Boar like lettuce. Who knew? The rotten pigs have grazed their way through my plump leaves, just here in the bed along from the living room window. Wouldn’t you think that, at this time of year with so much food on offer in the wild, that they would leave my crops alone and avoid coming so close to human habitation? But no.
I know that it was boar because they also made themselves a little salon down there, digging a great chasm in my neat grass beyond the vegetable bed, to wallow in the mud. And there’s mud there. We’ve had so much rain over the past week that that particular spot – damp at the best of times because of run-off from the bank above – is now very soggy indeed. Bloody animals.
It’s odd to think that ten days ago we were on the Tuscan coast, being whizzed around the Argentario promontory on a boat and plunging into the (admittedly rather chilly) Mediterranean. It was a press junket – one that I really couldn’t stop myself from accompanying L on. We stayed at the Posta Vecchia (nice) and at the Pellicano (spectacular). At this latter, under a cloudless sky, the pool and the sea-bathing area (a platform created in a rocky cove) were so very summery that swimming in the sea seemed the only thing to do. If you turned slightly blue and your muscles began to seize up from the temperature of the water, no problem: at well over 30°C the the air temperature was quite sufficient to thaw you out.
Now, at my desk, I have my fleece-lined winter slippers back on and if it goes on like this we’ll be thinking of lighting fires in the evening. It’s generally sunny in the morning. Then the monsoon-style stuff begins after lunch, rumbling in from the north-east (a funny place for rain to come from in these parts) with contant low-grade thunder and bursts of soak-through downpour.
But damp as we’re feeling, other places have had it worse: Rome has been pounded, as has Naples. The wonderful botanical garden at Portici south of Naples was devastated by a whirlwind that whipped through the other day, I hear. Around us, we have to cope with road surfaces disintegrating and road edges slipping away into steep valleys: road maintenance is too much of a luxury for our cash-strapped local authorities. It’s beginning to look like the Third World in these parts.
I have been living a strange disconnect over the past few extremely rushed weeks.
There’s no doubt that the economic crisis is biting hard here. Unemployment is rife, especially among young people, and there’s a general air of… well not exactly downtrodden-ness or desperation but of resignation to living in rather straightened circumstances. And yet, and yet…
I’m working hard – not helped by the rain which makes planning outdoors work almost impossible, so I live by the phone, waiting to be summoned to one half-made garden or another at any moment. But others are working far harder: finding a plumber or an electrician or a trade/craft person of any description who can find a moment to deal with your requests is a daunting task.
I needed some metal edging for the little garden I’m making behind the Pozzetto trattoria in Moiano. The smith made them fast enough – they were just strips of corten, bent over at the top – but refused point blank to travel two kilometres along the road to install them: “I don’t have time to do that: get someone else to do it and I’ll solder them together when I have a spare moment.” At another project beyond Castiglione, it took the plumber two weeks to find a moment to do a quote for intalling rainwater catchment tanks, and three weeks later he still hasn’t been able to free himself up to put them in the ground.
I could go on. How is it that everyone is so rushed, yet everyone feels hopelessly poor? Are clients not paying? Is too much being taken away by the tax man? Or is some of the crisis gloom that people are projecting in fact a question of habit? I can’t quite work it out.