A Small World

[Listening to: All Around the World - Oasis - Be Here Now ]

I just got back from my local supermarket, in my new suburb of Monte Verde in Rome, where a chance remark led me to, once again, realise just how small the world can be.

The cheerful chap behind the deli counter, who until now has only said hello, asked me where I was from (What? You mean I have an accent?!). "I'm English", I said. He proceeded to tell me he spoke some English (without actually speaking English, you understand), as he'd lived in Australia for a year. "Me too", I said, "where did you live". "North of Melbourne, near Shepparton" he replied. My mind whirred, I'd heard of Shepparton. "I think I used to work near there, in Cobram",

A big grin spread across his face. "That's where I used to live!".

I'd forgotten with the passage of time, but Cobram has a large Italian population. Cobram is a large fruit growing area situated on the Murray River just 250 kms north of Melbourne. The district is referred to as “Peaches and Cream“ country, with an biennial Peaches & Cream festival in January. The small farm area expanded with the introduction of soldier settlements after WWII, which was  followed by a significant number of Italian immigrants arriving and establishing themselves in the farming community. Nowadays many people are employed picking fruit, which is how I came to be there, back in 1987 I think.

I remember it well. Hard work under a hot sun. Bags of fruit weighting many kilos, strip-picking Pear trees in "gangs' of pickers. The friends I had then have all passed with time, but I remember well "Danny", who when I got back to England I was surprised to find out was actually called Andrew Savage - he'd just wanted to try out a new name. Gavin Hogg, who with a prosthetic arm still picked faster than me. Jonathon Iles, a lovely chap from Tring. We'd sit around a fire at night swapping travellers tales, and making light of how hard the work was.

I didn't get to continue the conversation, as other customers had braved the rain and arrived in the supermarket. But it was a nice moment, a shared experience. Who'd have thought that here in the  Rome, Italy, I'd bump into someone who'd worked in Cobram, Australia?

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