When we don’t want the eldest and the youngest dog to run off and explore for any reason, they can be taken outside on a lead and they’ll quite happily empty their bladders.
Our middle dog, on the other hand, is very reluctant to co-operate.
He has what we describe as a cast iron bladder and lasts more hours than any human could be expected to.
But occasionally he just has to go, and last night was one of those nights.
Of course he doesn’t go near the house like the others do: he has to cock his leg against the walnut tree at the top of the first part of the drive.
As we got beyond the range of the outside light, the stark, complex moon shadows of the bare branches looked like a net that was about to fish us up into the sky.
Most startling of all was the sound of the spring water falling into its basin. You don’t notice it much during the day, but at night it’s the loudest sound there is.
What a gift all that water is. I just wish we had it in summer instead of winter.
Italy may have cold winters, but ‘sunny’ would definitely be the default weather.
Positioned behind the patio door (a garage door when we bought the house) the indoor pool gets a generous helping of sunshine on many winter days.
The sun might warm the water by half a degree, certainly no more, but the psychological effect is far more significant.
While I’d never contemplate swimming at 18, 19 or 20 degrees Celsius without a wetsuit after dark or on dark days, bright aquamarine water lures me in without one and so far it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm.
It’s also a lot less hassle.
The Agriturismo (rural hotel) close to us has a herd of fallow deer (called ‘daini’ in Italian) and I believe they escape from time to time.
However wild ‘daini’ are a reality of the woods and grassy mountain slopes which surround us.
I’ve seen a couple on the hillside which rises away from the house – brief sightings, far away and not very exciting.
It always seemed that other people got the better view of them, Clive included, and visitors. It wasn’t fair.
But this evening made up for it.
I was leaning out of our ground floor bedroom window calling Kepler in the dusk when a series of shapes detached themselves from the silhouetted trees in the orchard and proceeded up the hillside in tight formation, one behind the other, dark and graceful. It was difficult to count them but there were about 6 of them.
I always enjoy seeing wildlife, but there was something very special about the rhythm of these creatures and the way they were absorbed one after the other by the shadowy landscape.
The early buck’s antler in the photo was brought back to us by one of the dogs very soon after we came to live here. I treasure it as evidence of life that is going on around us even though we know little about it.
Letting property is a complicated affair in Italy, with onerous contracts and tax to pay every year.
That might well be the cause of some people doing their renting out unofficially.
Be that as it may, it seems that it’s quite common for tenants to whisk into a property, never pay a cent in rent, and refuse to leave.
The advice of the police is to go and talk to them in a calm and reasonable manner. The law, in general, is without teeth, and the property owner is left to pay lawyers and wait and hope.
In the semi-fantasy novel I’m writing at the moment, set precisely where we live, I’ve just got to a scene in which wolves as mysterious dispensers of justice evict such squatters from someone’s home.
It does the heart good to imagine these things.
This is a lovely pendant to wear in the dark of the year when the trees are bare.
It’s made of millefiori beads – tiny thin sections of glass rods with different colour and patterns – trapped inside aquamarine glass so that the light shines through.
No tree in nature could have such variety in its blossoms and foliage as this one, but then it’s a dream tree, a fairy-tale tree.
I bought it in Florence, choosing it with immense care from among similar pendants, knowing that in its precise detail it would be unique.
No, not carols. I play them on my violin but Clive doesn’t like them.
Here he is playing ‘Save the best for last’ on his keyboard.
I’d just had a good warble of ‘My heart will go on’ (my favourite) with a microphone.
The dogs joined in for some of our concert: noses pointed upwards, all 3 of them howling and yipping in a deafening chorus.
But when I was singing at my lustiest, Joules sat right beside me and put his nose in my hand.
The wires and the little tiny bulbs are there all year above the fruit and veg shop …
until in the night at Christmas the words shine out:
BUONE FESTE – HAPPY HOLIDAYS!