Friday, October 17, 2014

50th CLASS REUNION (A tale of the City Mouse versus the Country Mouse--and yes, we've got them here, too:rodents and other wild life are the less glamorous elements of Italian country life)

There's nothing like the  50th class reunion of a small-town high school to bring out the envy factor. After turning in my "update" survey where I confessed that I live in a renovated Italian farmhouse and work the land, one friend said she was picturing a glamorous Merchant Ivory-ish Farmer Donatella, instead of the more Grant Wood-ish reality.

Farmer D, dressed for working in a field of chest-high Umbrian flora.  (The mask is a good idea when combatting our  ubiquitous local herba della tossa, aka "the coughing plant." The Micky Mouse sweatshirt and pants discarded by son are perfect for all outdoor work. The once-chic hat has taken some hard knocks out here in the country. Ditto for the Madras cotton scarf from Guadeloupe that still offers good neck protection.)
Merchant Ivory, huh? 

While cleaning for the visit of our cousin and her friend, I stumbled on a perfect storm of an antidote to those misconceptions.

As I was going outside to sweep away some cobwebs from the outside window of one of the guest rooms (a never-ending battle), I couldn't help but notice a 6' foot-or-so thing slithering along the bottom edge of the sunny stone wall. Then just to prove this was no mirage, he extended his body straight up the full length of the window, the better to eat some lunch and to show me his striped self in all its glory.

I intended to tell him to stay still while I ran to get my camera, but by the time I realized I actually had it in my pocket, he had slinked around the corner of the house and gone behind the window box where I regularly fiddle with the geraniums.

Yikes! I'm thinking about two things. One seemed mildly funny: Cousin S arrives at our home in paradise, looks out her bedroom window to admire the view, and sees Signore Snake smiling back at her. Even I, a confirmed Country Mouse, would have shrieked.

So, welcome to our lovely guest room!

Even on a gloomy fall day, this is a typical view from the guest room. 
So here's where I was when I, watering can in hand,  noticed a genuine bit of Umbrian fauna slinking along behind these pots. This was just before he raised himself full length, nearly reaching the floral ornament on the wrought-iron grille. Was he checking out the status of the guest room? 
The room must have been up to his standard, and although it would be easy to confuse that black watering tube for Signore Serpente,  he's not actually visible here, because he had already rounded the corner.

The other thing that occurred to me and that seemed way less funny was  the prospect of me deadheading the window box flowers and have Signore Serpente pop up and say "buongiorno!"

Next stop on the reptilian tour was behind the window boxes where I regularly fiddle with the flowers that I have been babysitting for my blogger-extraordinaire friend, Susan, of Half-Year Italian. The long box is the perfect length to hide you-know-who,  but I'm quite sure that this is NOT his regular hangout--just a rest stop to flee that nosy gardener who seems to be pursuing him, albeit from a respectful distance. I truth, like her, he's shy and only wants to be left alone. Even so, whenever I go near that box, I'm going to keep my eyes open.

After recovering from the snake surprise, I went upstairs to where C, our other guest would stay, and while removing the ever-present cobwebs  from the window, I noticed four eyes staring back at me. Now I'm accustomed to seeing cute little geckos all over the property, but there on the window sill were two of the biggest ones I had ever seen! Once again, I found myself thinking, "oh, no! What if C had chosen that moment to look out the window?"

What other unappetizing thing could show up just when you want to put your guests at ease, and maybe even impress them a bit?

Well, there's always the swimming pool. With the way things had been going, however, I decide to head down there to check things out, just in case. That turned out to be both a good and a bad idea.The bad part? There was a dead mouse that had gone for one last swim and couldn't remember the way out. The good part was that I found it in time to alert J so HE, instead of me, could clean things up, and could thereby avoid spoiling the effect of the pool. What next?

The good news is that these little blips resolved themselves before the guests arrived and had a wonderful time. Their thank-you note gave us "six stars, based on rooms, food, ambience and general yumminess." But I wonder how many stars we would have lost for shocking these Big City girls with the local fauna.

Me? I'm still a Country Mouse, even though I prefer not to swim with them.

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