Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Letter from Venice (3) 27-9-16

Following a tip from Nige I head for Acqua Alta, a bookshop (largely second hand) in my neighbourhood. Acqua Alta is what the Venetians call the spring tides that sometimes flood Venice and require the bringing out of the duckboards in St Mark’s Square. I find the shop at the bottom of a small courtyard hiding behind a fig tree. On entering the first things I notice are an elderly male shop assistant wearing shorts and braces in the form of crossing over yellow tape measures (he is feeding two cats on the counter) and, secondly, and this causes me a double take, a full size gondola in the middle of the first room. It is filled and stacked up with books - twenty high. Penetrating further into other rooms I find canoes, wooden rowing boats and two bath tubs similarly spilling over with books. There is also a large surf board. Every room is floor to ceiling with books. At the back is one of several outside spaces where books continue to be piled, open to the elements. These books are stacked in regular piles with builders’ foam filling the interstices, binding them together. Wet leather suppurates. One of these spaces backs onto a canal but a high wall spoils the view. Nothing daunted the owners have built steps out of old encyclopedias, something which you can’t do with Wikipedia. The steps are topped with carpet squares screwed into the top book. I climbed them and looked down the canal.

In the seventh century a Bishop had a dream about a buxom and shapely Virgin Mary. I really don’t know what to say about that! There is, no doubt, much that could be said. Anyway they took him at his word and the church of Santa Maria Formosa was built. In the surrounding square I found what I had been looking for – a Farmacia. My Braun Oral-B toothbrush charger, in spite of having a twin-pronged plug, did not fit the Italian sockets in my flat so I had to buy a toothbrush. I learnt the word for toothbrush which couldn’t be more Italian – lo spazzolino. They came in three degrees of hardness – morbido, medio and duro. I bought uno spazzolino duro.

On the way back a builder standing in a long boat loaded bricks high in a wheelbarrow which another builder raised up to the third floor on a single wire with an electric winch, the overloaded wheelbarrow swinging above the guy in the boat as it rose.

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