A dog yips in excitement across the road. Its owner shushes it as she pegs out her washing. On another balcony, another dog’s claws clip-clip-clip on tiles. He pokes his nose through the curlicued iron bars, sniffing the air to find out what’s going on below. Clip-clip-clip. Back along to the other end of the balcony. Sniff-sniff. His ears prick up and his body stiffens at some invisible danger. He relaxes. Clip-clip-clip. Back inside. An invisible hand closes the shutters. The owner of the hand murmurs to the dog, who barks once in reply.
Bells ring up on the mountain. Not the chime and tinkle of musical bells, but the rough clang of tin around the necks of animals. Low bleating reveals that it’s goats. The sound moves down the hillside as the herd passes through the olive grove. They can’t be seen from this distance, but there’s a shiver in the trees, indicating their movement. The bleating grows louder as they get closer to home. Occasionally, a herder whistles. The babies in the farm pens start to bleat as they hear their mothers. It’s a relay of sound, nanny to kid, back and forth. Finally the mums break out of the bottom of the olive grove and can be seen, pottering towards home and their kids. Clank clank clank. There’s a herder fore and aft, and ten or so dogs, of all shapes and sizes, plodding, heavy-footed, in the heat. The kids, meanwhile, are bouncing off the walls of their pen. Ping! They leap, four-footed, into the air and onto logs, sheds – whatever is in their path – then off again with joyous abandon. When their mums finally make it to the pen they are beside themselves, bleating fit to burst and springing into the air. The herder closes the gate and the dogs, freed from duty, amble up the hill to find shade and water.
The old man across the road roars. There’s no response. He roars again. This time his daughter comes to him. She murmurs platitudes which change to scolding and then pleas as his roars increase in volume. Papa! Ti prego … Finally she manages to quiet him down.
An accordionist touts for business underneath the balconies. He plays a few jaunty notes, tempting people to peek out of their windows, before putting on his most winning smile and rolling out the sales pitch. Just a few centisimi … it’s not much for such wonderful music, is it?
Swifts zoom and shriek, dive-bombing through the narrow alley between the houses. Then they wheel up into the air, circling towards the sun before swooping down again. They never seem to land anywhere, but spend their time always on the wing. No wonder they scream.