When we first arrived back from France, in August last, we had a pole made, bolted to a wooden foot which wedges under the sofa, for Clive to try to haul himself up by.
Today he stood up, unaided, and then for the first time took both hands off the pole.
Just to reinforce the point, he put his hands in his pockets!
There’s a long way to go yet – many a step before he’s mobile. But all progress so far has been achieved without any help from the authorities who are still wading through some bureaucratic bog.
The clingy Scarce Swallowtail Butterfly has featured in a blog post before, although not this particular photo. It looks as if it’s just about to take flight.
This rose and rosehips are the very epitome of the destruction wreaked by Winter, the bloom all in tatters and the hips blackened and dessicated.
It’s Out with the Old and In with the New as the rosebush makes way for bud-break and regeneration.
But what a contrast with the beginning of Winter, before the frosts have taken their toll, when the hips are turgid and shiny and the roses have a faded beauty all their own.
I can’t say this decay makes me sad because it doesn’t. My mind is already leaping forward to the promise of new growth – and the pruning that goes with it.
It’s rather like the darkest hour being before the dawn.
I spotted this sweet pea seedling today.
It’s growing in the crack between a manhole cover and the rest of the pavement that surrounds the house.
It looks as healthy and well-developed as any other in the soil of the flowerbed, but I’m afraid its days will be numbered.
Sooner or later a careless foot will scuff it out, along with the smaller love-in-a-mist seedling that’s keeping it company.
Either that, or it will dry up when rainwater no longer slides across the tiles and collects round its roots.
At that point the welcoming little pocket it’s inhabiting will prove to be stony ground.
I can’t imagine where the saying: “Where the rosemary flourishes, the woman rules” can have come from.
Maybe it’s a continuation of the thread that darker, more mysterious plants represent the female sex (ivy as opposed to the bright-berried holly, for example).
Rosemary is a splendid shrub – aromatic, evergreen, tough without having thorns, beautiful in blossom and brimming over with uses and properties.
It hangs over our rubbish bins and has to be pushed aside, so each time I deposit something there, I come away with fragrant hands.
And disinfected hands, because it’s supposed to be antibacterial.
More than half of our rosemary bushes are in flower now, in January, and the rest look healthy.
How much more proof is needed that I wear the trousers?
I don’t ever recall seeing sweet, innocent sentiments expressed in graffiti in Britain.
Either I couldn’t read it at all, or it was angry and rebellious.
But in Italy (or this part of it) the defacers of public surfaces seem mostly to be love-struck young men (I assume they’re men).
The road bridge pier in the photo is scrawled with the words:
Amore ti amo (My love, I love you)
Above, on the road itself, is another phrase written likewise in red paint:
Ti amo tanto (I love you so much)
How does it work, I wonder? Does the lover roam around in the night, intoxicated with romance, and spray-paint his message intending for everyone to see and understand it, or is it more of a private tribute? Does his loved one appreciate it or want to drop through a hole in the ground?
Sometimes there’s the name of the intended; in the photo it’s just initials.
Sometimes the message is more descriptive: “Your eyes are like the summer sea” – tantamount to poetry.
Long may they live, I say, these written serenades on the public highways, conveying the impression that good and healthy feelings are the ones that ring out the loudest.
“Bureaucracy!” This is the cry of any Italian called on to justify delay in one of the many convoluted administrative systems.
Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine what might be going on. Are pieces of paper being delivered by mule cart over the mountain ranges? Does every document have to be produced in copperplate by a single scribe enshrined somewhere in the depths of the Vatican?
Any attempt to find out what the process actually is, is never good for the health.
“Ah, but it has to be presented before a Board which only meets once a month and you just missed it.”
“The person next in the chain of authorisation is on holiday for two weeks.”
There are no shortcuts. Every little step, however apparently pointless, is immensely important because that is the way it is done.
Sometimes no-one really knows the way it is done. In such cases, there must be a delay until someone is found who does know, or a procedure is invented that has the proper magisterial dilatoriness.
On the receiving end, patience is not enough. The only thing that works is not caring, or maybe forgetting something has been put in motion at all. Chasing is at best discouraging and at worst counterproductive.
Unfortunately it’s difficult to still the mind when it’s a matter of help for someone confined to a sofa who’s already waited five months and who’s beginning to think promised equipment is a fairy tale.
Photos of gastropods always come in handy when writing about this part of the world.
On the way down to Valtopina today I saw evidence that the cat-feeder had been there.
I’ve seen him in action sometimes, crouching, long grey hair in a ponytail down his back as he spreads a feast for the feral cats of the area.
Today it was pieces of meat – great strips and hunks at least three-quarters fat.
When I passed, there was one cat and the dog from the house opposite tucking in.
Feral cats are quite a phenomenon round here. In the nearby city of Foligno there’s a road up to a monastery frequented by a large population of cats of every colour and description, likewise fed by eccentrics.
The handsome cat in the photo doesn’t have the timid feral look to it at all as it basks against a garage door a bit further down in the valley. I took more than one shot and so was able to verify that it didn’t move a muscle even faced with Taylor straining on his lead to get to it.