I am writing this in my house in Italy. As I put the finishing touches to the first draft, there is a fox barking huskily from the valley below; a little owl is whooping in broad daylight from a nearby roof-top – when I try to peep at it from the window, it glares at me with its orange eyes and flies away (surprising that it should be so shy, when it keeps me awake all night scolding, chattering and yapping); a parliament of pigeons is earnestly and repetitively engaged in its usual morning debate: “Bridge of Orchy! Bridge of Orchy! Bridge of Orchy! Magalouf! Magalouf!”; and the sparrows are brawling in the eaves (Passer domesticus italiae – noisier and more brightly coloured than the English variety). Whoever thought the countryside was peaceful? Best weather might be in the UK at present; beautiful mornings here in Camigliano, but electric storms rumble around the mountains all afternoon.