This has been such an exciting week. For one thing, my edits have just come back so I’ll be going into hiding for a day or two while I go through these. A top notch editor makes such a difference to a book and I’m so pleased to be working with Christine McPherson again who edited The Silence.
Secondly, the artwork for the cover of The Secret has just come in. I hope you like it.
I love the ancient Tuscan street with the shutters, the iron balconies, stone arches and most of all the cute little Ape.
Just to avoid any misunderstanding among people not familiar with Tuscany, I’m not talking about a monkey here but a bee. Not a real bee either but that’s the name given to the tiny three-wheel pickup truck made by Piaggio that’s become synonymous with Italy and was born in Tuscany.
Just as Vespa means wasp and is the name of Piaggio’s iconic motor scooter, the Ape or bee, by the same designer, d’Asciano, is aptly named because it buzzes about doing essential work.
The word Ape (pronounced AHpay) is one of the many “false friends” English-speaking people encounter when learning Italian. But if you think of apiary it’s not actually so strange.
First made in 1948 in Pontedera, the motorcycle van was the perfect solution for cash-strapped post-war Italy, giving thousands the freedom to create their own business with a low cost, low fuel consumption, compact vehicle that was easy to manoeuvre in narrow city streets and steep winding mountain lanes.
Although the design has been modified a few times over the years, incorporating a steering wheel instead of the old motorcycle handlebars, the heroic little van is still seen in rural villages all over Italy. As well as providing transport, it’s also used for promotion with an advertising hoarding in the back, and versions have been used as mini ice cream or coffee vans and even taxis.
It’s just the sort of van that Flávio d’Olivo, the woodcutter who first appeared in The Silence published last year but who also features in The Secret, would drive.
There’s a Piaggio museum at Pontedera (between Pisa and San Miniato) showing the history of the Vespa and Ape with some super-stylish and gorgeously nostalgic designs https://www.museopiaggio.it
The lane that borders our garden in Tuscany is only fractionally wider than a family car, extremely steep, heavily potholed and with no safety barrier to protect you from the vertiginous drop if you misjudge the “gomito” or “elbow” bend halfway up. Most locals know better than to use it and visitors who do so have been known to emerge white-faced and shaking.
But Ape vans trundle up and down with ease.
So if it sounds as though I’m a bit in love with the Ape, it’s true. I want one. But for now, just looking at the one on my cover brings a smile to my face.
I think it’s the bee’s knees!
The Secret will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 1st June.