This week has been a week of new arrivals.
As we kicked our way down the hill for the first week of kindergarten, the children noticed with glee that the chestnuts have started to drop from the trees. The start of prickles-in-little-fingers season, then. The chestnuts are too small as yet to bother with, but soon we'll be collecting bags of them, roasting chestnuts on the fire and making chestnut-flour cakes.
Another new arrival was the entire Booker shortlist in hardback, which was slammed down on the stone bench outside the front door by our postina, who could have left them with our neighbour downstairs, but didn't because she's like that. Their arrival makes Mama very happy, because now she has the promise of Verifiably Good Literature to keep her going through many happy autumn and winter evenings in front of the woodburner, a glass of Monsieur Lafarge's best by my side.
With the cold weather, the cats from the outlying regions - the outlaw cats as I always think of them - have been popping by to see if their currency is still valid up at the big house. And a new tabby, all pointed ears and hungry eyes, has been running the gauntlet of the residents every day now to grab something to eat and, once, to curl up on the sofa while no-one was looking.
And at last, Carmine's tabby matriarch finally brought this year's offspring to meet me. She lost the first litter of the year, which she had nested in our next-door-neighbour's bedroom, but was immediately pregnant again. She dropped the second litter a couple of months ago, and there were wild rumours of the existence of kittens hidden away in one of the more inaccessible gardens, but also of the intermittent presence of two hungry-looking foxes. I wasn't hopeful. So I was very happy to see the proud Mama jump up onto the terrace the other day, to hear a little mew behind her, "You mean it's up there?", and then to see a fluffy white head and two white paws appear over the edge.
So the orientation tour began :
"Okay, now listen carefully, here's where they put the normal cat food. It's fortified with calcium and vitamins and it's good for you, so get used to it..."
"...If you nose your way into the kitchen, there, by that big, warm, silver thing - especially when the tall guy's cooking, you might be able to wangle yourself some offcuts of fish or meat. Just tilt your head to one side, flash those big blue eyes and look cute..."
"Oh yeees, did I forget to tell you? This is your brother. The big people call him Trouble, because he is. If you have any further questions, just ask him!"