Monthly Archives: January 2009
On a recent Thursday night, I welcomed some after-work distraction by joining Jason Mical and the Digital Media team at Edelman PR’s HQ in Victoria. Wow. What an experience. Jason and I got to know each other through the Stella Artois competition last year, where I wrote about my favourite local pub and won a trip in an airship that I never got to take because London’s summer weather consisted of too much wind and not enough sunshine. Airships do NOT like too much wind, apparently. Nor do they enjoy rain, so that was the end of the Epic Airship Oddysey.
Jason never got to ride in the airship, either, but he did make sure I received some great Stella glasses in distinctive retro style, and in the course of our Edelman Night Out he gave me another couple to add to my collection. FYI if you’re wondering why I’m so keen on these Stella glasses, I can be accident prone with drinking vessels on long stems, so these squat, practical, sturdy glasses are my new favourites in the Epic kitchen cupboard and I actually use them for wine. So far, not once have I knocked one over.
I digress. The Edelman office design is too cool for school. As Jason walked me in, there was an über-chic table before us, above which hung a mobile of images. (I later learned that those images were a bit um well physical, but forgot to give them a closer inspection on the way out.)
A glass-walled meeting room stood to one side, and a seating area to the other where a cosy group of black leather sofas and armchairs looked simultaneously traditional and cutting edge. So far, so funky.
A long bar surrounded by high stools is the place to grab your coffee or a baked potato for an eat-in lunch, apparently.
Then we passed through a library wall filled with Penguin classics into an open-plan space where most of the staff spend their working day, and there on Jason’s desk stood a nice, big Captain America. (He’s just informed me via e-mail that his proper full name is
Captain America – The Limited Edition Resin Statue, number 6 of 2000, signed by the artist
Now that’s what I call marking your territory.
(Big enough picture for you, Mr Mical?)
Further down the office we entered the bar, with a deep red theme and cosy chairs to sink into after a long day. A bar-babe poured me a glass of wine from a counter that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the sort of country hotel that all the cool people flock to, come the weekend. Jason then told me that the design had been to the brief of ’boutique hotel’. I’d probably say ’boutique hotel meets Google’, but the boutique hotel influence was most definitely there.
Jason kindly introduced me to the Digital Media team and other Edelman colleagues as “the blogger who won the airship prize,” and “one of London’s leading bloggers,”. That’s why he’s in P.R. – he cleverly neglected to say that there were other winners, that I never got to go up in the airship or that the word ‘leading’ might be somewhat premature. Bashful blushing aside, however, I liked his style. That man can represent me ANYtime.
Having checked out the Edelman HQ, we then went en Edel-masse to a pub called The Colonial, where I felt right at home before we even got through the door because, well, I am a colonial, at least, according to the colonists in this part of the world. We talked about blogs, digital media, stomach parasites, New Year diets, rugby injuries, surgical pinning techniques, Coen brothers films and how the various folk in the group accidentally fell into their current careers. Then we moved on to how to convince clients that working with bloggers is a good idea (this part ain’t rocket science – it’s virtually free P.R. for your brand, depending on how you do it and how much effort you put into schmoozing the bloggers at hand), Obama, travel, Mike Moore, life in Seattle, weekends in Istanbul, bloggers meet-ups and other bloggers. I think ghosts and hauntings even made it into the conversation, as did the elevators at Sea-Tac airport. It was that sort of night, but luckily not a late one.
I do hope to see more of the Edelman crew, as I have a sort of open invite to join them on another Thirsty Thursday soon. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting clip featuring the Edelman office as the state of the UK office environment comes up for discussion.
STOP PRESS! If you’re interested in the state of the nation/s, you should check out the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2009, released this week, which tells us what we trust and what we don’t in the world of business, government, media and NGOs. As Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman says:
“It has been a catastrophic year for business… Our survey confirms that it’s going to be harder to rebuild our economies because no institution has captured the trust that business has lost.”
Interesting to note that at this time last year, Edelman’s barometer showed that we trusted the banks. Now, they’re in the gutter of trust. This report is definitely worth a read if only to confirm what we already know: that we’re nowhere near the light at the end of the economic tunnel.
January has been a total twister of activity. It’s a very good thing that we had such a decent break over the silly season, because when I got back to work on 5th January, I felt like a house had landed on my head, which is actually quite an appropriate use of simile because it’s the crash of the housebuilding market in particular which is giving me grief at The Day Job. By 11am on our first day back, an announcement had been made to staff concerning future redundancies looming on the London skyline, and by the end of Tuesday, we’d made another group of people jobless.
The first month of 2009 has not been entirely doom and gloom. It’s certainly been a toughie, with long hours at work and stressful meetings aplenty, but fun has not been left entirely on the doorstep. A few days into the working year, I was invited to hang out with Jason Mical and the gang at Edelman. In case you’re not one of those dedicated Epicurienne readers who memorises my each and every post, Edelman does the PR for Stella Artois and Stella Artois had an airship over London last summer and through my blog I won a prize to go up in the airship but because the weather was so well um English and my luck was a bit um er pants, I never actually achieved the much coveted flight in the beer blimp. (you can breathe now) BUT I did get to meet Jason, and Jason is a lovely chap who gives me Stella Artois branded glasses, so we think he’s pretty cool and I’m trying to finish the post I wrote about our night out but The Day Job keeps getting in the way.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Monsieur and I went to the Ice Bar at Plateau in Canary Wharf, in order to be force-fed chocolate martinis and other vodka-licious delights with those splendid people at Splendid Communications. A post on that is on its way also. All I’ll say for now is that Smirnoff Black makes other major voddy brands taste like engine fuel.
Last week’s highlight was wedding-related. Monsieur and I are turning into Bridezilla and Groom of Doom as we kick off the New Year by trying to organise our nuptials. As I’ll explain to anyone with ears, I was born without the bride gene, but I really am trying. Honest, I am. Unfortunately, due to the closeted nature of a boom in British bureaucracy, all my careful planning to get the venue organised totally screwed up but it’s NOT MY FAULT.
Picture the following scene: Epicurienne tries to check available dates on ceremony venue. Ceremony venue tells her she can’t have dates until she registers intent with Monsieur. She calls local registry office to book a Saturday appointment to do just that but they won’t allow Saturday appointments unless there is a need for an emergency wedding. Apparently we’re not an emergency. Yet. So Monsieur and Epicurienne book a day’s leave and go to the registry office to register intent to marry. Everything’s proceeding as it should until the Nice Receptionist asks which room we’ve booked. Epic explains that no venue has been booked yet because the particular venue that has been chosen has insisted that it operates differently from other venues and therefore requires intent to be registered prior to setting a date. Nice Receptionist insists that this is not the case; that no intent can be formalised until a venue has been confirmed. Then she tells us we can always come back on a Saturday. (Receptionist immediately slides in the ratings from ‘nice’ to ‘bovine’.) Epic calls the venue people, hoping for some help from them. (Bunch of paper pushing losers springs to mind.) One venue person tells Epic that she must not register intent without a confirmed venue booking. Epic asks to confirm the booking immediately so as not to waste the day. Venue person (also of the bovine family) says she’s too busy to do that now and hangs up with a huffy sigh. Meanwhile, Monsieur thinks his future wife will never be able to organise the wedding and Epic tries in vain to convince her future husband that it really wasn’t her FAULT! The icing on the four tier wedding cake was when the Venue Person called back to say that they’re dealing with a new registrar who has been giving out misinformation and please would we accept their apologies for any inconvenience caused. Meanwhile, Epic’s Shirley Valentine fantasy of jumping on the Heathrow Express (alone – the fantasy only works with a solo traveller) and taking a plane to Wherever gathers momentum and it’s hard to keep her on London soil. Where’s that airship when it’s needed? In other words: Friday was complete and utter crap.
I have to say that staying engaged for the rest of my natural days is sounding more and more appealing, but I guess we should give it a shot, right?
So what might you be reading here soon? More about Venice, a LOT about Sicily where Monsieur and I spent New Year, some interesting facts about the Mafia, a review of Galler’s Kaori chocolate and my attempts to chase a little white ball around a golf course. In the meantime, here’s a song called Walking on Air, which is all about a creepy girl, sung by a Slovenian songstress called Kerli. When we were in Sicily, it played everywhere we went, especially on that bastion of the Italian radiowaves, RTL, where they insist on telling their listeners that they’re ‘Very Normal People’. Mmm hmm. Yep. Right you are.
(Double click twice on the You Tube to get past the embedding crash or link to the official Kerli MySpace site here
Once upon a time in Venice, I was a museum intern, and once upon that long time ago I fell in love with this dreamy little metropolis of canals and palaces and chilled glasses of sgroppini and steaming plates of fresh spaghetti alle vongole. How can one not fall for a place where you wake to the sound of church bells, where angelic music wafts out of buildings as you pass by or where art is everywhere, even in the paving stones? When I left, I thought I’d be back within a year, but real life got in the way so I wasn’t back for the longest time. It would take me more than a decade to return, but when I did, it was with a man we’ll call Monsieur.
Bar da Gino
I felt a little nervous as we wended our way along the Dorsoduro calli to the Guggenheim Collection where I’d once dressed and undressed the artworks, told visitors “Please don’t touch!” in umpteen different languages and giggled at the Marino Marini with the unmissable erection. Along the way I showed Monsieur the cafe where I’d seen Woody Allen when he was filming ‘Everybody Says I Love You’, and pointed out the bank where interns cashed their monthly stipend cheques, becoming millionaires for a day because the Italian currency was still lira back then and because we hadn’t yet paid our rents. Then, there it was: Bar da Gino, the witness to many pre-, post- and during work snacks. This was where Kim bought her morning coffee, where I’d hum and ha over which tramezzini sandwich to have for lunch or groan if my lunch break was late and they’d all been sold. It was also where we’d take empty water bottles to be filled with table wine for a couple of thousand lira (roughly 80 pence) a time, and we’re not talking small bottles here. Across the way, the tabacchi where I used to buy stamps and phone cards and Baci chocolates wrapped in love messages was still there, and further along, near the Anglican Church there was the Aladdin’s Cave grocery store, filled with pyramids of Ritz cracker boxes, Cipster potato snacks and Kinder Sorpresa eggs, just as it always was. A jumble of happy memories returned with a rush as if I’d only left Venice yesterday.
The Guggenheim Collection lives in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, a squat white palace of one tier only, slightly reminiscent of a half-eaten wedding cake as it looks out at the Grand Canal. For many years it was the home of art collector heiress, Peggy Guggenheim, whose patronage of many of the great artists of the early twentieth century helped build one of the best collections of art from that era. In her lifetime Peggy was a character, to say the least. She had two children with her first husband, Laurence Vail, before divorcing with Olympian acrimony and going on to marry surrealist painter, Max Ernst. That marriage wasn’t destined to last, however, besides which Peggy had affairs with almost every man she ever took a liking to, including Jackson Pollock and the husband of her daughter, Pegeen. Pegeen died young, nurturing the rumour that she’d taken her own life as a result of her mother’s inability to steer clear of her son-in-law. Others say she died mysteriously. Either way, Pegeen’s story is sad. Regarding her mother, whether or not she was the most faithful or amiable of characters as far as people were concerned, she certainly enjoyed her Tibetan terriers, calling them her ‘babies’ and as their respective doggie lives ended, Peggy had each successive dog under interred beneath the paving stones at the back of the Palazzo, before being buried there herself.
Peggy and ‘babies’ in her own, private gondola
As I led Monsieur through the new entrance to the Collection, it was already dark outside and the bright lights of the tickets area made us squint. We bought our tickets and an up-to-date guide, casting a glance at the Guardaroba or wardrobe area. The Guardaroba intern’s face showed misery, pure and simple. In spite of the new entrance and other developments in the gallery’s layout, Guardaroba had obviously not changed that much since I was there. On wet days it used to fill up with umbrellas, dripping backpacks and coats within minutes of opening. Tempers would fray because once the area had reached capacity, we couldn’t take any more belongings from visitors, yet we also couldn’t admit them with bulky day packs or shopping. Arguments were inevitable. Today, Guardaroba certainly looked busy, thanks to the rain outside, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Our coats were drenched through. But before I even opened my mouth to speak, the intern pre-empted my question:
“We’re full already,” he said, with a voice so flat that he might just have been more miserable than he looked.
That settled, we’d just have to try hard not to drip all over the artworks.
To the side of the garden is the gate by Clare Falkenstein that used to be the entrance point for all visitors to the Collection and my way both into and out of work. Made especially for Peggy Guggenheim in 1961, it’s a big, rectangular web of blackened metal, with orbs of glass in different colours appearing at intervals within the web. Then, in the freezing drizzle, we scuttled through the garden and up the stairs into the Palazzo proper. There was the Calder mobile, just where I’d left it, dangling from the ceiling in front of the doors opening onto the terrace. Then we wandered through the room filled with splashy Jackson Pollocks before visiting the old Barchessa, or boat house, which now houses visiting exhibitions. It was crowded down there. We didn’t have much patience for our fellow visitors today, elbowing their way as they were into viewing positions, where they’d take forever ruminating over some technique or muse or artistic attribute, thereby blocking the flow of visitors (including us) behind them. Back in the main palazzo, we found it less oppressive. The fabulous Calder bedhead was still on display in Peggy’s former bedroom and the dressing room was still a shrine to Pegeen and her naive paintings of gondoliers and palazzi. In the past, I’d stare hard at these splashy artworks, trying to imagine Pegeen’s life. The paintings, so bright and child-like, indicate innocence and positivity. Discovering her husband’s affair with her mother must have devastated that part of her personality.
In another room, we considered the use of light in the Magritte canvas of a lit lamppost at dusk, and the whacky imagination present in Max Ernst’s paintings, before stepping through the doors onto the slippery terrace for wicked photos with the Marino Marini bronze of a naked rider with a rather noticeable erection. “People kept pulling it off and it was misplaced,” I explained to Monsieur, “so Peggy finally had the rider’s member soldered on.” From the way he looked at me, I’m sure Monsieur wonders where on earth my next comment is going to come from.
The Marino Marini sculpture, Angel of the City (1948)
Back inside we saw the cubists on display, including works by Picasso and Braques, before braving the garden yet again. We had to. There’s no other way of reaching the New Wing, a separate building at the rear of the property. En route, I showed Monsieur where Peggy lies with her thirteen Tibetan Terrier ‘babies’, and patted Jean Arp’s bronze called ‘Fruit Amphora’, which has always reminded me of a flipperless seal pup.
Shaking off the fresh splattering of rain, I looked hard at New Wing. It had changed completely. Now much larger than when I’d been in residence, it houses a cafe/ restaurant, sizeable boutique and a large exhibition space where a fantastic array of photography was being shown during our visit. But Monsieur and I had places to go and Venetians to meet so back to the ticket counter we went to ask the interns’ advice. “We’re staying on the Fondamenta Nuove,” I explained, “and we’d love to find a good restaurant near there that’s not touristy and not too expensive.” This is just the sort of question that Guggenheim interns love, so we soon had recommendations flying at us. “What about that place near Tre Archi?” proffered one, “oh, yeah. D’you think it’s still open?” asked another. “Sure it is. I was just there the other night.” “Mmm hmmm, you’ll love this place.” Everyone was in agreement, drawing maps and scribbling directions for us on the back of a museum leaflet. “It’s walking distance to your hotel, locals love it, it’s off the beaten track so not that many tourists even find it, and the food’s great.” We were sold. We visit an art collection for the culture and leave with a restaurant recommendation. Well, you can’t get much more Italian than that.
To visit a great site with loads of Venice accommodation options in all price categories, please click here.
Some while back, My Friend, The Planet (otherwise known as Planet Ross) sent me his blue monkey. He’s a funny little figurine with a pointy hat that probably has some sort of spiritual significance, but the only spiritual influence he’s had so far in London has been scaring one of my colleagues so much just by looking at her that I had to take him to live at home. Prior to that I thought he’d have fun living at work, but that was probably a mistake on my part. Only sad people like living at work. In any case, when Blue Monkey lived with The Planet in Japan, his life was fun. He played with puzzles and predicted the future all day long. Now his days are spent presiding over my shrine, scaring visitors and drinking from my rapidly diminishing bottle of sake when he thinks I’m not looking.
I knew I should send something back to The Planet, but wasn’t sure what to get. Then, one day when Blue Monkey and I were out shopping, we saw the ideal book for this man who loves word play so off it went to Japan for The Planet’s birthday. Here’s the post written by The Planet about his late birthday snail-mail from Blue Monkey and me.
PS Planet Ross thinks he’s old this year, but as Blue Monkey told him “you’re actuarry very young for a pranet”. (Blue Monkey’s still having problems with the English L sound but we’re working on it. ).
Reluctantly leaving the toasty interior of Taverna San Trovaso behind, Monsieur and I headed for the Collezione Guggenheim, or Guggenheim Collection. This is where I had served as a museum intern, many a moon ago, in the days before every kid had a mobile phone and when we all wrote snail mail, not e-mail, to our friends and family. Instead of a blog I had notebooks filled with scribbled observations, cameras still used film and notes for the evening lecture series were copied using carbon paper. As I explained all this to Monsieur we realised that we were about to take a trip down Epic’s Venetian Memory Lane.
First we walked up to the gate of the palazzo where I’d once lived. The home belonged to the family of the green grocer who sold his fruit and veg from a barge a bit further north, making an absolute fortune from his humble trade. I’d shared the apartment at the top of the building with two other girls and the rules were strict: no boys allowed, not even brothers. The landlady or ‘Signora’ wore house dresses in busy floral prints, always cut a little too low in the chest region, allowing us to be distracted by her breathless and ample bosom. She did our washing on Tuesdays (this was included in the rent), our telephone calls were measured on a counter and paid for per click, itemising each call in a battered notebook, and the Signora’s husband would always pop some free extras into our bags when we shopped with him, frowning at us as if we were underfed and always encouraging us to eat more. Strangely enough, eating more was never the issue as we were walking all over Venice each day, meaning we could eat what we wanted, including an almost daily gelato, and never gain weight.
Standing outside the palazzo, I remembered the ground floor vestibule, filled with a mess of wet weather gear and footwear in all styles and sizes, from baby shoes to gigantic black wellies. Then there was the climb, past the floors inhabited by the family, the kitchen from where the Signora ruled the roost, with the stairs becoming narrower the higher we rose. By the time we reached our apartment, my fellow tenants and I would be breathless and beyond speech for a good few minutes. No matter how fit we were, those stairs were a killer. We lived at the top of Everest, it seemed.
The bathroom was tiled in sickly olive green and the shower was not partitioned from the rest of the room so when we used it, water went absolutely everywhere. The kitchen was a sink and tiny bench with a skirt around the base, behind which we could store kitchen things, and the gas stove was so fierce that I gave up using it after a while, simply because I valued my eyebrows.
In that apartment, we didn’t need alarm clocks. The church bells woke us early each day, continuing to ring at snooze-type intervals until we were all safely out of bed, and the water buses coming and going from the nearest stop on the Grand Canal made whooshing noises that form part of this musical memory. Whilst remembering the sounds of Venice, I couldn’t possibly leave out the mosquitoes, which buzzed mercilessly around my head each night until I was too tired to fight them, only to wake with a new welt or two the following day. In any case, those Venetian bloodsuckers were always invisible if I turned on the light, and with or without insect repellent they ate at me until my blood’s taste was ruined for them by their own poison.
At the back of the palazzo was a small, walled garden, underused and overgrown with straggles of thriving foliage. We palazzo-dwellers could come and go through a gate in the garden, especially if it was late at night and we needed a quieter way to enter the house (the weighty front door always closed with a bang and a small quake, potentially waking anyone sleeping within). One such evening, I walked back from a gathering in the lively square of Campo di Santa Margarita, where we interns would congregate for birthday drinks and other celebratory occasions. I carefully opened the garden gate and closed it again as quietly as I could. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I heard a rustling from one of the bushes. I froze. Still not quite able to see what or who was making the rustling, my heart pounded as the bush started to shake. After a few seconds, the shaking stopped and something plopped onto the path in front of me. Off it ambled across the paving stones towards another patch of greenery and as I finally managed to focus on the stalker in the bushes, my breathing returned to normal. I’d just been welcomed home by the family tortoise.
Monsieur and I slumbered long, that first night in Venice. In fact, we somehow slept through our alarms before finally falling out of bed at an embarrassing 11am. That was stupid. Now we’d have to move fast to make up the time.
Our lateness didn’t escape the attention of the hotel receptionist. A man exuding Italian confidence, with the wickedest of smiles, called us ‘early birds’ as we dropped off our key before braving the rain outside. Beyond the Fondamenta, the lagoon was grey with mist, punctuated only by the smudge of terracotta brick walls on the cemetery island. We puddled along beside the water to the Fondamenta dei Mendicanti, turning away from the lagoon to begin our day’s exploration. In spite of the unwelcoming weather, the exhilaration of being in Venice again made me want to skip across the slippery stones singing O Sole Mio, but Monsieur would have pushed me into the lagoon to drown my dulcet (?) tones and it was already quite wet enough.
Across the canal from us stood boat houses, where gondolas sat on the Venetian version of terra firma, wearing bright, acrylic raincoats as they awaited maintenance. All around us, Palazzi climbed with centuries-old pride out of the water and a rare garden glistened green in the grey. Then, near the hospital, I pointed at a Venetian ambulance boat. “Everything happens in boats here,” I told Monsieur, “there are boats for each of the emergency services, WITH sirens, hearse-boats for funerals; even DHL and Fed Ex deliver by boat.”
By the time we reached the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, we were sodden. Even Monsieur’s rucksack squelched with the wet. We were in dire need of refuge from the rain so in we went, our damp footsteps joining the snail-like trail of others who’d had the same idea. This church is something different in a city where decoration is frequently ornate-gone-mad; Santi Giovanni e Paolo has a simple red brick structure, its high ceiling dwarfing all visitors. Pondering this, my phone made an irreverent buzz. It was a text message from a friend back in London: “Let’s meet for coffee?” I quickly switched it off, remembering that when I’d lived here years before, I only ever used one mobile phone and it was a complete brick belonging to the museum where I worked. These days, that example of telephonic apparatus would be an exhibit in its own right.
Meanwhile, the scent of old church candles and the smoke of censers permeated the chill air inside the church. We ambled about, looking at the altars and paintings. Stopping to light a candle for the Madonna della Pace (Madonna of Peace) we took a last look at the Bellini altar before venturing back into the damp outdoors.
The piazza bordering Santi Giovanni e Paolo is usually pleasant, with its giant equestrian statue and surrounding pastel houses. Today it was subdued, with a group of bedraggled tourists huddled over their guides by the statue boarded up for restoration. We scurried across to the blue and white sign pointing towards San Marco and persevered in the downpour.
The tourist mecca of San Marco was a long zig-zag away on such an unpleasant day. To warm up we ducked into a strange café en route. I call it strange because of its décor. The stained stucco ceiling looked like cappuccino froth peaks hanging upside down, a tad too low for true comfort. We sat dripping amongst the dusty plastic poinsettias and Chinese lanterns and one particularly large Chinese porcelain vase. The resident aquarium was so green with algae that you had to fear for the longevity of the poor fish inside but the icing on the cake in this establishment was the bill; a double espresso and a cappuccino set us back an astronomical 8 Euros 40. Mind you, we were the only customers at the time and the disinterested waiter had to earn his living in the off-season somehow. That’s Venice for you.
We then darted back and forth across bridges until the reassuring sight of the campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore could be seen in proximity. In summer this walk is a breeze, but with the damp of the lagoon seeping into your bones, it’s a challenge. To distract us there were suddenly many more shops than we’d been passing, now mostly filled with garish masks and other tourist tat, by which I confess to being fascinated. In keeping with the more visible commerce was the number of people in the area, which continued to swell as we approached the Riva degli Schiavoni, the lagoon-side yellow brick road leading to St Mark’s Square.
No longer sheltered from the cold by huddles of buildings, the exposure of walking along the Riva was enough to send us in search of an interior - any interior in which to warm ourselves. I thought this might be a good time to visit the Basilica of San Marco and was excited by the thought of not having dripping eyebrows for a while, but Monsieur was hungry and, as any caring woman knows, when men are hungry it’s best to feed them as quickly as possible or they will make us pay. So off we set across an eerily-deserted St Mark’s Square in search of lunch where even the pigeons had disappeared in protest against the weather.
I steered our party of two past restaurants advertising meals in five languages, ignoring the casual bars with their trays of tremezzini as we headed along the chic Calle Lunga lined with designer boutiques. We crossed the wooden Accademia Bridge, following a path behind the gallery to the Taverna San Trovaso. This had been my favourite place to eat when I was an intern, being dangerously located between my apartment and the museum. The family who own and run the Taverna became friends of the interns, the sons joining us for evening drinks after their mid-week football matches on the mainland. Fabio and Alessandro were still there, looking comfortingly similar to the way they were more than a decade ago. Alessandro, tall and bespectacled, had barely changed, while Fabio, who poked his head out of the kitchen door repeatedly until he was sure it was me sitting in his dining area, had a plumper face and slightly receding hair at the temples. He bounded over to our table to greet us in such a warm fashion that it we forgot the gloom outside, and the ensuing conversation must have sounded quite wrong because Fabio doesn’t speak English, my Italian isn’t great and Monsieur doesn’t speak Italian so the language was more than a little mixed up.
Fabio disappeared to take care of his other patrons when our food arrived. I had ordered the in-house specialty of seppie neri with polenta, whilst Monsieur refuelled with an old favourite – scaloppine al limone. Thoroughly enjoying this lunch at an old Venetian haunt, I smiled at Monsieur. He looked me straight in the eye and said “I love you, darling, even when you have black teeth.” So if you ever make it to Venice with a loved one, avoid anything with squid ink. What it’s capable of doing to your teeth is far from impressive.