Good with words

Fear... distractions.... the efforts of a self-employed writer to pay the mortgage.... all that jazz.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The obvious answer, of course

... was to go IN my dress, with big red coat thrown hastily over top. Never mind the red polka-dotted socks peeping over boots - never mind the red frills cascading out beneath my coat - it's mainly OAPs in the local supermarket anyway. So I drove very fast, and pretended that EVERYone does the shopping in a bright red party dress. I didn't look entirely dissimilar to a prostitute, especially with the split lip I am currently sporting. But on the bright side, the only call I missed was from the kitchen people (saying our kitchen won't be delivered next week, after all).

And I bought the champagne. It's in the fridge. Champagne and toothpaste (not in the fridge). No wonder the boys at the till were smiling at one another when I was queueing!

Champagne or not to champagne

You see, I want to go and buy some champagne for dinner (haven't worked out the food part but figure that isn't the important bit, not tonight anyway). But I have a problem; actually, two. First, I am wearing my lovely Valentine's dress. (Okay, let me get this straight: it's not actually his dress.) It's my thinkhappy dress, a red, flouncy, spanish dress that I wear when I want to cheer myself up, write spectacular copy, or get in the mood for Valentine's Day.

Anyway, it has just warmed up, and I don't want to change. If I change, then I will forget to change back and I will be wearing pyjamas or holey trackie bottoms when husband arrives (hopefully, early, as a surprise Valentine gift from boss).

The second problem is that if I go out, the phone will ring and a Very Important Client will want to know if I can do copy by 4, or otherwise should they do it themselves? And I will not be here, and they will do it themselves, and I will have lost a Very Important Client to champagne.

Hmm. My life is very tricky sometimes.

Venice - Murano

Last Wednesday we took a water-bus out to Murano, an island off the north shore of Venice proper. This is where all the fancy glass comes from - it's been made there for centuries, and its glass-blowers spent a long time guarding new techniques from the rest of the world. If you've seen any Murano glass, it was probably in this hideously gaudy style.

But Murano now houses some stylish galleries and new artists creating simpler, modern pieces. We visited a glass-blowing studio and watched a man blow a piece of glass like a bubble until it popped, sending wafer-thin shards all over the floor. (He ushered us out quickly and gruffly - I wasn't sure we were supposed to witness the smash.)

I don't know if they were all bad-tempered in this glass studio because, once out the door, we were invited upstairs to view the proper glass. A salesman in a suit unlocked a gate and welcomed us into the prestige rooms.... where huge vases and bowls were casually tagged with prices of £500+. "I can pack and ship any of this to England," he smooched.

We followed quietly, gaping at the outrageous pricing (I did wonder if they have an "Inglese" room, an American room, and an Italian room...) and trying not to point or openly marvel at any of it in case he pounced with the hard sell. As we moved through another and another room, the salesman became more stroppy, finally stamping into the last room: "This is my last room, and then downstairs are gifts," he announced abruptly. We meekly followed him downstairs (did he really think we were secretly wealthy?) and he waved his arms dismissively at the glass gifts. "You like small things, and small prices," he shouted, and stamped off to the back of the studio, leaving us to look at the miniatures in peace.

After that we were slightly nervous about actually going in to another glass shop, so we contented ourselves with window-shopping. As well as the island's gorgeous 10ft Christmas tree in coloured glass (too pretty to take down in january), these window-boxes were filled with glass-replica daffodils and tulips: I can only imagine that the people living in Murano aren't as clumsy as I am!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Venice - the Grand Canal

I'm going to post these Venice pictures in instalments, I think, because I am too busy to write all that I want to about the trip!

Venice is, apparently, sinking at the rate of 1 foot per century. Some of the houses had a few hundred years left, by my reckoning; some only had months! One front door, facing the Grand Canal (above), was just inches from the water level: the bottom of the wooden door had rotted clean away.

In fact, many of the grand homes along the Grand Canal look as though they were abandoned years ago - upkeep too high, floods too wearing. Those that aren't decrepit are hotels; some were being painted - by hand and from a boat - when we sailed past. I suppose a lot of DIY business is done in Venice! We saw gondolas loaded with cement and builders wheeling mixers and sanders on and off the water buses (motor boats serving the island).
Anyway, many of the homes and palaces have a couple of centuries left. I suppose this is why the whole 'sinking' issue isn't as pressing as it might be. You're a Venetian; your apartment building won't see the 25th century; but why do you actually need to care? My guide book (Venice for Pleasure) notes that the work required to stop Venice from sinking is simply too great to contemplate. I can quite see this. On the way out to the islands, you notice tiny, one-home isles with ruined manor homes in the middle.
Obviously, the prospect of the entire island sinking is a bit daunting. But wouldn't a little innovative thinking and some charity money solve the problem? (Did you know that the Campanille - the bell tower in front of St Mark's - was rebuilt with financial help from Britain's 'Save Venice' fund in the 1960s? It doesn't surprise me to learn that sightseeing-mad Brits and Americans care more about losing Venice than the Venetians do.)
Of course, my circular dam would do the trick. When do you think they will come to me for advice?