Yesterday at Wensleydale Writers' Group we had our annual postcard morning. The chairman deals out a face-down postcard to each member of the group (twelve yesterday) and we then have half an hour to write about it. If we really don't like the card we are given we can change it - but I was quite happy with mine - a card showing a line of bridges over a canal in Venice, all of them reflected in the water of the canal. Some of you have suggested I put it on my blog for you to read, so here it is:
How lucky is that? A photograph of my favourite place in the whole world - Venice. My first visit, forty years ago, remains one of the most magical visits of all my tours abroad over the years.
We stayed in a Pensione called Il Buccintoro, close by the Arsenale
and facing on to the lagoon. It was late October and there were few visitors. The weather was warm and hazily sunny, perfect for exploring the city and the islands.
In the mornings we were woken by the sound of school children walking along to school at eight o'clock, satchels swinging as they laughed and chattered. Occasionally a large ship would slip past our window on its way up the channel. Otherwise in my memory it was silent.
We would go into San Marco every morning, whatever we had planned for the day, because we never tired of looking at this beautiful building with its decorated golden walls. Amusingly, one morning, we needed to buy something (I forget what) from a particular shop and I worked out how to ask an official in the cathedral if he could tell me where the shop was. My Italian must have been pretty awful because he took us behind the altar and showed us the finger bone of a dead saint!
We would go to Rialto on the vaporetto and wander round the fish stalls, looking at incredible fish, the likes of which we had never seen before. We would ride up and down the Grand Canal, marvelling at the Palaces and the tiny gardens. And then we would go into St Mark's Square and sit at Florian's drinking exorbitantly-priced coffee, but worth it to be so near the Campanile bell and the clock where every hour, on the hour, automata would come out and perform their ritual . It was all quite magical.
One of the highlights was to queue at La Fenice theatre - a wooden structure which had stood for hundreds of years - to get seats for the Shanghai Opera - such an experience. Sadly the theatre burned to the ground a few years later.
Two years ago the farmer and I went back. He had never been before but had listened to me singing the praises of my favourite city - and looking at the pictures I have of Venice dotted around the farmhouse. He was distinctly underwhelmed.
The crowds to see inside San Marco stretched way down the Lagoon and the waiting time for entry was two hours. Once you got inside you were shepherded round quickly and told to keep moving (we didn't go in). There was a high tide and St Mark's Square was flooded - the water came up through the drains and there was a faint smell. I shalln't go back again.
Now all I have to remind me, apart from the paintings and the photographs, is a small oval tin which held Chocolate Pastilles and which I bought there. The pastilles are long gone - now it houses my needles and a thimble.