Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Janissaries

Two of the Janissaries in their tree

Janissaries....This is their collective name now; Socksie, Lila, Lilo and Pix.
(Suddenly I have the TeleTubbies tune playing in my head and their adventures match those of those colourful inarticulate creatures).
I'm talking of course about our kittens and the adventure of the other evening; an adventure which almost turned out to be a tragic disaster, and one with unthinkable circumstances in its wake.
Read on....
Lili had gone into town for a few hours and for the first time ever had left the kittens outside in the garden to play. I'd returned home to find them gone and nowhere to be seen. I'd scoured the dense little wood beneath the house, scratching myself on bramble and getting completely filthy, but with no sign of them anywhere. Even went down to the hunter's lodge in the lower field and then a complete circle across to Vittorio's field to look back at the house, hoping to see them from there. But nothing.
By the time Lili got back, our worry was fast moving to panic as friends turned up to join in the search.
At this time of year, especially because it's been dry and perhaps because of their need for food, wolves are seen outside of the National Park, in fact just last week in a little village just below us.
Also it is a time when young foxes are kicked out of home to fend for themselves and being inexperienced they takes risks and come too close to human habitation. Vixen mothers are hungry too and they are known to take kittens, something which they wouldn't usually do.
All this we knew and it was on all our minds, only nobody wanted to voice these fears.
I walked twice along to Vittorio's house with Marina (the Janessaries' mother as you know), and twice she veered off into V's field of corn but I took no notice of this, thinking she was just searching too.
I was beginning to feel sick with worry after what was now almost ten hours since their disappearance and Lili was sitting crying at the top of the Pastore's field.
We had a gloomy dinner outside on the patio and and at about 9.15 I said I thought we should try one more time. I'd thought about Marina's sidestep into the corn field (it's American corn, maize) and I said I thought we should search there. I looped around the back of the field and Lili, Richard, Nick and Cider plunged into its dark green jungle.
And there they found them!
Playing amongst the plants they were with not a care in the world.
I took us a while to catch them all but we were all so triumphantly happy that we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
Nick told us later that he'd said a special prayer given to him by his Tai Chi master, one that he'd only used twice in his life, it is so powerful. Lili said she'd recited a Tantric prayer and I confessed I'd logged in to my star cluster for a bit of help. Richard said he'd known all along that they were safe and well, said he'd read the signs reflected in his bottle of Hieneken. Cider just said 'Cool' (he's fifteen).
What an adventure eh?
It has a nice ending too in that Lili was so overjoyed to see Socksie and Lila alive that she has decided we should keep them ( do you know how much cat food costs here?)
But I'm glad too.
Bessie the dog?
Hmm...she's giving out these long sighs and those ' what next?' looks in which she specialises.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Are you scared of ghosts?

I suppose everyone is really, although a lot depends on the time of day, or night and whether you are alone or with a friend or a pet, but not a rabbit (the old man keeps rabbits)
On Sunday evening our door bell rang and it was our neighbours (no, not the enemy) but Graciella, Simona, Renzo and Angela from down the road.
We've come to take you for a walk they say.
OK, sounds good, the evening is warm and almost balmy with a slight breeze as we wend our way on the four kilometre walk towards the upper bins i.e. the junction of the Sant'Ippolito and Monte San Martino roads. It's the night of the new moon (auspicious!) and there is just enough light left in the sky ( it's after 10pm) to see the road. And on either side of us the fireflies are weaving their symphony of light and Renzo does his usual trick of catching one and using it as a torch. Completely ineffective of course.
It's pleasant to stroll and chat at night and the conversation rolls around between us and life is easy at such times and this sauntering gradually smooths away the cares of life.
Bessie is puffing away at my side because she still hasn't shed her winter coat and is over heating (and over eating I might add) but she is managing to keep up. She's ten years old now and not quite as agile as she used to be of course and at such times I wonder what life would be without her. And I feel sad.
By the time we get to the junction it's completely dark and we are passing by the house of the old couple and Renzo mentions the son who comes to the house a lot nowadays to work in the garden. I say I've never ever stopped to talk to the old father but I always wave as I drive past although he never waves back just sort of stands there with his bent back and ancient hat, always the hat.
But he never acknowledges me I say.
Who? Renzo says.
The old man I say.
But when he asks.
When I wave to him I say, why, just this week when I saw him over there bent over the vegetable patch...
Michael, he says, what are you talking about? he's been dead for three years.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

24hrs in the life of Micer Red

Sometimes it's important just to write about a day, the simple little things you do to get by. Technically, I suppose, such a day as this could be considered crushingly boring. But it all depends on how you feel inside, don't you think?
9.30 a.m. Monday morning. I drive into Amandola to renew my tax for the Kangoo (my strange French car).
Nice chap there; forget his name but he is always courteous to me once a year when I do all this car stuff. No problem he says as I hand him my log book. He types my data into his computer and, bingo, all my driving misdameanors pop up and before you know it, all the backdated car tax I owe too. You know, even if you don't pay road tax for a few years, nothing seems to happen, until one day you get a massive bill, ten times what you originally owed, plus a threat to possess your car..... then you move real fast. (and that's how I met this nice chap at ACI, the road tax office who is always helpful, especially at the time I owed three years worth). And then, and then, I see my MOT has run out (every two years here) and he says come back at 3pm and we'll fix it
10.15 Still in Amandola, I stop at the chemist to buy some hand cream. Now this is the chemist's home made stuff and it'll cure my rough gardener's hands he says with a wink. Why the wink? No Idea.
10.30 a.m I'm in Sarnano and I go to the comune to pay my parking fine which I picked up last Thursday at the market. But the vigilezza (the local police lady) isn't there, just her son, playing on her computer. He gives me that shruggy brain dead adolescent look to every question I ask, like where is she? when is she back, where could I find her now? I give up and wander over to the office to download mail. BTW, town halls and offices generally are always full of sons and daughters just doing...what?... just hanging around, lost.
11 a.m. Lili turns up and we go for coffee and read the newspaper which is full of vitriol against the current Prime Minister, Prodi, who is generally hated to about the same measure as wicked King John in the time of Robin Hood. Of course Berlusconi is currently playing the role of the latter, accusing Prodi of robbing the Italians with his new taxes (you may laugh here, please do, I mean given his track record), Absentmindedly, I walk off with the newspaper and have to go back to return it. The barman just laughs and shrugs, I do the same.
Enzo, the chap who is our shiatsu masseur in Gualdo calls to remind Lili of her appointment but she doesn't feel too well, so she asks me if I'd like to go instead.
Ok, love to, at 6pm, fine.
12.30. We drive home for lunch. I pluck a lettuce from the orto and we have salad and pasta. Plus a handful of cherries each, those dark red ones you love.
13.30 It's sunny in the garden and we spend a while there just simple stuff like pruning and watching the grass, reading a bit too (Orhan Pamuk, 'The Black Book')
1400 Back to the office for a spell to clear up some mail and then..
1500 I whizz back inti Amandola for MOT. Now the MOT (the call it revisione) is run by the ACI chap's daughter, a slight 25 year old who darts about like a squirrel, plugging in tubes and leads to my car and winching it up in the air on rollers where the car travels 60mph at standstill and she brakes. Zack!
Finally she zips to the computer screen, prints out the reading and zooms past me to the office. Despite myself, I find my heart beating fast because this is how I always was when I had to get MOTs in UK. I ask, in a dry whisper 'Everything OK?'
'Of course' she says.
So I pay up and drive to the car wash and give my Kangoo a thank you shampoo and then to the car tyre workshop just down the road from the Car wash to get a wobbly tyre looked at. The boss takes it for a spin down the road while I wait and half way down he meets his wife and kid driving up from the other direction. They both stop their cars in the middle of the road and get out to talk to each other, of course blocking the traffic in both directions. But nobody cares. This can only happen in Italy I think, only Italy. Sure enough, one tyre is slightly out of kilter, come back Friday he says and I'll put two new ones on the front, I'm out of stock right now. Maybe Monday I say.
I drive home and my nephew calls from UK telling me of his arrival on June 18th. Here to do work on my sister's house. Work? what sort of work. Chipping off plaster and making windows he says. Now the house is currently being worked on by two Italian builders and look, I say, you can't just move in there without coordinating with these chaps first. It'll be fine he says. Hmmm.
Jack calls from San Francisco and says he's going to India via Germany and Italy and we work out a timetable so we can all meet in Venice on The 30th of's his birthday and my friend Lorenzo has some work in the Biennale so we can double up and see that too.
1715 I drive back to the office and answer some mail and then to Enzo for that massage. Enzo's really good, he does bones as well as muscles, and is an expert on heads. Just as I am leaving his wife arrives and asks if she can practice her English on me. She's pretty good but a bit rusty and she says we can do a swap. Massages for English lessons. Poor Enzo (who doesn't speak a word of English) just looks baffled and has no idea of the deal we have just struck (he, after all, being the one who has to do the massage whilst she gets the free lesson)
1930 Back home in a storm and as we've decided to not watch world news anymore (a deadly drug) and there are no films worth watching, I read to the end of Pamuk's book, still struggling to understand his parallel world idea.
I write a bit, fiddle with a painting that's blocking me and at midnight take Bess for a walk and then to bed, whilst the kittens are still racing around the house.
That's it, that's a day.
What I want to know is, was that boring?
Is was a bit, wasn't it?