Taking a spot of lunch in a mountain refuge today we came across this photograph on the cabin wall. The mysterious thing was found, still alive, under the ice at about 1,000 metres altitude. It was not, the lady insisted, a ramaro (local dialect for a green lizard, I think). It was distinctively blue, about half a metre long and had never been seen before. They had sent it off to the University of Florence for ‘tests’, but the local theory is that it is a mutant, caused by the latent radiation, still in the soil around here, caused by the Tchernobyl dust cloud. (There are rumoured to be an abnormal number of radiation-linked tumours among people living in the Alto Lario region.) It was a sort of reminder that even in remote spots man’s deprivations of his environment are not far away. She gave another example. The beautiful Lago di Darengo, high up in the mountains at the foot of a natural rock circus, where we bathed only last summer, was found to be completely sterile and stagnant some ten years ago and had to be treated with large quantities of lime and bicarbonate of soda. The local rumour was that a civilian airliner in trouble had had to dump its fuel and most of it had ended up in the lake.