I have a ‘frisson’ of how exciting David Attenborough’s work must be. I crept theatrically round the house yesterday morning at 5.45 am, trying not to rouse three sleeping creatures, all of whom are easily disturbed when their mother attempts to leave the nest; the eyes of the young flutter open at the slightest of sounds; great care must be taken when opening the heavy wooden shutters before leaving them secured to protect the semi-sleeping young and male of the species.
Managing this feat, and armed with mobile phone for emergencies (you will recall my Absurd Incident of the Dog in the Morning) and the audio tracks to ‘learn Italian with Elisabeth Smith’ (I’ve reached the dizzy heights of week 5 through steady early morning walks solo!), my Attenborough-esque in-house stealth proved serendipitous:
The cervo (deer) was grazing just beyond our patio. In case it’s not clear from the photo (though you can see our hammock in the foreground giving an idea of its proximity to human living space), I measured the distance later in the day: 17 metres.
I stood absolutely still as Zephyr’s tail bristled behind me, his back arching in fear and protection (self protection, naturally – he is a cat). The deer saw me and standing stock still, barked loudly in a warning call, a sound which is totally new to me.
Clearly being David Attenborough is harder than it seems. I discovered that you have to stay very, very still, for a very, very long time. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I find staying still (essentially doing nothing), extremely difficult. I was quite entranced by the deer, but it was hard not to wriggle. Next, you have to have your equipment not only with you, but preferably switched on. I had only my phone, and had to fiddle around surreptitiously to turn it on without all the beeps and buzzes which give the game away. Also, you can’t keep putting your equipment away and getting it out again, as you miss the best bits. And as if all that isn’t enough, you need an extremely steady hand to record a good quality clip. Having a deer bark at and out-stare you is actually quite daunting and I was quite relieved when he turned elegantly and sprang (what is the correct verb for a deer’s graceful movement, I wonder?) away from the house.
H., on seeing the video and photos immediately asked if we could make friends with the deer – have it as a pet, maybe? I’ve recently read her ‘The Secret Garden’ and she’s rather taken with the idea of being Dickon, the animal-whisperer, insisting on regular occasions that she has a ‘knack with animals’ – be they geckos, cats, frogs or butterflies.
As it happens, between drafting and posting this entry, it seems that H.’s dream may not be quite so flighty. We were outside reading last night at about 8 pm, and I looked up to see a deer (the deer? our deer?) grazing – even closer to the house this time. Here is proof positive of my grand illusions to animal watching – not an ipad, iphone or real camera in sight to capture its beauty. Alas, we had to sit and commit this privilege to memory the old fashioned way, as it grazed, acknowledged us and continued to graze. In my memory this may be etched, but henceforth I will always be armed with some form of technology.
As if this weren’t enough, last night I stepped outside into the cool night air and was astounded, not to say slightly taken aback, to hear the gobbling and snorting of a wild boar! Here is proof positive that I am ill-qualified for animal watching. I attempted to slip inside quietly to fetch Tom and managed to bang the shutter door in the process. Fairly convinced that this would have scared the ‘cinghiale’ away, I returned without camera. He was still there! Only six metres away (measured afterwards again) and snuffling for windfalls under our plum and walnut trees; we could hear him crunching the plum stones. Tom went back in for the camera. I went back in for a torch. He was still there – an audaciously confident wild boar (I think I would rather he were less so – I’m not sure wild boar are material for befriending) – surely we would catch him on film? No, there was a problem with the memory card in the camera. I went back in for a phone, but alas, by the time we were in situ, ready to observe the boar and narrate our own ‘Animals of the Tuscan Olive Groves’ short film, the boar, satiated from his scrumping, was out of sight.