was, big and awkward in amongst the trinkets and faded pictures.
Then yesterday, on an impulse, I roped together my Italian and my courage, and paused.
It felt as if every vendor, every pair of silent, male, weather-washed eyes, paused with me. After a few long seconds a thickset man stepped forward from a group standing against the wall.
He came to stand beside me in front of the elephant. He unwound the scarf that covered most of his face, and with a slight upward tilt of his head indicated he was open to offers.
“Il elefante – quanto è?”
He scooped her up from the concrete and passed her to me. Fifteen was the price. I asked where she was from. He suggested Africa but could go no closer than that.
We examined her together.
“Hand-made,” he said, chiselling the air, then pointing to the deep marks on the elephant. “All from one piece of wood.”
There was silence as I felt the weight and turned the elephant and her calf.
He watched, then slowly added the mandatory footnote to anything in Naples that claims to be factory free: “This,” he said “is not made in China.”
The three of us studied each other. Suddenly I felt confident. I had the advantage – the carved elephant felt like an old friend.
“Ten,” I said.
“Twelve,” he tried but only briefly. Ten we agreed and now she’s mine.
The elephant and I left the post office together to head back down the Via Toledo.
There, tucked into the sun, a large Chinese gentleman with big hands plaited reed leaves into frogs, peacocks, grasshoppers, dragon flies and exotic birds. It was impossible to walk past, and foolish to leave without two Euros of Eco art.
Now there were three of us – the elephant, the bird and I.
We carried on until the sound of drumming brought us to another halt. Here an extra offering was added to my strange collection. I grinned, tucked it away and we headed for home.
It had been a good day – a day of bone-warming sun and gifts that only Naples can give you: an elephant from the post office steps; an elegant, hand-made bird from the Via Toledo; and an offer of marriage.
I settled for two.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018