This week’s theme – “Illumination” – gave me the opportunity to take a quick astral trip to Venice for a bit of a change (from Paradise and Christmas – I never manage to capture New Years’ fireworks) and to wander in memory across the Accademia Bridge at dusk, just as the lights begin to hold their own in the gathering dark.
One night some years ago, I loitered with others at the foot of the stairs where three young buskers had turned the square into a moodily lit stage, entrancing us with dreamy harp-led renditions of Venetian mediaeval classics. After some time the harp began to sing alone. Spare, slightly disjointed notes became almost perceptible phrases, then a rhythm emerged and all of a sudden my heart began to sing along, joyfully accompanying the most witty rendition of Waltzing Matilda I’ve ever heard.
In those few charmed minutes, this boy, with his harp and his cocky homesick anthem, transported me to another time – a time of romance and mystery, when minstrels roamed from city to city, chancing their luck and reputation on matching the mood to a tune …
I tried to imagine how it was for him, just about broke, busking in Venice – vying for high-traffic sites with the rip-off handbag sellers and other modern-day drifters. Realising his allotted time was over, I wandered across the stage as nonchalantly as I could and said a quiet “thanks mate”, placing the contents of my purse in his hand.
Hoping he and his new friends would have a bang up meal before sleeping in a warm safe place that night, I continued on my way – to set up the tripod and capture a Venetian street light.
On the way home, in the deep of night, the dark seemed to eat the scant remaining illumination, turning the city once again into its real self – a place of unfamiliar smells and noises, of dark corners and fleeing shadows, of mysteries and stories too subtle, and too outrageous, for a mere camera to capture.