Saturday, July 28, 2007

Piece 3

For a short time the SS. Annunziata square became ours. I am referring to the group of children who every day, unless it was raining, took possession of it. At the beginning, we were only about ten children, coming mostly from Via Laura, where I also lived, and from Via Gino Capponi, the street bordering the left side of the church northward and the beltway. Quite soon, however, children living south of the square, mainly from Via dei Servi and Via degli Alfani, joined our original group, thus making it a more considerable and especially noisy gang. The ages ranged from 12-13 down to 7-8, of which I belonged to the latter.

Of course football (soccer) held first place on the list of preferred games, but there were often some problems. First of all, only one of us, known as Vettori, owned a ball and if he didn’t come then obviously the raw material was also lacking. Moreover, footballs (soccer balls) back then were made of leather with an inner tubing inside, and as Vettori's ball was rather in a sorry state, it punctured easily. Repairing it took the better part of an afternoon and the wait was agonizing.

The next game which slowly won the favour of many of us was battling with peashooters. For those who don’t know peashooters, they are straight metal tubes with an opening of 7-8 mm. in diameter. The bullets are made with newspaper strips of ca. 20 x 5 cm. They must be rolled on a finger and then, by pulling on one end, a cone can be formed. The cone's point has to well salivated in order to keep its shape. When the point of the cone is dried it is inserted as far as possible into the peashooters hole. Any surplus paper is removed. The bullet is then ready for use. To shoot, it is enough to bring the peashooter to the mouth, aim at the intended target (estimating ballistic trajectories comes with experience) and blow the paper cone with all possible might. But having only one bullet is not enough. For a battle as I have in mind, several dozen bullets are necessary and a good fighter is recognizable by the number of pre-fabricated bullets strung in his hair. A kind of Rambo ante litteram. Normally our battles were fought by dividing us into two groups and then whoever was hit was eliminated. That was terribly boring however, because it meant staying on, only to watch others being eliminated until it was time to go home. It became therefore, nearly a rule of the battle to deny being hit: “Va’ia Speroni, un’diciamo bischerate, t’a beccato la colonna, miha me” (Come on Speroni, don’t say idiocies, you hit the column, not me!).

In recollecting now my companions from that time, I realize that I don’t know anyone of them by their given names. I don’t know if it is still so nowadays or if it is an exclusive Florentine or Tuscan habit, but the fact is that at that time we knew and called each other only using the family names: “Ciao Fabbri” “Hi Speroni, I just met Vettori and Giglioli and they told me that we will all meet under Grassellini’s home at 3 o’clock”.

One more game, or rather a prank, which we liked very much was to go “pop” the tram. More than a game, we rather saw it as a heroic ending of a tiring day and carried it out at dusk. In this way the tram’s driver didn’t have the possibility of foreseeing what it was awaiting him. Moreover, the solitary light inside the tram gave us a clearer view of the results of our operation. At the stationer’s we bought some small rolls of orange paper which were made for toy guns and rifles. Known as caps, these rolls had about twenty small detonators 1 cm. apart from each other. When the spring devices on the toy guns and rifles were activated by the triggers, they hit these small detonators making them explode. We would spread entire rolls of caps on the tram rails and wait in hiding for the arrival of the tram. When the iron wheel passed over the small roll it sounded like a machine gun, scaring the passengers inside the tram and surprising the driver who, after few seconds of silence, began to shout out to the empty square “Delinquents, scoundrels! I am not angry with you! I am angry with your parents who leave you to be free! They should keep you in chains!” and we would laugh insanely, hidden behind Brunelleschi.

In addition to the games just described, we had impromptu practice sessions with other games like hide-and-seek, cencino molle (wet cloth), acchiappino (catch and run) etc during the ca. two years that I and my friends spent in SS. Annunziata square. That was until the day in which, suddenly, Padre Pietro (Father Peter) entered in our lives.

End of piece 3