This is a true story and happened before mobile phones were common place. As to the green briefcase, I don’t know – Gina was my invention.  

I told Gina my story about a geologist I’d known who’d gone to the university in Palermo and while he was there Mount Etna had erupted, as it did every sixty or so years. Being an expert he was drafted in to do a piece to camera for the  BBC. To give it more drama they peruaded three Sicilian women (who were out shopping) to rush past the camera shouting, in apparent fear of the flowing magma.

I carried on with my story, telling her how the geologist noticed, wherever he went in Sciliy, taxi drivers, waiters and shopkeepers, no-one wanted to  take his money.

He was delighted and impressed by their generosity and hospitality, until a colleague noticed his briefcase on the bench in the laboratory and remarked on its colour. It was green. 

‘You know what this means?’ he said pointing to the briefcase. ‘Only the Mafia use this colour.’

Horrified the geologist immediately bought a black one. 

Over the years I have told people this story, but  Gina (a native  Italian) was the first person to  say, ‘Yes, its still true.’

I saw her green  handbag and  immediately offered to pay for lunch – just in case.