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Buon Natale!

Friday December 5, 2014

Since December is now upon us it is OK to talk about Christmas, although the pubs and venues have had their ‘Book Now’ posters up since August. Coming from an Italian family, Christmas for me means time spent around the table; eating, drinking, catching up with family and friends. And when an Italian says ‘at the table’ he means all day at the table.

Since we can’t have all our friends around the table I get to do one of my favourite jobs of the year in preparing Christmas hampers as gifts for managed properties landlords. This necessitates a trip to the lovely town of Arpino in the Lazio region of Italy. Arpino is famous as the birthplace of Roman philosopher Cicero and for having 210 families bearing the surname Rea, one of which is headed by my uncle Fabio. Fabio runs La Dispensa, the village shop and it is here I source the goodies you would find on a typical Italian family table at Christmas.

I try to select delicacies you cannot buy in English supermarkets and every year I am happy to pass on uncle Fabio’s contact details for our landlords who want to buy more. It is great to get a call or text from a landlord on Christmas day saying “thanks” and I thoroughly enjoy the whole process. It is my modest contribution to Anglo-Italian trade.

That is the fun bit. But there is a serious side to Christmas since we are responsible for the comfort and safety of several hundred tenants. While my family and I are attacking a day long feast our maintenance staffs will have packed a thermos of coffee and a box of turkey sandwiches into the vans. Experience shows that at least one poor soul will find their boiler or cooker on the blink on Christmas morning.

By now our scheduled maintenance checks will have prepared our managed properties for the worst of a north east winter so a bit of friendly advice to tenants does not go amiss. Some will be spending their first Christmas away from home or be returning to their families for the holiday. So advice that may seem obvious like ensuring all appliances are turned off and the heating left on before leaving the house for a week is worth giving.

Do not go away leaving brightly coloured packaging for electronic equipment or games sticking out of the waste bins since this may attract the attention of entirely the wrong sort of people. Set the alarms, put lights on a timer and maybe leave a radio tuned to a talk station. We all want to enjoy a relaxed Christmas and a call from the police to say there has been a break in or worse is about as far from relaxing as it is possible to get.

That is my recipe for a happy Christmas in a nutshell. A little Italian gioia di vivere tempered by a little Anglo Saxon common sense. So, before I break into my famed rendition of O sole mio, may I take this opportunity to wish everyone buon Natale e felice Anno Nuovo. In 2015 I promise to write this blog mostly in English.

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