Sunday, September 20, 2009

Whiskers on Kittens


Where have all the cats of Fornillo gone?

In our area of Positano, the alleys between villas were a haven for the whiskered felines. Huddled together behind corners, cats and their litters would scatter briefly as someone came down stairs or dodge feet by clinging to the wall’s side in the alley behind Pensione Maria Luisa . There would always be a pair of eyes watching nervously from the top of the walled garden and a handful of fluffy kittens in nestled in the fragrant clump of night-scented Bella di Notte (Clavillia). Tiny ears would be visible in drain pipes under steps and the more courageous or semi -domesticated would follow me all the way home hoping for a tidbit or lick from a tuna can. Usually there was no hope of patting them back.

These were cats born and bred in our gardens. Mouse hunters extraordinares, their mothers would wait patiently in the dark night on our terrace for the rodents to wander past so that a lesson in catching a meal could take place. The scrawny ‘skin and bones’ look to a cat would alert me to a litter badly in need of nourishment and I’d entice the kittens up from the abandoned gardens dangling strings of spaghetti before them. Kittens were sometimes so tiny that their heads would fit right inside yogurt pots and in their hunger, they would forget their fear of humans, to lick my fingers, after I’d hand fed them. Their purring was my reward.

Our gardens in our house in Positano were the throughway for the cats. They’d take the deep stairwell down the hill on the side of the house, and after a jolly jaunt across the terrace take our private stairs into our lower garden and then into the terraced lemon groves below.


These were wary cats that wasted no opportunity. Terrace doors left open were an invitation to come inside.

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And if you turned your back a moment, they would. And quite likely pee in the dogs basket as this one did.

But I miss the cats. These were free spirited beings belonging to no one but themselves. They are now few and far between. There is not one cat in the alleyway and I rejoiced when I saw a mother with her two kittens this summer in our garden as its become such rare a sight.

It seems that someone at Positano is poisoning the cats in the Fornillo area. A hand written notice posted on the wall at the Fornillo Grotta area earlier this year asked the person responsible to refrain from doing it but the cats have all but gone.

And when the cats are away, the mice will play.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Winds of Change.


The wind has returned to the Coast.

The gales whip shimmering curtains of light across the turquoise water. Umbrellas are folded politely across the back of the deck chairs and bathers roast unfeelingly in the noon sun.


I love to watch the wispy veils of silver graze the surface of the placid sea. The boats, their weight lightened by the force of the air, twist and turn in unison.


The colours are intensified. I dream of painting our old wood-wormed furniture to match.


But it also means sweeping dirt, real DIRT from inside the house. Leaves from the gardens spangled with bougainvillea pink and purple, somehow make their way through the underside of closed doors. The terrace is swept clean but the stairs accumulate piles and piles of leaves. All doors, inside and out need to be fixed tightly to hooks or blocked with weights to prevent a deafening slam knocking the frames out of skewer. We fear for the glass in the fragile iron frames of the terrace windows. Replacing a pane in the rusty holdings, in this part of the world, in this part of the year, means begging.


Our young Jacaranda tree, already two stories high and permanently fixed to a pole, risks toppling over as we foolishly removed the other two poles that we had placed there against the winter Tramontana wind.

An old blanket and beach towel are taken overboard with the wind and lie in wait for retrieval in the abandoned gardens below the house for several days. When finally the gardener takes a ladder and brings them back up to our place, a tiny snake hidden in the blanket folds stays tight till the late afternoon, before slithering across the terrace head held high and slipping under the umbrella stand.

It takes a good deal of courage on my part to lift the stand and scare it off with a broom back into the abandoned gardens after it insists on staying put where it was.


I think I deserve a medal for that!