The Deer Hunters

Day 13. 3 July 2006

Monday. Up early, we descend on the worksite in Chies and set to work on our steps. Part way through the morning, the film crew from the local Belluno television station pitches up in the woods to interview Janet and film us at work. We work hard, and without realising, without a break; working until noon, and the job is almost done with just a little finishing off left to do tomorrow.

Heading off by van, via the shop to pick up lunch, we drive across into the next valley to the Cansiglio forest. Driving in past a golf course we arrive at a botanical garden where we have our lunch in the shade. Following a short siesta to recover from our hard morning’s work, we meet with two of the rangers of the garden. Mauro and Giovanni invite us into their potting shed for coffee made in a proper coffee maker – stained with years of use – on a small primus stove. There is an unopened bottle of Grappa on the table.

Mauro, a big, smiley chap, unnecessarily apologetic for his excellent English (although he does need Janet’s help with the word ‘environment’), gives us the tour of the gardens. There are different zones in the garden to represent the different flora from the plain up into the highest mountains. There is a poind with newts and snails, pond skaters and dragonfly lava. There are iridescent dragonflies elsewhere in the garden and bright green frogs (or was it a toad?) croaking around the lake. Later as we sit we see sphinx butterflies; amazing creatures straight out of myths, they look like they have been cobbled together out of several different creatures.

Some of us read and write, others of us do a spot of weeding in the medicinal garden. At the end of a relaxing afternoon, in pleasantly cooler conditions, and after a local journalist has come and got her story for the local newspaper, Giovanni takes us for a walk through the pine woods to find deer. Creeping forward, keeping quiet past the grassy mounds we see three does and two bucks, before we return to the garden via one of the old boundary stones.

Back in the days of the Venice Republic, when wood was precious, every ten years the authorities would travel round and check that their woodlands hadn’t been stolen from – and they would carve the date of their visit into the boundary stones as a form of receipt, or official stamp that this land had been checked. The penalty for thieving wood from the forest was, after all, death.

It becomes hot and very humid under a lowering grey sky as we take the drive back to Alpago; Kate, non-functioni with a bad neck, spurns us for a comfortable ride in Janet’s car, and John and Sarah-Jane join her. Emi, thrown out of the car joins us in the rattle-bucket van with the back door that you can see an inch of clear daylight through. Arriving back at the nursery school we go about showering, making supper, and enjoying apperitifs of red wine and olives.

The rain comes down in earnest, and the thunder soon follows. eEating our dinner indoors by candlelight we watch the lightning light up the valley, and listen to the rain outside, and the Chies d’Alpago Municiple Band rehearsing, and enjoying rehearsing, Mambo Number Five. After the partying of the last couple of nights, Sarah-Jane retires early to bed.

Day 14: Fencing, swimming, football and prosecco…