Thursday, 27 September 2012

If you liked School, you'll love Work

Early Wednesday morning. Well, earlier than I've been used to for quite a while. I stop off at one of my regular newspaper stands, stick my copy of Repubblica into my laptop case, and walk to the Rialto vaporetto stop. It's quiet, hardly anyone on the bridge yet, but the vaporetti are starting to fill up and I end up sitting amongst a group of excited Japanese tourists. I read my paper, and obstinately refuse to look at the view as we make our way down the Grand Canal. This is silly, obviously, but I feel like I'm making a statement - "I can look at this anytime, but right now there's probably something important going on in the world that I need to know about. Because I am not on holiday, oh no, I am going to work, just like any ordinary Venetian."

As I said, a bit silly really.

I was quite pleased at having secured some work (teaching Business English) in Venice itself, although it was slightly deflating when it turned out to be in Tronchetto; a part of the city so resolutely un-magical it even has cars. Still, it's convenient to travel to, so I can't complain. And the job has come so completely out of the blue, it hasn't left me time to be nervous - "Can you take over from another teacher? Great. Can you start on we don't really have anything proper to hand over to you...sorry, but you'll have to wing it for the first lesson or so".

And then - well, the hours pass with no disasters to speak of. Everyone seems pleased and I have to say I've rather enjoyed it. I make my way back to the vaporetto stop, take a coffee in a local bar, and read a bit more of the paper. I stop off at the Rialto market on the way back and pick up four seppie for tea (a bargain, at just a couple of euros). I notice the water is higher than it's been for a while, and some of the calli near the Rialto are starting to flood; a sign that autumn is on its way.

I hop on the next vaporetto, bag of cuttlefish in one hand, laptop in the other. This time, I look at the view. I know there'll be times in the months to come when I'll be cursing the job but, right now, I feel more than ever that I truly, properly belong here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Puppet Master

We met Heide on the second week of our Italian course at the Istituto. She was from Monaco, which made her seem terribly exotic. Then, over the course of the next few weeks, we came across more and more people from the Principality, and thought that it must be seeming very empty back home with so many of its citizens travelling to Venice to learn Italian.  And then we learned that the Italian name Monaco (meaning, well, Monaco) is not to be confused with Monaco di Baviera (ie. Munich), and it didn't seem so surprising any more.

She'd given up her job as a physics teacher in Bavaria, and - despite not knowing much beyond Ciao or Buongiorno - decided to up and move to Venice where she's spent a year living in a convent and studying Italian.

She wanted a souvenir of her time in Venice, in the form of a hand-made puppet of a Venetian plague doctor, and asked us to come along with her when she picked it up from the puppet maker (there may be a proper word for "a man who makes puppets", but we'll stick with "puppet maker" for now).

We arrive at his studio in Cannaregio and he buzzes us in. Riccardo is a lovely chap, he seems genuinely pleased to see us, and we pass about an hour there. His work is a million miles away from the cheap souvenirs in the tourist shops. There's a real feeling of craftmanship about his studio. Every puppet is hand made, and  their clothes are individually tailored by his sister, a costumier.

Riccardo is happy to talk about every subject under the sun. A quick glance around his bookshelves reveals that he's incredibly well read, everything from the classics to comic books. As he packs the plague doctor away, he tells us that we're more than welcome to drop by any time for a chat.

As I said before, he's a lovely chap. If puppets are your thing, look no further than :-

We take our leave, and head off for a drink at La Cantina on the Strada Nuova. Now this is one of the busiest streets in town, and not the sort of area that we'd normally think of stopping, but it turns out to be a wee gem of a place. Not least because you can actually get a decent beer here! Oh yes, indeed. They make their own brew, Morgana, an unfiltered beer reminiscent of a British Summer Ale, and full of hoppiness. Frankly, that's a good enough reason to come here, but they do good cicchetti as well. And just when we're thinking the afternoon can't get any better, I take a phone call from a man who ends up offering me a job. This, of course, calls for more drinks (athough Heide, despite being German, is not a beer drinker and remains unmoved when I excitedly explain it's brewed according to the Rheinheitsgebot)! It's very tempting to settle in for the evening, but I've got a rehearsal later on and figure that the Maestra will not be in the mood for tuneless beery ranting.

Heide has a number of plans for the future - she says she likes the idea of travelling round Italy on a scooter - but, for now, she's heading  back to Bavaria. We'll miss her. But I wouldn't mind betting she'll get round to that Vespa tour one of these days.