Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Last week we bought an electric grill from a charity shop for ten Euros; honestly, we didn't think it would work. But this morning with the September sun warm and glorious, we dragged it out and plugged it in. A miracle! The light came on, and in only a few moments we were sitting on our terrace cooking our own tiny homegrown aubergines, yellow tomatoes, courgettes, red chard, spring onions and a couple of free range eggs to top it off. Although we love being outside, we have recently become addicted to gardening, and we have taken to trudging across the hills and valleys here in Southern Austria like proverbial ducks to water, we have never been drawn to the idea of camping. We remember why because as soon as our plates are laden with our freshly cooked fayre, we are plagued by wasps. We bat them away and carry on eating. My partner, Katie, suddenly whispers loudly to me "hey look there on your right." One stripey fella has been caught in a spider's web not more than a twenty centimetres from my head. Our resident spider, Charlotte, whom we consider to be the Queen of our Terrace and ourselves to be merely humble courtiers, has been constructing over a period of weeks a series of intricate webs. One wasp has flown too near, Charlotte abseils at terrific speed down the finest of cords and the wasp is caught. We watch as she spins and rolls the wasp in a fresh web mummifying it. Then she hauls her prey up and into a patch of ivy that is growing out from a crevice, both are immediately hidden from view. We sit open-mouthed, watching the capture and the retreat. We return to our breakfasts, amazed by what we have seen. Clearing up our breakfast dishes, Katie again whispers "look on your left," I think this is becoming a habit now or she is joking so I am slow to react. "Look! Look!" I do look and drinking from a little terracotta bowl is a black squirrel. I've only ever seen one black squirrel before, and for Katie, this is her first sighting. He drinks delicately then leaps up and along an apple tree branch and enjoys a meal from our hazelnut bush. Having enjoyed not only our breakfast but also our close up brushes with nature, I mention to Katie that "perhaps we should buy a tent after all and see more such sights?" "No, I don't even want to go glamping," she says, as she carefully lifts her grandmother's silver butter dish and carries it inside.
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Mereo Books of Cirencester will publish my book Walking into Alchemy in the autumn.