and I'm busy washing and cooking for the invalid. I put a wash load in just as the Angelus bells rang in the valley below. On returning to retrieve it from the machine in the utility room behind our landlord's study, I saw a snake on the lower terrace - a thick grey line moulding itself round the lounger chairs, seeking anonymity alongside the ancient wall, finally whipping down the stone steps where earlier I'd disturbed the lizard prey it sought. Alberto told me 'it's not a snake, it's an adder', as he handed me a freshly labelled bottle of his own Pietra Grezza pinot grigio. Our Australian neighbour had spotted a snake on their terrace earlier in the week and, being from Oz and unused to harmless reptiles, wondered if he ought to kill it. I thought he might have seen an adder and reassured him and the American, Don, that it not really dangerous but could inflict a nasty bite if cornered. Barry and I teased Don about his ignorance of the land down under with '99.999% of the world's most poisonous creatures'.
It fell to me to attend the 'farewell do' of the English Speakers from Three Continents last night where I learned all about the Castello Bisticci from Cathy (wife of Don). It came into the hands of its present owners in the 1860s when it was bought as a hunting lodge for the great uncles of the present owner, Francesco. The three buildings in the complex have a chequered history. The 'Castle' was built in the 10th century but replaced in the 14th or 15th by the 'villa' that occupies the same spot. The villa was built using stones from the original and some salvaged from a Roman villa lower down the hill. During WWII, the family nursed and hid an English fighter pilot who had crashed in the valley. The 'outbuilding' opposite ours (now owned by Francesco's cousin, Patricia,) was the servants' quarters of the original castle and was built around the remains of a Roman Tower (around 2nd century). Our building (sold to Alberto by Patricia who was ostracised from the family for doing so) is the youngest of all, being built in the 17th century.
Despite being surrounded by all this history and nature red in tooth and claw, I've done hardly any writing since we arrived. The black dog, or more specifically, little black and tan terrier, has been a regular visitor and, having left my embroidery project behind, I haven't been able to 'escape'. We haven't left the apartment, apart from a brief shopping trip to Incisa on Friday, since MWNN fell ill last Wednesday. He's still coughing for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and beginning to worry about being fit for the long journey back to France on the coming Wednesday.