Sometime in the 1980s, I was visiting Italy in order to see my sister who lives in the Emilia Romagna region. I landed at Milan and rented a car.
The SEAT vehicle which I hired was tiny and very basic and seemed to lack many items that can be found in other low-cost cars. However, I benefitted from it because it did not consume fuel at a high rate. This was lucky because in those days fuel was extremely expensive in Italy as compared with other countries in Europe. In those days, the petrol price in the UK had just exceeded £1 per GALLON (4.5 litres). In Italy, at the same time, petrol was available at about 1600 Lire per LITRE, and the exchange rate was about 1570 Lire to the Pound Sterling. Nevertheless, I ‘beetled’ around Italy visiting various friends in different places.
Driving practices in Italy differed from those in the UK. One day, I gave a lift to some Italian friends. At each village or small settlement on the Strada Statale (main road, not a motorway or highway) there were traffic signals at intersections. At one of these, I began to slow down because I could see that the signal was about to turn red. My friends said:
“What are you doing? Why are you slowing down?”
“The signal is turning red,” I replied.
“Don’t be silly, speed up. Don’t let the signal hold us up!”
I cannot remember what I did, but I have lived to tell the tale.
A day or so before I was due to meet my sister, I decided that I ought to have a haircut in order to look presentable. I stopped in a village, where I had spotted a barber shop as I was driving past.
I entered to smart looking salon, and sat amongst three or four other gentlemen awaiting the caring hands of the barber.Eventually, I was invited onto the barber’s throne. I explained what I wanted as best I could with my very rudimentary Italian. However, the barber, a true experienced professional, knew what was needed.
He began rummaging around in the mop of hair on my head, and then suddenly stepped back as if he had been confronted by a deadly poisonous snake. He raised his hands high above his head, and shouted:
The other men in the salon shrank back, one or two of them hiding their heads under the newspapers that they were reading. I sat, amazed and wondering about the meaning of ‘forfora’ and why it had caused such alarm.
Then it dawned on me. The barber had discovered dandruff in my hair. He explained something to me that I worked out meant that he needed to apply a special treatment to my hair. I told him to go ahead. He rubbed some oily liquid into my hair. After a moment, I felt a strong burning sensation. It felt as if something was burrowing down the roots of my hair and into my scalp. As it worked, I thought that whatever had been applied felt as if it was strng enough to kill anything. I just prayed that my hair would not fall as a result of this terrific chemical onslaught.
After a short time, my head began to feel normal, and the barber carried out my haircut. I do not remember how much my cut cost, but I do remember having to pay an extra 5000 Lire for the special treatment.
I doubt that I will ever forget the Italian word for ‘dandruff’, but how often I will make use of this knowledge is questionable.
Photo: a hairdresser in Istanbul