Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Monday 24 January - putrid, stinking, rats

All I can think of today is rats.  Putrid, foul, stinking, rotting, bloated, rats.  The acrid stench of rats.  Slime, sludge and bile.  Nothing else will appear as memories of today and take away those pictures and smells.  My whole being is permeated by them, nothing else exists.  Maybe in time they will ease and be replaced by shiny happy sunny thoughts and be banished to their rightful place buried in that deep deep corner of my brain under mounds of bright, fresh, joyous memories.

The view to Gran Sasso
If I try hard enough I can see bright, fresh, joyous pictures of today, as today was a sparkling happy day.  The sun shone, the skies were the freshest blue and the snow just twinkled and glistened.  The air was so crystal clear that, for the first time, we could see all three mountain ranges.

More log sorting
And we had a rainbow of twinkling crystals cascading down the balcony from above as the snow melted from the warmth of the afternoon sun.  So my job, and a most delightful one it was too, was to dig and sweep the snow from the balcony.  My afternoon began with that heavenly contrast of being surrounded by white and ice and yet still being as warm as toast as though it was a spring day.  KP, in the meantime, was having a jolly old time wielding his brand new chainsaw and disappearing under mounds of saw dust and logs whilst throwing up smells of petrol and oil and sawn wood.

Eventually, I pulled myself away from the bliss of the sun drenched balcony and joined him in the barns.  I picked the end one as a logical place to start and began sorting through, putting things into a pile for the dump, a pile of tools and gardening implements for finding a place for, and a pile of interesting old things for keeping for another day.  Old, useless but very pretty tools, old boxes, old mis-shapen wooden feed containers.  All far to beautiful and fascinating to throw away, but which will undoubtedly find a place somewhere, hanging on a wall, cluttering a shelf, or just simply on or under a bench outside somewhere.

Wonderful old bits for salvaging and restoring
The mounds of rat droppings should have warned me of the things to come.  But I just carried on, singing away in my own happy little world secure in the knowledge that these were ancient poohs, all dried up and but a distant memory of the wine and oil making industry this house once was and which, with the chickens, rabbits and other stock, provided a rich haven for extended families of rats.  I was just very, extremely, glad it wasn't in my time.  So I just swept and cleaned, removed all trace and glowed with the satisfaction at the transformation I was making.  All to the backdrop of the industrious chainsaw activity next door.  A happy, rustic scene.

And then I came to the wine vats.  Beautiful, huge, bulbous dark green glass containers in old old baskets.  One day these will make a very pretty picture dotted amongst the olives and tents, or on the balcony illuminated to a translucent aquamarine with candles inside.  But, for now, they needed to be emptied and stored.  And so started the absolutely foul job of dragging them outside, one by one, and emptying them of the foul, putrid, contents of ancient and forgotten wine.

The first two weren't too bad once I'd got used to the smell.  The acidic liquid contents just glugged out over the snow.  A couple of times the neck got blocked with a slimy sludge, but nothing a good shake wouldn't dislodge, and the glutinous mass would be aborted in front of me before the wine flowed and gushed once more.  I did, however, give these sludge shapes a cursory glance.  They couldn't be, could they?  No, of course not.  How could they?  Apart from being longish and slightly oozy around the middle there's nothing to suggest they could be.  They are just the sludgy remnants of wine that has congealed over the years.  And so I carried on, but with not quite the same gay abandon.  An uncomfortable feeling of things to come was starting to prickle in a very primeval way on the back of my neck

The very innocent looking wine vats
And then they appeared.  In the neck of the next wine vat glugging its contents into the snow.  First a saturated nose, whiskers and tiny, pink, little claw-like hands blocked the wine from flowing.   Oh God.  Its foul.  A couple of hefty shakes and it was spewed onto the ground, aborted like the sludge in the earlier bottle.  By my feet.  It was right in front of me, the decomposing, bloated, putrid mess of the devil's spawn.  And I was splattered with the contents.

Another one appeared: nose and teeth and claws, with the most disgusting bit of all, the big fat, long, brown, pink, slimy tail going thwat on the floor as it too was spewed out.  But it was the breech birth that finally brought my bile juices and the contents of my stomach to the surface.  It's tail appeared first.  It was foul and waggled as I shook the bottle.  Oh God.  Someone help me.  I can't do this.  Take me away to a sunny, clean fresh place by the sea where I can sip cocktails from my sun lounger.  Please.  I turned my head and heaved into the snow before getting a stick to prize it out.  No more.  I can't do anymore.

KP appeared to muse at my antics and the proceedings before returning to the sanctuary of his wood pile with some unhelpful comment about putting them in a plastic bag before disposing of them or they'll smell in the morning.

Not a chance.

The most I could do, amongst the heaves and rising bile, was to shovel them up and throw them into the bushes, hoping some kind wild boar would eat them in the night.  Pickled rat must surely be a delicacy for some passing hog?

But it just went on.  Eventually the sun started to go down, time to call it a day.

One day these memories will dim and fade and the other, very good memories of today, like finishing the day sitting in the bar meeting more of our neighbours, or sitting in front of our kitchen fire eating sausage and lentil stew, or curled up in the armchair reading, will take over.

But for now, they are there.

Sweet dreams...

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