Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Off to the woods again

(Originally written April 25th)
So, things are moving. The prospective buyers have been up yet again, this time with their builder. He checked over the stuff still to do, they want to finish the whole 20 rooms off, and he also checked the stuff I’d done He was most complementary about my building work which though nice struck me as a dastardly and despicable ploy. It’s not that good I think and after all I’m not a builder. They seem very interested though. We’ve told them there’s no way we can negotiate on the price. I hope they believe us because there is no way. If we don’t get the money we need we can’t buy the new place. It’s a tense time but, everybody seems confident of a positive outcome. A sale would make three families happy.
Just in order to torture myself and ensure that I suffer horribly if the whole thing falls through, when I pick the wee’un up from play school we’ve been taking the 3x3 rambler pushchair, nappies, talc, cream, the baby’s bottle full of orange juice and a couple of bread sticks for survival and heading on up to the new place to get a feel for the area.
There are a lot of wide-ish tracks leading all over the place along which I can push the pushchair and though less remote, the sensation you get, because it doesn’t overlook anywhere being in the hills rather than on the side of a mountain, is of a place much wilder than where we are at the moment at the Vignassa. The woodland is mostly acacia and the witches tree with the black blood (can’t think of the name either in Italian or English) but there are abundant grassy areas where the trees are thinner on the ground. They look just ideal for picnics even if I get the feeling that in the summer it would be really hot. There are a lot of meandering streams with steep banks, the sort of place if you slide down you’d need a rope to climb back out again and everywhere is higgledy-piggledy with bits going up and bits going sideways . I’m not sure why but acacia seems to prevent stuff growing on the ground so apart from the recently cut areas which are impenetrable, it’s reasonably easy to get through. It would seem that the land 30 years ago or so has all been managed because there are very few large trees. It’s difficult to say whether the area has been managed for centuries or just for a few years. Most of the houses dotted here and there seem to be 1700s.
I found one little glade with a mix of acacia and birch with lush grass underneath and, ever the amateur history buff I came up with two pieces of old, old pottery. Each zone is different obviously and this area though only a few kms from the Vignassa has a castle and is much nearer to the plains and I think trade might therefore have been a bit different. If I‘d found the pottery at the Vignassa I’d have had no hesitation of sticking it in the 1500s but even if I’m way out it still gives me hope for the old detector. I seem to remember the castle dating from the 1100s.
I saw something really odd too yesterday. There were three magpies in a tree and a couple of crows and suddenly a buzzard zoomed in really fast and attacked a magpie., the magpie twisted and got away but the buzzard (quite amusingly) flapped and clawed and wriggled it’s way through the branches to attack the magpie again and again. Eventually the tree exploded with magpies and crows all having a go at the buzzard and the buzzard, after a last ditch attempt to get the same magpie gave up and flew off. I didn’t wait around but it looked like it was going to gain altitude for another attack. Buzzards are really common here in the valley and I’ve seen them do all sorts of weird stuff but never attacking a magpie and never flapping about in a tree desperate to get one. No pride some buzzards!
One fantastic thing about the new place is it is rather like you’d imagine Hobbiton to be but with more tarmac. In front and below the house there is the church and a wide area for church parking. From there guests at the B&B can wander without having to use ropes and a pulley to get back up to the house. Nice, friendly after-dinner-stroll type country but with wild bits in the middle. Perfect.
Whilst the wee’un was snoozing I had a rummage round to see what tracks there were. Badger, fox, roe deer (my God, not here as well!!), various micro-mammal droppings, specially down near the streams, seemingly voles and notably very few dogs. In the mud by one of the streams there were toad and frog imprints and a something-slithery mark. I don’t think there will be many red squirrels, it’s just a feeling but it doesn’t seem like the type of country for them. If this is the case there will be fewer dormice and maybe I could successfully plant some hazel bushes. One mammal we rarely get at the Vignassa is the bat. In the last couple of years they have begun to appear but at the new place it’s full of them. Because of the dense cover I’m also sure there will be more of the smaller birds too. Nightingales probably which is nice because nightingales and fireflies and robins make the summer night time something very special. Apparently the area is full of slow worms. Love slow worms!! The guy who is selling says that there aren’t many snakes which is nice and as he’s a friend, I do believe him.
Though I do like bit of remote, sometimes a bit of not too remote is nice. I’ve seen three large flocks of sheep in the area and they all seem to be taken at some time or other into the woods to graze, which opens up the paths and cuts back the brambles.
We have farmer friends a couple of miles away and apparently there’s a serviceable track which connects the new house with their house. About an hour’s walk they say, which is good for fresh eggs and milk and rabbits etc. We have another friend in the immediate area too so it’s not as if we’re going to France or anything. Still, we’ll have to wait and see before getting too enthusiastic. The builder seemed a bit too smarmy and as everything apparently depends on how much they are going to have to spend on getting the rooms I haven’t touched up to scratch, what he says is important. Sod all we can do about it though. We’ve more or less decided, if they start haggling, as they will, to try and trade off some building work against the final price. I’m reasonably successful at stonework and as they, like us, want to keep the original style of the place, maybe they’ll let me do some work on the exterior.
Today was the 25th of April, Liberation day in italy and a holiday. We had some friends round for lunch. It was great because it was the first day this year that could be termed sitting out weather. In fact we had lunch outside and the sun was really hot.
Just before the wee’un was born I bought the wife a spinning wheel. Great timing she said. There’s gratitude. She’s a natural and therefore is not too enthusiastic about actually doing it or anything thoug she likes the object (that’s the last time I buy her anything bigger than a pen!). I have tried twice before to work the damn thing and failed miserably. Only the fact that it was her wheel prevented me from throwing it down into the woods to rot.
But I love the idea of spinning. It fascinates me particularly the potential for weaving magick. The names of the various parts too I find really evocative - the maiden, the mother of all, the footman. I love watching people spin, there’s something about the rhythmic movement of the treadles and the whirr of the wheel that relaxes (until you get hands on the bloody thing of course!). So I have decided to learn seriously. It’s not as easy as it first appears I can assure you. There’s a lot of non-apparent coordination involved but I’ve taught myself everything else I know in life so one more activity won’t go amiss.
And today I felt inspired so, sitting outside in the company of friends, reading, drinking tea and chatting under the holly tree I made my third attempt. I have immortalised the event on video (see below).
More than anything it was a good excuse to upload my all time favourite song from my all time favourite film. The track is In Time sung by Robbie Rob which fans of Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure will surely remember. The music starts after a couple of minutes though.
It will be interesting to see the difference after a few weeks practice.

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