Monday, 24 June 2019


Just nine days pottering around in the jewel of the Adriatic was very restful. A word to all of you out there who are saying you’re knackered.

You are. You need a break.

I was knackered and now I’m feeling great not least because I’ve dragged the Venetian weather back here.

Observations on Venice:
  • Still manages to be beautiful and, yes, serene. The sun creating twinkles on the canals fills my heart with joy.
  • The airport has got international class – you get through in a jiffy; it’s clean, cool and elegant. The Marco Polo Lounge has to the very nicest I’ve been in.
  • Campari Spritz, a vile-tasting concoction when drunk in the UK, tastes absolutely fabulous there and as part of that away-from-homeness feeling one has relaxing in the sun.
  • We must has been about the only Brits there… what’s going on? Venice used to teem with Waitrose shoppers, now no more. Lots of Americans, Germans, French, Indians and Italians. And (also) where have all the Chinese gone?
  • Aha! They’ve gone to the Tedeschi, which was in the 13th century and beyond, the HQ of German Traders in Venice. Now it describes itself as “The Lifestyle Department Store”.  We visited it briefly having observed (as it were) the absence of wasps in Venice this year and finding ourselves in a huge wasps’ nest. Chinese families all paying in cash and spending thousands of dollars on Prada, Cartier, Chanel, Burberry. It’s an amazing tribute to the power of luxury branding and the sudden growth in personal wealth of the world’s second largest economy. 
  • Sadly the place is full of beggars, mostly illegal immigrants brazenly demanding money in an intimidating way. It was made illegal in 2008 but no one now enforces it.
  • Just before we arrived the cruise liner, the MSC Opera, crashed out of control into the Zattere just west of San Basilio. On just our first day there were three of these nautical  monsters lumbering up the Guidecca canal. Imagine a 40 storey skyscraper being built next to Admiralty Arch in London. Yes it’s that inappropriate. 
  • Finally a sour grape from an ex adman. On a deconsecrated church on the Riva Degli Schiavoni just beyond the Danieli Hotel facing out into the lagoon  is the vastest, nastiest poster ever. It’s for Balenciaga which says, well it just says Balenciaga in letters 20 feet high. This was last year’s – this year’s is even worse. I hated the brand in 2018.

And, now,  the bad news.

 I now hate Balenciaga even more.

 Just thinking and looking at the Grand Canal I’m forced to take the long view and think of history. Virtually all the buildings are over five centuries old.  Somehow Britain, Brexit and Boris seem a little trivial when I’m here.  

I want to quote from that brilliant speech Aaron  Sorkin wrote for the first episode of the Newsroom orated by Jeff Daniels. I’m thinking of Britain as I read it:

“America isn’t the greatest country any more… It sure used to be… We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reason. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reason.  We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbours, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest.  We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed… by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

Venice was great once. America was great once. We called ourselves Great Britain. But we aren’t great anymore….we sure used to be. We have a problem to solve.

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