It is almost exactly three years since Mr-Blue-Shirt’s shipping container full of forging equipment arrived from Lincolnshire, after which came eighteen months of ultimately fruitless exploring, browsing, asking and searching for a suitable premises to use as a forge. By late 2020, however, Mr Blue-Shirt had ended up with not just one, but two apparently viable options to consider. While both of them (on paper) seemed to offer practically everything he needed, neither (on paper) seemed to be quite what Mr Blue-Shirt originally had in mind. But having reluctantly concluded that such a place, should it exist at all, was either already occupied, way too expensive, or required too much renovation, it was now a matter of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good in trying to work out which, if either, of these two options might at least turn out to be good enough.
One was about twelve miles away in a former furniture factory. The site, which is down at the coast just outside Porto Potenza Picena, is leased by Mr Blue-Shirt’s chum Antonio who runs the shipping company that transported his container over and in whose goods yard it had stood since it arrived. Having assessed the various options offered by the vast site that consists of an office building along with several large sheds and storage yards, they decided that the best area for a forge was a 70m2 corner of the main, 750m2 warehouse, which would still leave a huge area for the industrial tenant Antonio was planning to sub-let the rest of the space to. Once cleared of several years’ detritus and pigeon droppings, this would offer Mr Blue-Shirt more than enough space for all his forging equipment. He could even bring his shipping container inside to use for lockable storage since the full height sliding double doors at ‘his’ end of the warehouse would allow it to be forklifted into the warehouse, which also offers a flat concrete floor, high ceilings and lots of natural light as well as a generous area of covered of hardstanding outside. All he needed to sort out was a suitable power supply.
The other, meanwhile, was an approximately 80m2 workshop at the premises of Giovanni, the chap who owns the firm who did our solar energy installation, and is only about six miles away in Trodica, a suburb just off the dual carriageway that runs down to the Adriatic coast. Located at the rear of the site, it had all the essentials, including the all-important three-phase power supply required for running some of Mr Blue-Shirt’s more power-hungry pieces of equipment. However, one wall of the building had a large and vigorous bush growing through it, and the small extension containing a washroom seemed to be parting company from the main building, which, strangely, had a suspended ceiling of the type found in large office buildings. It was also chock-full of several tonnes of redundant heating and air-conditioning equipment from Giovanni’s business. But then again, it was a good, square shape, was completely self-contained and relatively easy to secure.
And yet…. Well, they just didn’t make Mr Blue-Shirt’s blacksmithing heart sing. After more than fifteen years’ hitting hot metal in a two-hundred-year-old, circular forge that oozed charm and character from every soot-stained brick, he simply found these brutally utilitarian spaces rather sterile and uninspiring. In his mind’s eye he had envisaged something quirkier and more bucolic; something, perhaps, with far-reaching views over the rolling Marchigian hills towards the sparkling Adriatic which he could contemplate while waiting for his metal to come up to forging temperature. So despite his head’s best efforts to be objective and business-like, his heart just wouldn’t let him give up his original vision and allow him to commit to one of these two soulless yet practical options, and Mr Blue-Shirt found himself gripped with uncharacteristic indecision.
Then before Mr Blue-Shirt could resolve his head vs heart dilemma, the country was hit by two more waves of Covid, a further round of lockdowns and another raft of restrictions that put everything on hold once more. And then there was the catalogue of jobs on the house that over the preceding year had moved up the list from ‘when we get round to it’ to ‘getting really quite urgent’. In addition, he found that he did have some lingering concerns about the physical security of the two sites (bearing in mind we’ve suffered two burglaries since we’ve been here), and some niggling doubts had surfaced regarding security of tenure too. After all, both Giovanni and Antonio had made their offers on an entirely informal basis, with nothing ever likely to be put in writing. And finally, there was the fact that Mr Blue-Shirt, the old romantic, was still clinging to his hope of finding somewhere a bit more picturesque. So his forge remained crammed in its steel box for another few months.
By last autumn, though, Mr Blue-Shirt’s head and heart seemed to have shaken hands. The idea of a pretty little forge in the hills was abandoned once and for all, and despite its advantages, Giovanni’s place was also abandoned because it was simply going to be too expensive – especially since Mr Blue-Shirt had come to the conclusion that he would need to scale back his forging ambitions in light of the pandemic. So this left Antonio’s place down by the coast as the only viable option – which did still have a lot going for it, not least the solid friendship that has developed between these two former soldiers, as well as the reassuring conversations they have had about Antonio’s long-term plans for the whole site. In addition, Mr Blue-Shirt has done a range of maintenance and repair jobs for Antonio that have made the premises more secure, and, thanks to Antonio’s generous, easy-going nature, it has already become our overflow storage area and now houses a couple of pallets of tiles for when he completes the final section of terrace, all the timber for the pergolato that Mr Blue-Shirt is going to erect over the main terrace he built during the first lockdown, and the elderly but capable small forklift truck (mulettino) that he recently acquired for moving his heaviest kit around. He had even spent weeks trying to track down a generator for his three-phase power supply. Indeed, this ‘mission creep’ combined with a growing sense of realism meant that Mr Blue-Shirt would by now have finally un-packed his shipping container and at last started to set up his workshop had we not both caught Covid in February.
Paradoxically, however, this delay turned out to be more of a silver lining than a cloud, for just as Mr Blue-Shirt was feeling well enough to go and begin the long-awaited yet time-consuming process of unloading, shifting, positioning and setting up, Antonio was told by the freeholder of the site – completely out of the blue – that it had become necessary to renegotiate his lease as they needed to do something else with the site, and suddenly everything was back on hold yet again.
Since then, there has been much to-ing and fro-ing between the parties, with Mr Blue-Shirt helplessly looking on from no-man’s-land. And thanks to Antonio’s dogged determination and utter refusal to contemplate failure (something else he and Mr Blue-shirt have in common), it does look as if there is a slim chance that a solution of some sort may possibly be found. But in the meantime, Mr Blue-Shirt has started scanning the countryside once more – just in case – and his forge looks set to spend a few more weeks yet crammed in its steel box.