It was the paternal side of my family, the Capace, who migrated to Australia. The Capace have a bad temper and we can go from 0 to 1000 instantaneously. Yet if left alone (read, walk away) we calm down quickly. All of the Capace have inherited that temper. I came to this realisation when my father’s eldest brother, who was an intelligent, gentle soul and family man, stomped all over fresh concrete he’d just finished smoothing on the driveway because a sudden downpour was ruining his hard labour. As a 10-year-old I watched this amusing drama unfold hidden from behind a curtained window, while he stomped all over the wet concrete whilst looking skywards cursing at the clouds with raised fists. If my favourite uncle, who was a gentleman in every sense of the word, was afflicted with the Capace temper I knew I would also be doomed. I was right. We Capace are proud, crazy motherfuckers that do more damage to ourselves than others with our temper. My temper has gotten the better of me on a number of occasions and there's a prime example of this in the 11th chapter of Madam Is Not A Four Letter Word.
My mother was the head cook for nearly 20 years at an Italian nursing home run by the Catholic Church. My mother is Catholic and my father was an atheist yet he respected my mother’s faith except for when he got mad. When my father got mad his temper had him cursing, cursing that always involved damning saints, doubting the verification of the Virgin Mary’s celibacy and adding her son’s legitimacy into the mix. Italians don't tend to swear as much as they curse. My father didn't mean any offence by this, it was just his way.
While the nuns from the establishment where my mother worked were staying as guests at our beach house one time my father lost his temper for some reason and could be heard cursing in his usual way from the back garden as the rest of the household was enjoying breakfast. My mother and I looked at each other with desperation and embarrassment then quickly focused on engaging the nuns in conversation in an attempt to drown out my father's continued religious cursing. It was obvious my father was oblivious to the fact that he could be heard from indoors. Finally, a nun turns to my mother with a twinkle in her eyes and says, “you told us your husband wasn't a religious man yet here he is where we can hear him praying heartily”. Thank goodness the nuns had a sense of humour.
Members of my immediate family tell an amusing tale of acquiring a pub in Johnston St, Fitzroy in the early 1960s. At the time it was a predominantly Irish neighbourhood. The Irish were livid that these dagos had dared to overtake their local pub. They warned my immediate family that they were not prepared to accept this perceived injustice and trouble was in store. The warning included a date and time of the trouble to come. I’m not sure if they were being polite, fair or just dumb. So, on the said night this Irish mob come into our new establishment brandishing clubs, heavy chains and ready fists. The male Capaces with other Italian acquaintances were waiting for them, lined up behind the bar counter. The Irish menacingly approached and the Italians pulled out guns and rifles from under the counter, loaded and aimed. Long story short the Irish ended becoming our most loyal and best customers.