Tomaso said as he passed today, "Do you want some broccoli plants?" He gave me some last year, and they were very productive and very good. So although it was raining and I was trying to get a patch dug before my bladder gave out, I followed him to his allotment. On the way, he said, "You're not frightened of me, are you?" (He's about four foot tall and over 90). "Because people will gossip if they see you with me and say you are my girlfriend!"
After showing me round (again), he pulled up some broccoli plants, and then offered me some fennel plants too. I don't really like fennel all that much, but it looks impressive, and I thought if I put it up the top in the bit that I've just cleared, the Italians would praise me as they passed. Besides, it's all food, and food is sacred. So I said yes, and he carefully counted out ten plants. He put them in a sugar bag, saying he'd been making jam from his plums, then handed me another bag and told me to look inside. Inside was this circular twist of bread which I think he said his daughter "who has the shop" had made. It was a bit dried out, but it tasted delicious: it was flavoured with fennel seeds and salt. As I was starving by then, because it was nearly tea-time, it was very welcome.
As I left to go back to my allotment, Tomaso gave me a hug and said, "You are like my wife and my daughter!"