Finally it seems as if spring is in the air with the sudden growth of the – not grass really – weeds…and I long for my Toty to sneak up the hill with his mower before I disappear into it whilst hanging out the washing.
I can hear the noises I so associate with this place: tractors and chain saws and I realise that I have not heard them since last summer, and that warms me up. Whilst I can’t yet buy seedlings or seeds even, I did plant some sunflowers I bought in Australia and their tiny green leaves are popping up from the red pots on my kitchen window sill. From last week’s freeze, the sun now shines and although the air is still cool, it is warming up and with that my spirits are lifting. The other spirits, those found in bottles, are diminishing as I long to finish each bottle just so I can do the 30 paces there and 30 paces back to the garbage bin.
I did have a walk the other day, just 200 metres, but no one smiled as I passed by and to be honest I wasn’t sure if it was allowed or not. Now we, in Tuscany, are not allowed out without a mask…that probably means going to the rubbish bin with one too. Or maybe not.
I’ve been looking at getting a cat. I know. It’s a bit after the horse has bolted, isn’t it? I thought about getting one, or preferably two at the beginning of the year when I got back from Australia. Then I thought that they would get in the way of my travel plans. Well how’s that for a joke, Joyce??? Anyway I have been spurred on (purred on no less) by Monty, my friend Anita’s gorgeous bundle in Sicily whom she won’t let me catnap and have found that the breeder has these little numbers on offer. Not quite now but in a few weeks and I wonder whether I dare at a thousand euros a pop. Or how I’d get them from Sicily when I’m not even allowed to go for a walk. Or how many I’d get. Or whether the foxes would get them. Or the wild boar. Hmmmm…time will tell and maybe sense will prevail. Chissá? Who knows?
Meanwhile my highlight of the week is our Brits in Italy pub quiz every Sunday night. Yesterday my son called from Melbourne and we compared questions as he was creating one for his mates, and I thought, even in these dire times, how special some things can be. In teams of four, we battle it out around mostly Italy but also the UK and Spain, and last night my friend Judy Tenzing joined in from Sydney, at Zero Dark Thirty her time. Last week we came equal second and last night with a new name, La Triviattas, we were victorious with 50 out of the 60 questions right. Usually we drink lots as we go but yesterday I had an excruciating tooth ache and dived into the antibiotics and thought better of it.
As I can now sit on my little terrace in the sunshine and look at the wonderful view, I’ve been thinking back to the time we first found this house. It’s like half a lifetime ago – more even, and yet there are parts of it I remember as if yesterday.
It was a sunny warm day as we headed up the valley with Nino, the leather hatted Italian who was guiding up to the offerings in his little book in a part of Italy we’d never heard of. As we criss-crossed the valley a number of times we wondered how on earth he’d found these properties, or, if we ever bought one, how we’d ever find it again. It’s a question every guest I’ve ever had has asked on their first time up in these glorious hills.
We saw five houses that day. The first was an old mill where we had to cross the stream on a plank of wood to get to. Still full of milling equipment, we thought we’d never be able to get those huge stones removed. Anyway the scary barking hunting dogs that we had to pass on the way down were enough for me to say a resounding no.
The next offering was a charming stone house with a lovely floorplan that could have been made into something of our style, except that it was stuck between two huge mounds of rock and felt very hemmed in. My final answer hinged on the walk up around one of the rocks where I was hissed at by a very large black snake, and left standing there whilst Nino and my partner fled downhill at the rate of knots. That was a resounding no as well.
The third house was called Il Due Pini..the two pines, because it stood between them. Nice house, not a huge view but, oh dear, situated right under high tension wires. Nothing would have let me say yes, even if the owner had welcomed us which indeed he didn’t, instead chasing us out with a big stick. Later we met the English couple who purchased it: sadly both died too young and we supposed it was the location under those wires.
Number four was a crumbling ruin on the side of a hill and we were let in by a statuesque lady who came down the hill with a bunch of keys. Room to room we went, each seemed to have a different lock, and none flowed into the other. Full of old wire beds and cobwebs, and not much of a floor or roof, it seemed way too big for what we wanted. We saw a little white-haired old lady in a purple cardigan shuffling along the walls outside and were told it was another neighbour who kept chickens and angora bunnies and quail and pheasant in the old stables – all for the table of course. Climbing the crumbling steps to the broken down terrace, we were stopped short with the view. It was our one non-negotiable, a view, and here we had it, in spades.
The last offering was a lovely villa in a small square in a tiny village just a stone’s throw away. Lovely house and yes, it had a view, but we didn’t want to be in a village, we wanted land and freedom to grow veggies and fruit trees. And by that time we’d seen The View we wanted.
This morning I found some photos of how we saw the house on that day. Looking at them I wonder what on earth possessed us to undertake a project of this kind from the other side of the world. And I ask myself would I ever have thought, all those years ago, that one day I would be holed up here, on my own, now into six weeks, sheltering from the worst catastrophe in my lifetime? Funny how life turns out, isn’t it?
Soon I might continue with the story of Mrs. Mouse….but not today, I want to lie in the sun with my book whilst I can. For tomorrow I must don gloves and mask and sterilise surfaces and carry hand gel and a heavy heart as I make my way into the town for my fortnightly shop. Today I feel safe, and content and hopeful that we will once more enjoy socialising and travel and art and opera and family.
Stay safe everyone. The figures in Italy are going down and we will overcome.
#iostoacasa #splendid isolation