Wednesday, 3 September 2008
The wildlife of Castello Sforzesco
As I walked the grounds of Castello Sforzesco I saw cats playing on the short lawns and relaxing in the shadow of the walls, down in the rich grasses where the moat used to be.
A lady walked up to me and asked me something in Italian. I think she wanted to know where to buy an ice cream. But that sounds wrong, thinking about it now. She dismissed my attempts at replying and stepped swiftly towards a fountain dispensing drinking water.
It was certainly a warm day and the swallows were chasing flies with lazy ease in those strange spots were insects seem to congregate for the feast.
I followed the woman at a distance. Now that I was aware there was fresh drinking water nearby I became very thirsty. My mouth grew arid and the sun seemed to draw new sweat from my brow.
The woman stood upright, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand without grace and strolled away.
I neared and eyed the green device with mistrust. A steady flow of water trickled into a basin and then away. It seemed a real waste, but perhaps it was used for sprinkler systems and the like?
No-one seemed interested in me, no-one in the fountain, so I stole towards it, ready to sup. But the pigeons landed first.
I never saw where they came from, but they swooped down and sullied the fountain all the same. Oh, you infernal flying rodents, you rat doves, why have you come to torture me?
But they just sat there, mocking me, drinking the water that, for me, was just out of reach. Ah, and where were those cats then? When I needed you, where were you, cat?
I looked about me in despair, inquiring after feline protection. I spied one, licking its tail on the grass behind me. In utter frustration I picked up a loose pebble and threw it at the cat, catching it full on the belly.
It howled and sprinted away to the safety of the moat. I was escorted off the premises by a guard. And as I passed through the great entrance gatehouse, I swear the turrets were covered with hundreds of those filthy rat doves, cooing and flapping, peering and gloating at their victory.