Monday, 26 September 2016

Letter from Venice (2) 26-9-16

I locate the Co-Op food store in my district. Passing through a pair of rusty light blue gates I find myself on a quayside with a gantry and a boat hoist. Beneath it are a pair of canoes and a gondola on trestles. The sea on the northern side of the city, facing the island of San Michele, heaves and sparkles in much agitated crests and troughs just inches below the quayside. The medium in which Venice is set conveys great power, almost to the point of being menacing. Large, stretching fields of water shrug and writhe very close to us. A few yards away from the water’s edge is the entrance to the Co-Op which is situated in an old boat shed.

I board the vaporetto 5.1 at Ospedale and, once again, experience the exhilaration and bustle on the water as we pass the stops of Fondamenta Nove, Madonna dell’Orto and San Alvise along the northern edge of the city. From the boat I notice the black-bordered street signs painted on the crumbling walls alongside the promenade. Stencilled in black capitals on a faded white-washed background are etched the name of the district – Sestier Canaregio – and, beneath it in a separate box, the parish – Parochia di SS Apostoli – and then, in a third box, the name of the bridge near the sign – Ponte Donà. We pass the many triple piles, some old, some brand new, bound with two metal hoops and set in the water to guide the shipping.

We plunge into the city down the Cannaregio canal which connects the northern edge with the Grand Canal. The Cannaregio canal is a delightful sequence of bridges, canal-side café’s, baroque facades, colour and activity. I notice the garbage boat lifting a wheeled container from the canal-side with its crane and tipping it drunkenly into its own bowels. A tall and elegant priest passes among the crowds. He is black, young and bearded, wears a long black cassock topped by a perfect, domed and wide-brimmed, straw hat, also in black.

Later I return to my flat. Living here in this silent quarter is like inhabiting a Martin Escher painting. In one direction is the occluded façade of San Francesco which seems to be hiding its mass behind buildings on the adjacent side of the square where it is set. Looking down one calle I see no water but a section of a bridge rising from left to right. Looking down another I glimpse a section of a different bridge falling from left to right. In the distance people climb up and down as on escalators and traces of voices reach me. I have the sense of being locked inside a Rubic’s cube of buildings which affords me views of strips of sky. The world seems to tilt. Around another corner I encounter large ochre colonnades by the edge of a canal. There are glimpses of cloisters, well-heads and courtyards. Nothing gives up its secret. It could be a dream.

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