The only time to walk is first thing in the morning. By first thing I mean first thing: as in, when La Principessa wakes me at 5.30, it does provide an opportunity to enjoy the relative cool before the heat of the day really sets in… And it is ‘relative’, though far be it for me to admit I might actually be too hot.
The landscape is deceptive – one path looks like it leads to another, which looks like it will lead back to the first to enable a satisfying, circular walk. Tom and I have both been caught out by this: Tom struggled back after a walk which easily exceeded the requisite 10,000 steps a day; I was less noble and unashamedly called out to a Signore (who just happened to have an infinity pool in his garden), and hitched a lift back. And yes, he did invite us back…
So, the other day I set out leaving Tom and the children apparently sleeping. I intended to walk to M. and back, specifically to avoid getting lost in any attempts to do a loop. Merrily I wended my way there, catching sight of our resident ‘cervo’ (deer), ‘lepre’ (hares) and various gecchi (geckos) and farfalle (butterflies) on the way.
I walked to the top of M. affording myself a stunning view of both mountain and valley and headed home for breakfast. I walked past the cemetery and was half way home when the barking started. Those who know me will know that I am not good with dogs. Particularly dogs without leads, not to mention dogs without leads or owners and standing right in the middle of the only road between home and me. I did attempt to continue, but the dog’s bark was vicious. In the midst of the moment – my skin crawling as I really am petrified of leadless, ownerless dogs – I wasn’t able to rationalize the bark being worse than the bite. Anyway, who knows what Italian dogs are like and maybe this was a vicious stray? I turned round and sent a hasty message to Tom: ‘Need rescuing. Dog after me. Help!’ In this technologically Apple heavy world in which our family in particular lives… there was no response.
I walked back to M. No response to my initial text or the others hastily sent after. My battery was on 6%. There was literally no one about to ask to whom the dog belonged.
I walked through M. and out the other way – which leads to a main road on which it is clearly foolish to attempt to walk. Dog versus fast cars. Clearly fast cars are more dangerous. I walked to the junction of minor and major road: this was ridiculous. And I was already too hot even though it was only 8 am. And all because of a dog. I got cross with phones not being turned on and messages and calls not answered. Then I burst into tears just at the moment a landowner tending his vines caught sight of me. ‘Italian for Travellers in Six Weeks’ doesn’t cover: ‘I know it’s ridiculous but I was out for a walk and there was a vicious, potentially stray, dog on the road barking and I’m terrified of dogs and I can’t get home any other way’. I approximated something which clearly made little sense, but if I could wait until he finished his vines, he would take me home.
Home, breakfasted and feeling sheepish and foolish over my morning escapade, I was nevertheless determined to sort this dog business out – I have been walking early on my own with the children and can’t get caught like that again. The next day, we all set out. P. brought his sword and shield to protect us against canine attack and I brought sandwiches to protect us against filial hunger-induced tantrums.
I was quite relieved that the dog was at the self same spot, with the self same bark, it went someway to explaining my pickle the day before. But my brave warrior P. passed Daddy his sword and shield and Tom told the dog to go home. At the top of the field above the road, his owner called him back. I called out to the owner and asked if we could come and speak to her – we knew now to which house our canine problem belonged.
I’m not sure what we expected – I have confronted people about keeping dogs under control in England, particularly when I’m with the children, and they can sometimes be defensive. ‘Rosanne’ was anything but. She had already brought Nicko the dog into a fenced area and in her thick Tuscan accent she reassured us that he would ‘abbaia’ but he wouldn’t bite and that we should continue to walk happily in the early morning. She showed us round her ‘orto’ – fruit, vegetables and a veritable brood of chickens of various shapes and sizes. The rooster crowed in approval and another dog – smaller and more manageable – Zorro – introduced himself to the children. Rosanne proffered a clutch of fresh eggs as the Absurd Incident of the Dog in the Morning drew to a happy close. We have found our egg supplier, agreed a price and will forthwith willingly be walking towards Nicko the barking dog.