Saturday, 25 May 2013


Zefiro torna, e bel tempo rimena - Francesco Petrarca

"Zephyr returns, and brings fair weather". Well the zephyr has returned alright, although at higher speed than we might have liked, bringing with him not not so much fair weather, as weather that's all over the shop. Some days the sun shines brightly in a cloudless sky and I'm on the edge of deciding that maybe I don't need to dress in black all the time any more; and then the next day is just as likely to bring rain. Lots and lots and lots of rain. Followed by rain. Maybe the weather really has changed since Petrarch's day?

The passerelle (the walkways that allow you move around  the city during high water) were removed a couple of weeks ago. Which inevitably meant that we had more flooding last week. Zefira torna, e acqua alta rimena, you might say.

I have a rehearsal on Thursday night. Two notes on the siren mean we can expect a rise of up to 120cm  This really should be a signal to wear my wellies, but I figure that if we finish at 9.30, I can be safely home and dry before the maximum level arrives at 10.45.

When I arrive it appears that the coro is split between those who have decided to bring boots (they shall henceforth be known as "the sensible people") and those of us who think it'll probably be alright and we can get home before anything properly floods.

Come the end of the rehearsal, everyone makes their way to the front door, to find, inevitably, a good six inches of water lapping outside. The sensible people wade off cheerily, leaving the rest of us to ponder the best course of action. It's frustrating as the camber of the street means that the middle of the road is actually dry, but tantalisingly out of reach. There are a few sandbags lying around (presumably a precaution against more serious flooding) and someone suggests that we could use these to construct a bridge to the middle. Trouble is, that would mean somebody volunteering to be the last person, and dragging them back inside. And the caretaker, presumably, is not going to be best pleased when he arrives in the morning to find what's been done. No, this is not going to work.

So one of the tenors steels himself, takes a few steps back, and takes a flying leap over the pond. He makes it to the dry strip! And then his momentum carries him over into the pool on the other side...

Oh bugger it, there's nothing to be done except roll up trouser legs and stride forth. And it''s not that bad. I think I've got away with it. Until I reach the calle linking San Trovaso with the Accademia, which seems to have no way through at all. I hobble through on the back of my heels as best I can. It's not a dignified look, but my shoes are holding up and I think I'm going to be ok. And then I turn into Corte Vecchia, and the entire flippin' street is under water.  Stoically, I splash my way to the front door.

Caroline has a late class in Mestre, and texts me to ask if I can meet her off the vaporetto. So I wring my socks out and chuck them in the laundry, slip into a pair of stivali, and make my way back to the Sant'Angelo stop, Caroline's wellies in hand. It's only a two minute walk, but I could have sold them several times along the way. The boat arrives and we wade back home together. I may not buy her roses from street vendors, but sometimes I think I'm not such a bad hubby after all.

Friday, 17 May 2013


April 25th is not just St Mark's Day, but, more significantly, La Festa della Liberazione : the final end of Nazi occupation, and the fascist ventennio.

A number of events are planned to mark the occasion, one of which is the percorso della memoria : a walk around the city, to remember some of those Venetians who were martyred during the struggle.

There's a good turnout. There are banners there from the Partito Democratico, the Socialist Party, the Communists, and various trades unions. And, for once, all the various factions seem to get on together in a properly comradely manner, and nobody shouts whatever the Italian word for Splitters! is.

We get issued with red carnations, and a songsheet (yes, a songsheet); and then we're off. The sheer number of people makes it a bit difficult at times. It's a public holiday, the sun is shining, and the streets are packed. It's a bit difficult to get everyone down some of the narrow calli. There are a number of musicians in the party. I feel particularly sorry for the keyboard player who has to set up his stand and his speakers at each stop, prior to dismantling them and hauling them along, with all the speed he can muster, to the next. It reminds me of the film in which Woody Allen appears as the only cello player in a marching band.

A wreath is hung over the commemorative plaque at each site, a few words are spoken in memory, and the Last Post is played; following which the crowd sing one of the partisan anthems. It's very moving, and very stirring. It feels humbling to be part of it.

The walk finishes in the Getto Nuovo, with speeches by the great and the good (the mayor is there, along with the leader of Venice's Jewish community), and a concert by local schoolchildren. Caroline tells me she feels like a proud mum, as she's taught a number of the kids. And some of them - a young violinist and clarinettist in particular - are really very good indeed. She tells me they were her star pupils. In fact, they're so good that the conductor feels able to pop off for a ciggie break and leave them to it at one point.

Then she points out the Awkward Squad, all of whom have made a bit of a half-arsed effort at looking smart for the occasion. While the good kids get solo spots, the bad lads are at the back, plonking out chords on guitars. The bass player (part Kurt Cobain, part Shaggy from Scooby Doo) noodles around behind them, occasionally pausing to make minute adjustments to effects pedals and amplifiers. I'm not 100% convinced it's actually switched on.

The concert finishes and Caroline says hello to a few of them. I consider having a stiff word with the stroppy ones, but it's a been a lovely, memorable morning and it would be churlish to spoil it. Besides, some of them are bigger than me. And anyway, part of me is a little bit pleased that the guitar is still the rebel's instrument of choice. Less "this guitar kills fascists", more "this guitarist annoys English teachers", perhaps?