I’m out in the garden by seven, after the scorching heat of the day. I’m bending over some weeds in the bee and butterfly garden when I hear the horses in the next valley start to whinny. Suddenly there is a huge clap of thunder, and lightning streaks across the sky. It is in the far hills over Lamole way and I doubt that it will get here, but I put the umbrellas down and tie them fast anyway.
More lightning and another clap of thunder. The dogs up at Sala start to bark. I glance up, puzzled. Sala is on the opposite side to the horses. The storm seems to be closing in, surrounding us. One or two huge raindrops land on my feet and the wind picks up in gusts. I go inside, start closing the windows downstairs.
Then all hell lets loose: the wind careers up the valley like a mad thing, and it looks as if a mean hungry dog has got hold of the olive trees in its teeth and is shaking them to bits. As I bolt the arched window in the sitting room closed I see a particular vicious gust trying to split our cypress in two.
I shoot upstairs to close my bedroom windows. The outer gauze netting is shut and there’s a cacophony of sound and a constant hammering as if a flock of woodpeckers are chopping down a tree. It’s the little swallows: about 20 of them are hammering and shrieking at the gauze. They’re wet and are being wind-battered. I go up to the window and tiny black eyes look back at me, unafraid.
‘Please please please let us in’ they are saying. ‘Sorry girls’ I say and shut the window. Still they don’t go away, but huddle into the sill seeking as best protection as they can get.
Downstairs the roof over the dining room and lounge has turned into a sieve. Rivulets of water are running down the connecting house wall, and more is flowing onto the floor. I fetch buckets and basins and place them in strategic places. Plop plop, it’s a different cacophony of sound: a concerto della tempesta. There’s more water running in through the front door and I fetch a bucket and start mopping.
Then it is all over. The sun comes out and a light drizzle lingers momentarily. I go outside: the upper terrace umbrella has been blown flat, and the swimming pool chairs have gone off down the garden for a stroll. Somehow the olives are still on the trees. Everything is glistening green and smells wonderful. From both sides of the big old house the neighbours come out.
‘Fantastico,’ chorus the two ancients, Cosimo and Enzio … ‘Both streams are running!’ Leila and Marzia wave their hands in the air. They smile at one another. ‘Una nuova parola per lei!’ … a new word for you. They are pointing to an enormous rainbow that seems to be holding the gleaming Tuscan vineyards and olive groves in a cupped hand. I gaze transfixed. The colours of the land and the sky seem to be bouncing back and forth off each other, just for the sheer joy of it.
‘ARCOBALENO! … Ora non dimenticar!’ Rainbow! … Now don’t you forget it!
How could I??
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