The last time I went to Venice it was one of those “I’ll go to Venice and everything’ll be alright” times. I was learning to walk again after months with my leg in the air or, encased in plaster to the knee, hopping tentatively behind my walker to the bathroom or down those few terrifying steps to the terrace in the garden. Too many stairs around me, too much mayhem on the roads, I was making heavy weather of it when one day I just knew: what I needed was a trip to Venice. “Venice?” you ask. Yes, Venice, where only film stars can avoid walking, and each painful step is twice rewarded by the magnetism of the place. To give the expedition a social twist (acquaintances become a little tired of visiting, after the first couple of unreciprocated visits), and to give purpose to my daily excursions, I enrolled in a photography workshop.
In preparation, I had Bandula, the trainer, came to bully all those atrophied muscles (from head to toe, and to the furthest extremities of my fingertips) five days a week. I augmented his efforts by submitting to the pulse massagers, and other healing gadgets of HM Perera, the Physio, on three afternoons a week. I even took a flying (in our little seaplane) but unsuccessful visit to Thalpe for walking practice. And of course, I had a wardrobe of cool weather clothes to sew or alter.
It was all an exciting whirl and right up till the moment I took off it seemed it might be the height of folly to be thinking of going anywhere, let alone Venice. But I’m nothing if not determined (especially where Venice is concerned) and so, fool, or visionary (I know which Ma would have nominated), off I went!
Visionary I am – unswerving in my belief in the potent power of Venice to entice me out to explore endlessly and thus to full recovery – but I did recognise I might benefit from an intermediate step. And in any case, my oldest friend lives in Switzerland, and where better to practice walking than in Switzerland, where it’s the national pass-time? During the ten days I spent with S, we took daily walks in the forests and valleys around her village, or around the summits of a couple of mountains we went to, gradually building up to around 1,000 or more steps a day (recorded on the pedometer I bought, I could see how useful it was going to be!).
Ha! Wasn’t enough. All of a sudden, there I was in Venice, on two-or three-hour location shoots, where we were walking 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 and one day, over 6,600 steps! My goodness… Gradually I began to see improvement and the reward for my efforts was being able to penetrate deeper and deeper into breathtaking Venice. For me, the city is a fantasy, a wild and vivid fantasy – the manifestation of man’s most fervid dreams, of power, and corruption. At every turn the magic of the place still astounds me.
But I digress. At New Years I followed the music for a few vertiginous steps around the dark, dazzling, dizzying dance floor, and the other day I was prompted by nothing but high spirits to take Maggie by the paws and do a little jig. But today I ran. Not the great loping strides of a runner, but I ran. Already I feel a new sense of freedom, a physical confidence I haven’t felt since I fell down those stairs, on the 5th of February last year.
You understand now why I have such faith in the power of Venice? It won’t be long now before my answer will be “yes, I went running”.
P.S. For those of you appalled by my apparent profligacy, I have no excuses. I’m not wealthy (in fact my financial situation is, as it has been all my life, parlous), but there’s nothing I can do about it – the Wanderlust Gene is not recessive, and must be accommodated. And for a few weeks in Venice, dear reader, I will gladly forego my favourite foods, champagne (or wine, or any other alcohol, for that matter), flowers, trips to the theatre, the patronage of painters, even the purchase of books, fashionable clothing, eating out in restaurants with friends, pretty well anything. Just so that’s understood.