What a start to the day! 7.15am and still sleep bleary as I'm making a cup of tea, I pick up KP's phone to see a text from Ant, our flat sitter:
"Arrived back from holiday last night and saw TV on and a light on in your room, felt uncomfortable so left".
My blood ran cold as I felt every last drop of it drain from my face. We have squatters, or burglars, or maybe even the Lannings (previous bad tenants who needed a court order to evict) have come back?
A similar reaction from KP, who sat bolt upright in bed. What the f***k?! A few moments of utter shock and panic followed as the terrifying news slowly sank in. What the hell do we do? It's 6.30am in the UK, a bank holiday, no one will be up. Someone's in/been in our flat. Shit. KP tried to rouse Ant, but without joy. Straight to voicemail. Damned voicemail. Nothing for it but to phone Horsham Police. They were incredibly helpful, very pragmatic and said they'd go round and deal with whatever they found. It would be forced entry, so no problem getting anyone out. It made us feel slightly better knowing it was being dealt with, but we now just had a waiting game.
As we waited we threw around a few thoughts. Who could it be, how could they have got in, what if they smash the place up? Or maybe there's another explanation.... ?
Maybe Ant was mistaken?
We finally got hold of Ant. "Are you sure you turned everything off before you went away"? Could you have left the TV and a light on? Our TV does have a nasty habit of turning itself on if it's left on standby. He didn't think so, but couldn't be sure, said he'd go round and have a look. Oh great.
Half an hour later, and all is fine. The police were cancelled, and it was rather lucky for Ant that he was 1200 miles away! Most of the morning was now gone and we were well and truly up. Apart from Cat, oblivious to everything who had somehow wormed her way onto our bed and was a curled up purring little bundle. Right in the middle of the duvet. I think her time of TLC is over. Back to feralness I think, most definitely says KP. But only after she's woken up...
We did a couple of hours work (me raking, KP sanding the balcony railings) before packing some sandwiches and heading for the hills. A nice little route was picked out that took us past the chapel of St Onofrio and up and up towards Pass Lanciano. Two & a half hours there and two & a half back. Perfect. As there was still rather a lot of snow on the top, warm clothes and waterproofs were packed too.
An absolutely fabulous walk we had. St Onofrio, nestled into the rock, looked as serene as ever, it's spirituality felt all around like a low lying mist. KP rang the bell for his mum and we wandered on. And got lost.
Somehow we'd ambled onto another trail that looked on the map (according to our map reading) as though it followed the valley down. But it ended up going over the top of the goddam mountain, skirting the edge of Passo Lanciano, and then finally down towards Pretoro. But what a walk! Certainly one to recommend and go in the Guide Book, but not for the faint hearted. We skirted deep gorges along narrow, crumbling tracks, climbed hills that made your calfs burn and scream, slid down banks grabbing passing branches to slow the descent. We got lost in a dense beech wood, with far too many cinghiale (wild boar) churned up leaf and soil signs for comfort. And the bear prints in the soft ground were just the icing on the cake. Oh boy, keep calm, we've got our waterproofs and sandwiches.
|Try turning it the other way round|
|A little lost|
Eventually, and just in time (to ward off the rumblings of a bit of a building leadership dispute), KP spotted some rocks that appeared to be in a row guiding the way out. Don't be bloody stupid, I said, there's rocks all around the place! But he was right (this time), and saw as safely out of the woods to a fabulous clearing.
If it wasn't so hazy, the views would have been spectacular.
And then came the moment we (or, rather, I) have absolutely dreaded.
Big, big, rustling to the side. No more than 10 metres away. No mistaking it. Foraging snuffling, shuffling sounds. Cinghiale. Oh shit. Only time they're dangerous, so we've been told, is when they've got babies. And here we were, miles from anywhere, with KP trying to get a closer look (totally nuts, I was looking for the nearest tree) and we're faced with a mother and 12, yes 12! little piglets. She was massive! Far far bigger than we'd expected. And then she saw us. Panic on all parts, 12 little stripy piglets scattered in all directions. Much crashing through the bushes, sometimes coming closer, sometimes going away, as the piglets were rounded up and whisked off to a place of safety. A long way from us.
There were moments when I really thought we were done for, expecting this huge prehistoric, tusk clad, beast to come charging at us with a mother's fury. But no, all she wanted to do was get as far from us as possible. Good girl.
What a treat (when it was all over).
Six hours from when we started our "little" walk, we were finally rubbing our sore feet and tending our weary limbs over a cold cold beer in the garden.