Devon 23 November 1999
This past December, it would have been ten years since Nello Ghezzo
came to Topsham and opened his restaurant. A decade is not long in Topsham,
where some families have lived for hundreds of years, but within that
brief period, it is true to say that Nello became a part of the Topsham
community in every sense.
That Nello became a part of the Topsham community is a credit to his
warm, open, generous character. It is also a credit to this very special
community, a community where we stranieri -- outsiders from other
towns, or worlds and cultures -- can come and find a place that can
It is not possible for any of us to remember Nello without recalling
happy times in Nellos Ristorante Italiano. What a wonderful, special
place he created for us all to enjoy, a small but wholly authentic corner
of Italy that completely reflected Nellos personality and joy
of life, a joy that came through in Nellos glorious and abundant
foods and sun-filled Italian wines. It is no surprise to me that Nellos
was awarded in 1997 a prestigious national award sponsored by Galbani
as The Best Pizza and Pasta Restaurant in Britain. For those
of us who love real Italian food, we were fortunate indeed that Nello
chose to come here.
But Nellos, for many of us, was more than just a place to come
to eat. Whenever we wanted to celebrate -- a birthday, an anniversary,
the passing of exams or a driving test, a christening, baptism, wedding,
a professional success, or simply the getting through of another day
-- we went to Nellos to share our happiness with Nello. When we
were sad, and needed cheering up or commiseration, we went for the comfort
of Nellos food, his wines, and his constant good cheer.
When our babies were born, we carried them into the restaurant to toast
them with Barolo, and our children grew up in the security and knowledge
that sharing good food and wine among friends young and old is part
of the joy of being alive. For indeed Nello liked nothing more than
to have children in his restaurant.
Sometimes we went to Nellos simply because we were hungry and
in need of sustenance, a bowl of pasta, a glass of wine. Often we gathered
there for friendship, dropping in on Saturdays for a cappuccino and
a chat, after group cycles on Sunday mornings, and late at nights, after
Nello had finished work, to share food, wine, perhaps a grappa or two,
but most of all to share amicizia, friendship.
We went to Nellos because of Nello. It is difficult to separate
the place from the man: he is someone we will always remember as giving
us nothing but happiness and good times.
In remembering Nello, I pay tribute to a special friend, ever full of
tireless energy, a love of life, and of living, often quite literally
in the fast lane. Anyone who ever had the chance to drive with Nello
in his red Alpha Romeo will know what I mean: it could be an exhilarating,
sometimes wholly terrifying experience.
We called him pazzo Nello -- crazy Nello -- and he would have a go at
just about anything: jumping out of airplanes, off a crane attached
by the ankle to nothing more than a piece of bungee, or abseiling down
Exeter College once in three glorious, joyful bounds. He slept very
little, didnt need to, for there was always too much to do, too
much to enjoy. He had an infectious love of life and an immense capacity
to enjoy life. And he had crazy ideas, and wonderful dreams.
A project he often spoke of wanting to do next to raise monies for local
charities was to create the longest table in Topsham, that
is, to have a table stretching from the beginning of Fore Street down
the quay and back around Holman Way to the train station, a distance
of what, a couple of kilometres? The idea was for the whole Topsham
community to sit down together, sharing wine, food and friendship. I
have no doubt that he would have found some way to achieve this and
wouldnt it be wonderful? Imagine the scene: Nello working like
a maniac in some immense outdoor kitchen, Pepe and Helen on roller skates
helping Nello to make it happen! Who knows, perhaps one day it will.
And of course, there was Ride
for Life, our crazy, wonderful cycle to
Venice. The sharing of such a physically intensive activity creates
deep bonds of friendship, but It was really much more than just a bike
ride. For Ride for Life involved and touched so many of us in so many
ways through the solidarity that comes from working together for an
important cause, FORCE and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
Many people have expressed to me a feeling of cruel irony that after
all our efforts and activities (Ride for Life raised and distributed
some £21,000 in 1997), Nello himself should have contracted this
wretched disease. But everyone should know that Nello himself never
thought this. For in doing Ride for Life, we never thought that we would
be granted some special dispensation that would somehow make us immune,
nor indeed that we deserved to be.
Quite the contrary. We knew that this is a disease that has the capacity
to afflict any one of us, young or old, strong or less strong, and at
any moment. We became involved, I think, simply because we were strong,
because we were able to be involved, and because, through our physical
exertions, we were able to capture the imagination of all who supported
us, and thus contribute in our own way to this desperate fight. That
fight must continue, and so I have no doubt that Ride for Life will
take to the saddle again in some form just as Nello would have wanted.
Not much more than a year ago, we shared Nello and Karens marriage
and wedding, celebrating as friends and as a community in their joyful
happiness. What a wonderful time that was! And today, just as we shared
and celebrated Karen and Nellos happiness, as friends and as a
whole community, we share in Karens loss and terrible sadness.
I was looking over the
Ride for Life web site the other day, and at the words I wrote to
sum up the whole experience at the end of our ride in July 1997:
at times there were tough and hard moments, the mountains savage and
unforgiving, the lesson that Nello and I learned along the way is
that memory is not just about looking back, but about taking inspiration
and courage in order to move forward.
a tough lesson to learn and to re-learn, I have to say. But I truly
know that Nellos infectious character and his courageous, generous
and noble spirit will always be an inspiration to so many of us and
that the memories of a very special friendship, and of a very special
person who passed too briefly through Topsham, will continue forever
to enrich our lives and make us happy.
Ciao, Nello. Buon viaggio.
and I would like to thank everyone who donated so generously to the
Ride for Life fund in aid of cancer charities. This fund is still open
and we plan on July 2, 2000 to organise a Nello Memorial Century Challenge
Ride for Life cycle,a hundred m milerthat will take in one of our old
favourite training rides, the North Devon Horseshoe across the roof
of Exmoor. So now is the time to start training! Wed love to have
you along for the ride.
further information, please email me at email@example.com.