Most of us can make ourselves understood in a foreign country with gestures and a few words, but I once found myself communicating in a very particular way with a group of potential thieves!
I’d been working on a project in France and rather than heading back to the U.K. decided to have a few days in Florence. I’d landed, booked into the hotel and wandered happily out into the Piazza della Repubblica. Exhausted after the work and the travel, I collapsed into a chair outside a bar and ordered a beer. So relaxed did I feel that I did the most stupid thing. Whilst talking on my mobile, I left my bag open on the table with a tempting array of credit cards visible. Fortunately nothing untoward happened…..at that point.
It was just then that I noticed a group of three young lads ‘lurking with intent’. I don’t know why, but I felt suspicious. However they moved on. The tranquillity of the setting in the afternoon sunshine was suddenly shattered by the sound of a woman’s voice from a table to my left where one of these lads had sat unnecessarily close to an elegant elderly lady who was clearly not best pleased. As we all watched, a figure walked passed, again to my left, and tried to go into the private entrance to the bar. He turned to ask me if they would change traveller’s cheques here. Just as I began to explain where the closest bank was I realised that this was another of those three lads. They were setting me up! My mind was racing: the first had drawn my attention to the left, the second again to my left which meant …… I span around to my right and there was the third with his hand on my bag on the table
Now I’m not a physical person; I’ve never been in a fight in my life. In this instance, I was demented and I grabbed the man’s wrist and two things raced through my mind. The first was ‘he may be little but three streetwise lads together – I’ve no chance’. The second was strangely (and very quickly) logical. Though my Italian was reasonable, I didn’t (at that time) know any swear words and I surmised that he probably didn’t understand English swearwords. My adrenalin fuelled brain, came up with the solution: I dragged him towards me and barked loudly: very loudly straight into his face – not a ‘woof woof’ you understand, more of a protracted roar! He turned white. The effect could only have been better if I’d turned green and split my shirt open. One of the others shouted something; I glanced at them, grabbing my bag at the same time and they were away before you could do say Shitzu. The element of surprise (nay, shock) had worked.
It was fourteen years ago and we now live in Italy, and when we make one of our frequent trips to Florence, I remember the day when I was really was barking mad!