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A few days ago we went to visit a friend who lives in the little hilltop town of Vezzano Ligure. Wandering down the main street, we noticed a hand written sign that someone had put next to their cassetta della posta (mail box). It read:
"Siete liberi di lasciare la pubblicità consapevoli
che verrà usata per accendere il caminetto"
"You are free to leave ‘junk mail’ in the awareness
that it will be used to light the stove"
La pubblicità means ‘publicity’ or ‘advertising’, but in reality it nearly always turns out to be that universal unsolicited nuisance commonly known in English as ‘junk mail’, or, in its electronic form, ‘spam’.
Even here in our little village in the mountains we are not spared la pubblicità which generally arrives in two genres: 1. advertising broadsheets from the big supermarkets who want to remind us of our responsibilities as good consumers, and 2. leaflets that arrive around election time from politicians who suddenly remember that we exist and might be disposed to put an X in the box next to their name.
The supermarket ads always avail themselves of the magic word CONVENIENZA (convenience), which for me immediately conjures up a huge hanger like building, echoing with repetitive electronic pop tunes, stacked with low grade goods, and staffed by indifferent employees who seem a bit put out when they have to serve you, although to be honest it must be a pretty tedious and soul destroying job.
The political leaflets, on the other hand, never fail to use tried and tested terms like rilancio economico (economy boost), sicurezza (security), disgravi fiscali (tax cuts).
Put these two together and you have paradiso consumistico (consumer paradise).
In practice, we’ve found that the former make much better fire lighters than the latter which tend to be printed on that thick, shiny, more important looking paper that doesn’t burn very well.
I imagine that the big supermarkets employ teams of catch phrase writers whose brief is to come up with snappy seasonally related phrases which must always contain the word CONVENIENZA. Here for example is the latest slogan from the front page of a well know Italian supermarket magazine:
"CONVENIENZA a ruota libera" ("Free wheel convenience")
Yes folks, it’s primavera (spring), time to buy that bicicletta (bicycle) which, let’s be honest now, after you’ve ridden it a couple of times and reminded yourself why you stopped using your old bike, "ma la CONVENIENZA non c’entra per niente, mi fa proprio male al sedere!" ("but convenience hasn’t got anything to do with it, it really hurts my backside!") , will probably end up gracefully rusting away next to its predecessor in the garden shed.
Yet it seems such a bargain:
|CICLO 26" OLANDA||26 inch Holland Cycle. (yes, although we are metric we use pollici [inches] for many standardized products, even if we don’t know exactly what an inch is.)
Note that, in order to convince us that this bike is the genuine article they have named it OLANDA (Holland), because we all know that Dutch people, apart from wearing clogs, living in windmills, and growing tulips, all ride bicycles. Of course the publicity doesn’t tell us that the bike was made in Romania with parts imported from Thailand, ma pazienza!
|telaio in acciaio||steel frame, oh well, at least it isn’t made of ghisa (cast iron).|
|freni V-brake||‘V-brake brakes’. The English word ‘V-brake‘ is there to reassure you that this is really a quality product. These are high grade techno-brakes that should function for at least a couple of weeks, if not more.|
|81,90 Euro||Aha…now here is where LA COVENIENZA comes in, costa poco (it’s cheap)|
|15% per i soci||If your are a member of the supermarket, i.e. you have given them all your personal details including your star sign and hat size, and signed the form with the microscopic clause that entitles them and their sister companies to send you at least three hundredweight of junk mail a year, you will be able to buy this genuine ‘Dutch style’ bike for only 69,90 Euros!|
|*CESTINO ESCLUSO||However, be aware that the cestino (basket) is NOT included in the price. That particular item, which cannot be detached from the bike, is hand made from Titanium alloy, and costs another 286,50 Euros.|