28 febbraio 2011

After a few balmy weeks


After several balmy weeks that were so blissfully springlike for there to be no question that it was a cosmic trick, we were reliably plunged into subzero temps and had quite a bit of snow dumped on us on Saturday. Luckily the 4x4 Panda came into its own so that we were not marooned. All gone now, and we're just festering in an English kind of cold, damp, grim fogginess and longing for summer. 

Maxim is living chained up again after his homicidal rampage through the village a few weeks ago during which he and Mario's horrid terrier indulged in at least one known rabbit-massacre and maybe more. Walking him yesterday evening it was late and dark, and although I took a torch with me I kept it switched off to see how dark-adapted my sight would get, and also as a test of character to see how long I could remain without light in the scary nighttime countryside. Because the countryside at night is scary, full of monsters and potential axe-murderers lurking in the shadows. I walked up through the grass field where the spring is, which sounds nice but actually at the place where the spring comes out Mario has built a sort of brick and cement construction, marked with some sticking-up poles. I could just make out the tractor tracks in the grass so I followed these ("Keep to the path!!"), which led directly towards the spring. In the near-dark this looked like the mouth of a hell devised for Harry Potter and I tensed myself for an enormous raging batwinged creature with evil red eyes to leap out, fang-laden mouth dripping with gore from its last unfinished meal of sheep, dog or human... I was prepared to sacrifice Maxim to the vile creature and in fact that would have solved quite a number of problems for us, but in fact the well of hideous darkness remained resoundingly silent as we slunk past, so I guess I'll have to think of some other way to sort out the dog.

I made it all the way home without switching on the torch.

7 febbraio 2011

We took the donkey


We took the donkey out for a walk yesterday. Mario had all his family round for lunch (turned out to be his birthday), so they all gathered round to watch the crazy English woman provide some entertainment. Which I duly provided, as the donkey didn't want to be caught and I had to spent 15 minutes stalking it round the field holding out a handful of carrot pieces. When I finally got the headcollar on it, it dug in its feet and refused to move. This all went down very well with the crowd. Finally Mario stomped over and waved a stick behind the donkey, so it shot forward a few paces, dragging me with it before stopping dead again, and in this manner we gradually got it out of the field. 

Once it was up in Mario's yard it was more tractable (is that a word?) and allowed the official photographer to take its photo with the entire family, though it turned its back at the crucial moment. You could see it must have been mistreated in its former life as it was incredibly nervous and you only had to raise an arm for it to back away with its ears flattened. It's also really not used to being handled, and wasn't at all keen on being led. Once Mario's family had all dispersed we were left (me, Alessio and a friend, and John) to lead it down the road to our house, and this was accomplished in a series of stops and starts with the donkey alternately shooting ahead or grinding to a halt. He's a tiny donkey and it's like leading a very large dog, but he's pretty strong and if he'd tried to run off I don't think I'd have been able to hold him. When we got him down to our yard, the kids brushed him for a bit and then got bored and went off to play with something more interesting (guns, I think). We led him around for a while and eventually took him back to his field. He liked being out a lot and really didn't want to go back in — re-entry was achieved with me tugging on the rope at the front and John at the back end brandishing a broom.

So this was step 1 of the donkey project. Who knows where it will lead?