I know a woman who always has a sour, disapproving look on her face. Rain or shine...the look is sour. As if she smells something that disagrees with her. As if life has given her a bitter taste in her mouth that won't go away despite any amount of mouthwash. As if, forty years ago on her wedding night her happily-ever-after farted under the quilt, she wrinkled up her delicate virgin's nose and at that moment the wind changed. My father would refer to it as a 'face like a wet week', and we all know what that means right now.
The reason I mention this vexation to the spirit is that the cats of Carmine are this week wearing the self-same expression with whiskers on. They're crowded on the pantry windowsill craning their fluffy little necks to catch a glimpse of something they definitely don't approve of. Wherever I go, I'm preceeded by hissing and growling. Wherever I look there are cats' tails like toilet brushes hanging from the trees, wedged under bramble bushes, dangling from rooftops.
In Cannobio, there is chattering among the gossips in Guardian Angel Square and in the corridors of the scuola materna, and new vocabulary crashes over me at two-minute intervals like verbal labour contractions, as I pass along the town's charming medieval streets. Words like : morde? (vt. does she bite?); guinzaglio (nm. lead); scooper del pooper (n. as in 'you'll be needing one'); and pulce (nf. flea - normally only heard in the plural - as in 'you won't be needing them').
Worst of all, the kitten's place on the sofa as celebrated recently (click here) has been usurped by something altogether more smelly, which snores while I'm trying to read and/or write and gradually inches its way onto my lap as the evening progresses. And the kitten's looking at me like Judas is my second name.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured this week to have Lady Diana as my houseguest. Lady Diana, I'm sure you've guessed is a dog, a 10-year-old German shepherd to be exact. Her name is pronounced the Italian way - Deeeeeanna, and no, she's not staying (somebody get that hard fact through to the cats).
Diana knows Carmine intimately. Her padrone, Bruno, was one of the first friends we made here apart from immediate neighbours and professional colleagues. He made us laugh with his unlikely stories of the enormous fish he and his brothers caught and grilled, the gargantuan wild boar they wrestled to the ground with their bare hands and ate in a single day of culinary debauchery, or the Baroque feasts with which they buckled the knees of the kitchen table back home in Sardinia. He was also always prepared to don a pair of overalls and help us out with a particularly nasty bit of d-i-y plastering, window-mounting or demolition if he dropped in to find us struggling pathetically (in return for one of M's famous Sunday lunches and a luscious bone for Diana).
This week, Bruno is in hospital (good luck, dude), and Her Royal Highness is residing in Sasso Carmine.
As I was saying, Diana is very much at home here, and trots up and down the blessed hill with me and the children (oh yes, the mulattiera's still there, folks, despite the best efforts of the weather to wash it away, click here) as if she didn't really live in an apartment in a place that's named after a brand of moped. She keeps her eye on the stick-in-flight, even when surrounded by gaily clucking chickens, as if gaily clucking chickens were her daily companions. And despite all the rumpus among the feline population, she continues calmly eating her food even though Trouble-the-Intrepid (click here) has also got his nose in the bowl.
Diana is the first dog I've ever had in my care, and despite wishing for one recently (click here), and despite Diana's excellent training and gentle disposition, I think I won't be signing up at the dog refuge after all.
And you know why? It's not the dog hairs on the sofa. Or the scattering of heart-shaped doggy chow on the kitchen floor. Or the fact that I have to carry the cats through the kitchen, spitting and scratching, to get them to where they want to be in the house. Or even the popping in and out of the front door like a demented weather man to see if the whining means she wants to go pee-pee.
It's simple really. You know, not in a million years would I be able to bring myself to go to the local hardware store and ask for a 'scooper del pooper' : Signor Albertella (of whom more shortly) would know for sure I'd finally cracked! And besides, I think Babel Fish Translations made it up.
Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007, 2008, 2009. All rights reserved. Please ask first.