based on la traviata in modern setting.
Nico had arrived in Australia from his native Holland, as a naïve and innocent young man. He had come on his own without any family and had had difficulties getting used to a society so different from
the way of life in the country village he had left behind.
At the start of his new life he had made several genuine attempts to become a fair dinkum Aussi, an Aussi who knew when it was his shout and who understood the kind of football that was played
in Melbourne. But somehow he never quite got this image together. Despite his excellent language skills he could not hide his Dutch accent, he never quite got the difference in sound between the Js and the Ys right and he never quite knew how to use the word
mate or cobber in conversation let alone mate, mate. These little peculiarities often attracted patronising remarks about how well he spoke English and also made people assume he was from South Africa.
Because Nico was essentially shy he did not have
much success with women in his new country. He drifted into his thirties without passion or interest and to relieve the boredom of his job as a draftsman he took up Italian and French in adult education classes, Italian because he loved ‘neo realist’
Italian movies, and French simply because he adored French cooking. He did well in these classes and strengthened his skills in both languages. It made him decide he wanted to know more about the language and traditions of Italy and enrolled in a 6 months
Italian language course at the University of Perugia. After a somewhat uncomfortable budget airline trip to Rome and a hair-raising bus ride to Perugia he presented himself at the introductory meeting at the start of the course. There at the introductions
to his fellow students he met Emma a handsome mature lady from Brisbane.
Emma too had come to Perugia to improve her Italian as she had ambitions to become a language teacher. She had been a well known and popular prostitute in her home town, but had
given up that demanding and stressful life with its parties and its often unpleasant consequences. It had made her cynical of personal relationships, but at the same time it had left her well provided for. Despite the age difference Emma and Nico hit it off
together and after the lecture they met in the neighbourhood bar where she confided in him that she was looking for a male companion during her stay and he might just be that person. “To go around Italy on your own even today can be a problem,”
she told him, “I need an escort and also a caddy to take me around the golf tournaments I have entered.” Nico thought all his Sundays had come at once and could hardly contain his excitement as he was actually quite smitten with Emma even after
meeting her only a few hours earlier. ”Emma” he said, “It will be a pleasure to escort you but you need to realise I am a man of modest means and I know nothing of the technicalities of golf.” Emma responded, “Nico I am well provided
for and I will look after the money; I want you to look after me. You should realise just the same there will be no hanky panky.” This was a bit of a disappointment to Nico as he had visualised Emma as a latter day Mrs Robinson, but when she told him
of her past and the sort of experiences she had had his attraction became tempered with compassion and he gladly accepted the arrangement she proposed.
Emma spared no expense to make their stay in Italy a comfortable one.
She bought an Alfa Romeo
Spider decked out in Italian racing red so Nico could drive her around in style. On weekend trips they stayed at the best hotels and of course they dined at some of best Michelin starred restaurants in Perugia and Florence.
The pair soon became the
talk of the university and the course lecturer who had described Emma as ‘una signora molto simpatica’ watched and admired the developing relationship with fascination and even a touch of envy and speculation was rife amongst the students what
Emma’s next move would be, or Nico’s for that matter.
The next move in fact came quicker than anticipated as Emma entered for a prestigious women’s golf tournament at Florence’s famous Lupomonte golf course.
With Nico at
her side and with her elegant swing and short putts working well she blitzed the class field for a comfortable win and made it into the local TV news that evening.
Their celebrations lasted well into the night and when it became apparent that it was
too late and too dangerous to drive back to Perugia, they found that the only accommodation left at the hotel was a room with un letto matrimonio. It was there that night that Emma found out that despite the often distasteful experiences with the sugar daddies
from her previous life she was now in fact in love with the caddy. Nico who had been attracted to Emma all along finally forgot his Dutch reticence and loved her in return with a passion that overwhelmed them both.
Thus they lived happily ever after
for about a week and became cult figures at the university, but then the horizon darkened with the arrival of Trevor a former acquaintance from Emma’s days on the Gold Coast
Trevor was a Queensland mining magnate, a member of the Gold Coast
white shoe brigade, and had been a big contributor to Emma’s wealth, He had been sorry when she had gone overseas but had accepted that fact and had made other arrangements for his gratification. Now he was in Italy and had seen the news and publicity
that had surrounded her golf tournament win, and as he was in the throes of a deal on a big coalmining project on Queensland’s Great Barrier reef he thought it might be useful to have Emma at his side to help smooth his business prospects by providing
the type of entertainment popular amongst Italian business leaders and members of the government.
Thus he took the lovers to dinner and made his proposition to Emma shamelessly in front of the naïve Nico. Emma listened carefully to what he put on
the table and calmly and carefully told Trevor. “I am no longer involved in this world of yours. I am in love with Nico and we are starting a new life together. We are planning to set up an Italian language school right here when we finish our course.”
This took Nico a bit by surprise as he had not thought beyond the next day before and it also surprised Trevor; who was so used to buying and selling people and commodities that here was some-one refusing one of his offers. Actually he turned quite nasty and
threatened first Emma and then Nico who in turn lost his temper grabbed Trevor by the throat offering to rearrange his face. This unseemly display by Nico caused the lovers to be ejected at once from the restaurant leaving Trevor behind to pay the bill.
Unfortunately this was not the end of the altercation as the next morning a large unpleasant looking courier arrived who presented them with a note which contained some serious threats not just against Nico but also against Emma. Quite frankly it frightened
the daylight out of them particularly when they looked out the window and noticed that the courier had remained in the street watching the front door.
The lovers were at a loss to know what to do until Nico had a sudden inspiration for a feasible plan.
He explained to Emma that his family in his native village was closely aligned with the ‘Jehovah’s witnesses’ movement which has a proven record of knowing where people are what is happening on the ground.
He suggested they should take
the Alfa and return to the village of his birth where they would be safe, surrounded by the members of his family who would be acutely aware if and when strangers entered the local area.
This was an excellent plan.
They hastily put some
gear together and with Nico burdened by luggage and Emma’s golf bag, they sneaked out the backdoor climbed in the Alfa and set off.
After a somewhat nervous trip across the Alps with frequent glances in the rear vision mirrors they arrived at Nico’s
family home where he was welcomed as a modern day prodigal son. The family at first thought that Emma was really a bit too old for Nico but when they found out the extent of her wealth they thought she was a suitable partner after all. And so it proved to
be they remained happy together and the low profile that they had to keep suited their affection for each other. The only disappointment for Emma was her inability to play in the golf tournaments around. She kept on practicing but asked herself how many golf
balls she could hit across the canal without getting bored?
Their shared regret was that they had been unable to complete the language course and sit the exam for their diploma.
That was until they received word through the family’s religious
grapevine that Trevor had had his coalmining venture knocked back on environmental grounds and had returned to Queensland to become a member of parliament with a mission to remove as many environment protection laws as possible to allow the destruction of
the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ to proceed.
With the realisation that this might tie up Trevor’s activities for a few years to come they gained the confidence to return to Perugia, complete the course, sit the exam, and pass with flying colours.
They did not set up a language school as Emma had envisaged after all but instead returned to live in Nico’s village where they renovated an historic Dutch farmhouse and combined this with an occasional outing for Emma’s golf tournament participation.
They remained inseparable and content.