I spoke too soon about the hunters. Their hounds were yapping down there in our valley all yesterday morning. I heard few shots. But as I endeavoured to pull weeds out of my soggy beds yesterday afternoon, a boar somewhere started roaring in what I can only imagine was pain.
The hunters’ noises had all but disappeared by then: the only other human sound I could hear was the chatter of olive-picking from across on the parallel ridge. My first instinct was to move inside. The boar sounded close and I pictured it gathering its last bit of strength for a final charge at a random representative – me perhaps? – of the species which had put a hole in it.
The moaning-roaring-grunting came and went, and I realised (largely thanks to L who, fresh back from his bike ride, ignored my eminently sensible warnings and strode down into our fields to investigate) that it was further away than I thought – far down our valley and probably up the hill on the other side. So I returned to my weeding, with one ear to the pain. I tried to call hunters I know to ask them to investigate but no one answered. Surely one of those infuriating dogs could have tracked the poor beast down, rather than abandoning it to its fate.
This morning I could hear nothing out there except the usual birdsong and insect noises. I hope the boar has died, its suffering over. Problematic as boars can be, it pains me to think of anything in pain.***
We spent all day Saturday – (almost) entirely literally – wrapped in the thickest of mists. It was as if the day didn’t really exist. It’s odd to find ourselves in that situation: we’re used to feeling oh-so-smug about our sunny uplands as we survey the sea of mist in the Val di Chiana, wondering as we do how they could possibly bear so many months of clammy, reduced-vision winter.
On Saturday though it seemed somehow to reflect the general state of the world as we flounder towards more lockdowns, more illness, more deaths, more confusion… and a possible second presidential term for a man who really does seem to present an existential threat far beyond his own borders.
There’s much talk of Covid fatigue, lockdown fatigue, virus fatigue. The Italian media are full of accounts of violence as protesters take to the streets to demand an end to masks and restrictions. As always, I find myself wondering whether these stories are given prevalence because they’re really what’s happening or whether they fulfil a pre-decided narrative arc. I noticed that some in the British media were careful to stress that these were ‘small’ demonstrations in Italy; elsewhere the usual tiny groups of right- and left-wing rabble rousers were blamed. Political commentator Fabrizio Barca was at pains to point out yesterday that all press eyes in Rome were on a handful of anti-mask thugs in campo dei Fiori whereas just across the centro storico thousands of masked marchers were peacefully asking the government for far tougher measures – plus adequate financial support – with barely any coverage at all.
In this small Umbrian microcosm what I’m seeing above all is tetchiness. On the town Facebook page long squabbles break out over things which have only tangential bearing on the situation and how best to handle it.
One local woman was rushed to hospital last week for something unrelated and, before she expired, was found to be Covid-positive. Cue angry, lengthy complaints over suggestions that this could be classed as a ‘Covid death’.
And then there’s the discrepancy between town numbers and regional numbers, these latter always slightly higher than the former with regards to CdP. The debate is endless. Has the region got it in for us? Is our mayor hiding something? Can we believe anything from anyone if the numbers don’t align? The completely plausible explanation that one counts residents who are effectively domiciled in town, and the other just considers where sufferers are officially resident doesn’t seem to calm anyone down. (As I write, I’m talking about a 16/18 case divergence.)
Then there are the voices wailing that depriving children of their right to go to school is criminal. As things stand, no one is actually doing that. Kids of all ages have returned to their places of education, though classes where positive cases turn up are sent straight home. But this situation will probably change tomorrow when the latest government orders are issued: all but the very smallest children will probably return to what is currently my favourite new Italian ‘word’/neologism: dad, ie didattica a distanza.
In theory I agree utterly that the learning and socialising and learning to be a member of society that school provides is essential… as is every parent’s right not to have to deal with children 24/7, and this is particularly so with women who in Italy – as everywhere, though perhaps more than in some places – find the burden of childcare fully on their shoulders. But I can’t help noticing that case numbers leapt not as a result of our fun summer of relatively carefree socialising, but came the moment three things happened: colder weather meant we started spending more time indoors (and inside, as this brilliant infographic shows, is dangerous); far more people started using crowded public transport for everyday moving about; and kids packed on to school buses and returned to classrooms.
We were so relaxed, so confident about being in good hands. For the majority (of which I’m a part), the confidence is still there. Tomorrow’s new measures won’t include a full lockdown, but that will come I reckon, and it’s not too far away. The numbers are scary and the thought of what awaits us over the winter months is distressing.
Less scary and less depressing, though, because we’re here.
My trip last week to Rome to plant a terrace was traumatic, even though I drove down, and spent the whole day backing away from workers and colleagues and clients outside on a terrace – a terrace with a view over the dome of St Peter’s so beautiful it almost took my mind off contagion. Almost.
Too many people about though, and without the same respect I feel here. Is it because country folk have more space, and more leisure to consider the effects of their actions? Is it because (here at least) they’re all more or less related to each other so don’t want to feel they’re infecting the family? No, I think it’s the same idea of local pride that keeps our streets so clean and our townscape so well cared for. We care about our shared space. And we don’t want to be seen to be letting the side down.
I’ve started putting my non-garden designs on my website – probably a vain task given the small number of people who happen upon my site and the even smaller number who spend time leafing through it. But if nothing else it’s important to have a record of the things I do, and something to show people should they ask. And I do love fiddling about with photos and websites.
***I’ve just noticed that all the thanks I got for my heart-ache for wounded boars was much serious digging all over what I call my lawn. There must have been dozens of the brutes out there last night. There are bits that look like they’ve been ploughed over, and holes you could break your ankle in. So not so much sympathy for the moment.