Intermittent rain disrupted my all-weekend grand sweep of weeding yesterday afternoon which was a pain because I’d reached that most rewarding of places: going over beds weeded quite recently. It’s a bit like my Monday to-do lists, into which I take care to inject a few things which are a doddle, or – even better – already done, in order to have a satisfying little selection of immediately-cross-off-able things to make me feel pleased with myself. How easily I pull the wool over my own eyes.
But you do need that in the garden, especially at this never-ending-work time of year. Not that I’m endlessly working mind you: I just let it mount up, then do the occasional partial blitz, then try not to notice the messy bits. With great tumbling effusions of things in flower (the creeping thyme and ceanothus are cases in point) mowing the wildly overgrown, daisy-packed lawn is another great instant-gratification option. Push the cranky old mower about for an hour or so and suddenly these marvellous blossomy mounds stand out grandly against a (momentarily) smooth green sward. So extremely satisfying.
In an attempt to demonstrate to L (who quite rightly says I do far too little exercise) just how much gardening gets you moving, I made sure I had my cellphone in my back pocket all day. I’m still getting a slight thrill out of that step-counting device that I’ve only recently realised I have. That whizzy mowing took me to almost 10,000 steps in no time. Though I expect quite a lot of those were not so much mowing as rushing back and forth fetching things that I needed but I had absent-mindedly left in far-flung spots around the garden. I’m not the most organised gardener.
It’s rather wonderful, ticking off the special events that this time of year brings. The first nightingale. The first cuckoo. The first evening when you suddenly realise it’s 8pm and you’re still outside and it’s still light. The first poppy and the first flower on the pea plants. The first baby artichoke poking through its rosette of leaves.
Then there are the less welcome happenings. The first viper caught napping under your flowerpot (L put an end to that one, and was traumatised for hours afterwards by his murderous outburst). The first aphids appearing on the roses. And of course, my nemesis… the first ant invasion.
Oh how I hate them. I hate them outside where they are doggedly carting off all the grass seed that my garden helper Indi has now spread on part of my newly remodelled areas. But I hate them even more in my kitchen. It’s a complete obsession.
To the point where L, fed up with my hysterical moaning, decided he would take the situation in hand this year. Mr Ant Slayer. My hero. Except that he decided – as I should have known he would – to approach the problem rationally, setting up observation posts to study the movements of the little bastards, in order to come up, he said, with a dramatic and lasting solution. How little he knows ants!
This morning when I went to make some hummus and found his closely observed ants had nested inside the hollow stem of the the stick blender inside the cutlery drawer, I fired my hero. I dumped the contents of the drawer (and much else) into a sinkful of water and took vicious pleasure in watching the invaders perish. Then I attacked any possible chink in masonry with heinous chemicals. So much for me and my 100% organic property. You have to draw a line somewhere, and that somewhere, for me, is ants.
Finally, with less than a month to go until we head to the polling station, the contenders for our local council elections have finally got their acts together. I have to admit, it was ‘my’ side that was foot-dragging more than the other. But now they’re moving forward with great gusto. The presentation of team and manifesto drew a more-than-capacity crowd to the biggest room in Palazzo della Corgna last Saturday afternoon.
Our mayoral hopeful spoke at length. The candidates standing with her said their brief bit. Everyone clapped at appropriate times and no one, until almost the very end, uttered the word sinistra (left). When they did, it brought thunderous applause. But I had been holding my breath up until that point, wondering if anyone would dare to lay their cards on the table, all the while thinking of a question a German friend who has lived here for many more years than we have asked me a couple of weeks ago.
“I read the manifesto in the paper,” she said, of the programme presented by ‘the others’. “What I don’t understand is: where on earth do they stand? Are they left wing or are they right wing?”
More I think than ever before, the political actors are trying to keep party affiliations out of these elections, even here in what has always been a dyed-in-the-wool left-wing stronghold. There are just two (to date) candidates for the mayor’s office. Neither of them wave party symbols. Which doesn’t mean they’re not backed by parties: they very much are, however much they like to sell themselves as apolitical liste civiche. Their programmes are similar (there’s bound to be crossover in such a small town) even if their motivation and approach differ. The centre-right-ish list is led – confusingly – by someone who used to be active on the left.
There’s a lot of talk about how people are disillusioned by traditional politics, how parties have exhausted their political capital by failing over the decades to provide what people want. But really, in a small and relatively well run little town like CdP, have they?
The shout that greeted the first candidate to show his true colours says no. And my friend’s inability to see the political leanings behind so many fine manifesto words says no as well.
Parties – or at the very least a clear left/right divide – give short-hand clarity to those who don’t have the time, energy or desire to delve too deeply into the liste civiche and what lies behind them. On a national level, there will be much media focus which will slot everyone neatly into those old divisions. But locally, when people find themselves faced with these formations that so many simply don’t understand, I truly fear that banishing the old, simpler, ways of doing politics might alienate people still further.
***PLEASE NOTE, IF YOU’RE A CITIZEN OF ANY EU COUNTRY, INCLUDING (FOR THE TIME BEING) THE UK, WHO HAS RESIDENZA IN ITALY, YOU CAN VOTE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS AND ELECTIONS FOR THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. GO TO YOUR TOWN COUNCIL, CHECK THAT YOU’RE ON THE ELECTORAL ROLL AND GET YOUR TESSERA ELETTORALE IF YOU DON’T ALREADY HAVE ONE.***