OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’d celebrated 30 years at the Casa del Mulino with a rousing party and fantastic fireworks. Now it’s 40 years and the next generation is taking over. Now’s the chance to invite close friends who have enriched all these years, to thank them and celebrate. It’s a special year!

When to send out the invitations? Not too early because Italians prefer to do things at the last minute – mid July for a date towards the end of August. I requested a response in good time to be able to calculate the quantities of food. So far so good.

A couple of replies came immediately – yes, delighted. It was weeks before there were any more. In the end I had to contact a few who had not relied in the fear I  would miscalculate the amount of food as happened last time – we were eating salmon for days on end and had o hro9wn some away. This time I just had to know numbers in good time. I did, just, manage to do this 10 days in advance.

This has been a bad summer weather-wise. The forecast for the crucial day was storms at 5 pm, when the even was to start at 6.30 so the eating would be over before dark for the fireworks. The children then wouldn’t go to bed late. All this was clearly stated on the invitation. Plan B had been worked out. There were enough chairs.

Then the phone calls and emails started, the day before or the same day. Distance was evidently the case with some, though they had accepted knowing it. Others were key people in the story of our time here, so I had to chop and change my speech. I had arranged for a young and competent helper to serve the salmon and sausages and to clear up afterwards. She would come at 6.30 and serve the welcome drink.

Good luck at least with the weather! The storm passed and it was dry. The first guests arrive at 6 pm – not Italians. A few more arrive. No helper with the drinks in the blue and white flower sunken garden…  7.30. Still no helper and many guests haven’t arrived. The programme is slipping and the children becoming restless. I phone Monica, my helper. No answer. Has something dreadful happened in her family? I begin to worry. A good fiend whom I’d seen a few days earlier was coming, but she hasn’t arrived. I call her. Her son and family have come and she has forgotten the party she had been looking forward to three days before. Another couple tells me when I phone that they can’t come after all – why didn’t they tell me? Three are justifiably desperate as their car has broke down. Another two are convinced it begins at 8.30! They’ll hurry and come.

So we drew up the tables together on the bowling green on a lower terrace and enjoyed the meal. A young friend told me to sit down and talk to guests while she served the salmon and sausages. Green salad and bean salad were on the tables. By sunset guests had carried their chairs up to the pool for the desert and Prosecco. Then the fireworks, beginning with one called the Coliseum! To end it all there was a tour of the monuments I have created in our garden, illuminated by John’s arrangement of spotlights. It was an enjoyable end to the evening.

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I had rapidly asked for a smaller fish, so there wasn’t a vast amount left over from the generous servings, but two years ago I paid 100 euro for a 7-kilo fish when so much was left over. Oddly, this time the 4 kilo salmon cost 150 euro. We were, however, given a complimentary meal at the restaurant that had prepared it.

I scrapped the speech thanking people who had failed to come in spite of acceptances. An Italian couple who reassured me that would be there when I saw them in the main square a few days before just didn’t come. They hadn’t forgotten, but had had some family trouble. Not even a phone call. Not even an apology.

Never ever another party in Italy.