December 30, 2019: “I’ll go to 50 euros, 60, if I have to,” I said, as we were preparing to leave the hotel to go into town for a little light shopping, a pit stop for a beer, and an indulgent lunch. We are nothing if not habitual types, Mrs B and I, and that is often our routine when in Sorrento.
I set myself up as a freelance writer and editor a couple of years ago after the firm I worked for was abruptly shut down by its owners; a large and respectable publishing company who are based in Dundee and famous for The Beano and The Dandy. Nowadays, I have an early shift for a digital media agency which involves getting up at 4:30 a.m., so I creep downstairs and work in the dining room. An unwelcome effect of this – in addition to me falling asleep at any given moment throughout the day - was to turn one of the rooms in our cottage, which my wife has carefully designed and decorated, into a dumping ground for cables, chargers, iPods, scraps of paper bearing my illegible scrawl, old biros, and broken pencils.
For the maintenance of the happy home and cordial relations, clearly something had to be done. So, I decided that as we were at the very epicentre of the craft of inlaid woodwork – Sorrento Ware – this was to be that very something. A box in which to store the small stuff. Not just any old box, mind, but the work of a craftsman steeped in the ancient ways of the wood.
We found a lovely old workshop, run by father and son Augusto and Luca. After having a mooch around the price tags, it soon became clear that if I wanted my box to house anything bigger than a solitary thimble then fifty wasn’t going to cover it. But when we spoke to them, and looked at the craftsmanship, and they explained the complex and painstaking process, 120 euros seemed like quite the bargain.
All the more so after I accidentally spent 26 euros shortly afterwards on what Mrs B described as “a packet of biscuits”. As in, “I can’t believe you spent 26 euros on a packet of biscuits”. Anyway, it was more like a box, it had a ribbon around it and everything, and the biscuits were so good that Sandra actually stopped saying, “I can’t believe you spent 26 euros on a packet of biscuits,” just so that she could eat another one.