I gave Carlo a shove and his kayak slowly glided into the water. He waved goodbye and paddled off towards the Islands. Left alone on the nearly deserted beach I decided to go and see what was happening on the pier. While I had been in England large holes had been dug into the wall of the pier, behind where the ticket cabins stood in the summer. Last year I had heard whispers of a plan to get rid of the cabins and build little booths into the mountainside. I thought it was one of those rumours that would go away, but the work has started and many people were furious. Poor people who work there, I thought, they won't like working in a hole in the wall.
I walked over to the little piazza which was deserted apart from a couple of stray dogs and a scattering of pigeons. I sat down on a bench and watched Carlo paddle away into the distance until he vanished from sight.
A summer boatman arrived and sat down to chat. He told me about Christmas when he was young.
From a large family, one of ten children, there was not enough money for Christmas trees and presents. With his brothers and sisters he would go into the pine forests in the mountains and cut a large branch off a tree. They would drag the branch home and prop it up in the corner of the family room. They would collect al their pennies together and buy as many foil wrapped chocolates as they could and hand the sweets on thier Christmas branch.
On Christmas day there were no presents but on the Epiphany, (known as the Befana here in Italy when a witch brings sweets for the good children and coal for the naughty ones) their mother would take down the chocolates and divide them between her children. Of course the best part of the whole christmas period was trying to steal a chocolate off the tree without anybody else seeing, and sneaking away to enjoy its sweet creaminess.
The time slipped by and the sky grew dark with threatening clouds. The summer boatman went home for lunch and a few tourists arrived to eat at the one restaurant that was open off season.
I watched the tourists walking around and wondered what they thought of this quiet sleepy town. Had they ever been here in the summer when it was alive and bustling? I looked out to sea and saw a small yellow speck returning from the islands. The speck grew bigger and eventually became Carlo, covered in a film of salt. He wound up his fishing line that he trails behind the canoe, showing me empty hands. No fish for lunch today.
"Didn't you get bored waiting for me?" He asked as he dried himself.
"No, I found Stefano and we talked about Christmas trees. Can we have one this year?"
"Yes, but we have to let Slye decorate it. Maybe we can get one this afternoon."
As we walked home I wondered what Princess Skye would want to decorate the tree with...