This summer has been incredible. Searingly hot, yes, with sticky nights until July 26 when one of those immense storms we had watched sweeping blackly up neighbouring valleys finally dropped its load on us: 62mm in less than an hour. It was less than we had been told to expect the previous day, when in the end not a single drop fell. But when it did arrive, we could barely see beyond the kitchen terrace.
Since then, hot days have been blessed with deliciously cool evenings: not cardigan- or shawl-cool but just enough of an edge to ponder whether perhaps a bit later a cardigan might be needed. You get the anticipation without the reality: the perfect combination.
Two further well distributed mini-drenchings of 10mm each have created the strangest situation in the garden: despite this being the hottest summer since records began (or something of that ilk), the so-called lawn – until recently a ragged patch of straw and dust – is now spring-green in colour. Our field, cut a couple of weeks ago and usually a parched colour until the September rains begin, is already bouncing back again. The raspberries have plumped out. I’m having to pick tomatoes when still barely red otherwise the excess water makes them split. Now if only my roses would come out fully: they were beginning their serious second blooming just as the big storm hit us, removing any open petals. So they’ll need to make an extra effort.
The heat has driven people in droves to our town water dispenser, where for five cents you can fill your 1.5 litre bottle with cool water, carbonated or still. It’s just town water – the stuff that comes out of our taps. But filtered through a machine, it enveigles those people for whom water must necessarily (and inexplicably) come out of a bottle into thinking that they’re getting a properly processed product.
Considerable queues form around what we’ve taken to calling the stoop, and a strange water-cameraderie has developed. It’s like gathering around the village well, one man commented to me in a fit of nostalgia the other day as we waited with our milkman-style plastic carriers full of empty glass bottles. And he’s right, it is, except in one particular. I’m sure that in times past when the village well was the primary water source it was women who were expected to do the manual hauling and carrying. Now that there’s machinery and technology involved, there’s a high male water-fetching quotient.
Water-wise, my clients over the other side of Lake Trasimeno picked a very bad year to begin planting with just a tank to catch rain water from the roof, rather than a well. In last year’s wash-out of a summer, they would never have had to order water in. But this year the tanker has had to refill the 10,000-litre tank seven times so far, for a very small patch of drip-irrigated greenery. (We abandoned the water-guzzling lawn to its own devices).
They now wish to proceed with well-digging. I contacted a pozzaiolo who put me in touch with a geologist who would look after the permit side of things. I went to look at the site with the geologo (who turned out to be a neighbour of ours in CdP) and pointed out the old umbrella base placed two years ago by the local water diviner in what should be a watery spot.
Renato put that there, I told told the geologist. That’s where he said to dig. “Er. Yes?” he replied. So, do you trust him? Do you believe in all that? I asked. Puzzled silence. He didn’t actually say ‘duh’ but that was the tone. “Yes,” he said. “Why ever not?”
It’s the kind of scientific approach I love.