My sweet old page about Oscar and Peter
My new page about Lily and Minnie, 2021's cats
Books that made me
These standardised interviews are a common feature on newspaper book pages.
I wait in vain and impatiently for one of them to ask me, so here goes...
|What books are on your
Funnily enough the books on my bedside cabinet are unusually interesting at the moment. Aside from the 520 books in my Kindle there are The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death and The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death, both growing out of a current thing for archaeology and the gruesome mysteries of early burial practices, and related to an earlier thing for cemeteries. Also I Am C-3PO - The Inside Story, signed To Jeff... by the robot himself.
My earliest reading memory
In my parent's bed on a Sunday morning reading Treasure Island with my dad. It had a red leather cover with lots of gold and stirring colour illustrations.
The book that changed my life
During the power cuts of the Three Day Week of 1974 I read Lord of the Rings, often by candlelight. It wasn't the first - Alan Garner had been a notable forerunner - but from then on I've never not had a novel on the go.
Are there any classic novels
that you only recently read for the first time?
The Venice Questions
An historical document, dating back to 2010, when I was
asking other people these same questions.
|Do you have a
film/book/artist that made a visit to Venice essential for you.
I think that it must've been all those Canaletto views in the country houses my Mum and Dad took me around that first hooked me. And then Don't Look Now and Brideshead Revisited.
Do you remember your first visit?
I remember that when we got home friends would ask did we go in the Doge's Palace or the Basilica, but we'd spent the whole week just walking around with our mouths open - not going into one museum or church.
What is your single most magical experience in Venice?
Wandering around Cannaregio one fine evening and feeling...that thing, where you feel an indefinable sense of being in the right place, of belonging. Maybe a past life intruding?
And your worst?
Having one whole week where everything about the trip was so lacking in lustre that I thought that maybe I was getting bored with Venice. I was wrong.
Why do you/don’t you live in Venice?
I'm too poor, and too fond of London, vegetable samosas, chickpea curries, Chelsea buns, relatively uncorrupt government, etc.
Where would you live in Venice if you could choose. And why.
Giudecca, I think, for still being a bit real, and quiet and airy. Or maybe northern Cannaregio or eastern Castello, for similar reasons.
What are your favourite books set in Venice?
Michael Dibdin - Dead Lagoon, Mary Hoffman - Stravaganza: City of Masks, Barry Unsworth - Stone Virgin, and anything by Donna Leon, Michelle Lovric and Edward Sklepowich.
Is there a book (guidebook or not) that you always have to take?
Antonio Manno - The Treasures of Venice. Too glossy and heavy to carry around, really, but also comprehensive and reliable.
What music plays on your iPod when you walk around Venice?
The Cocteau Twins
Do you have a favourite …
… Part of Venice Northern Cannaregio
… Church San Zaccaria
… Gelato flavour Vanilla and/or cinnamon
… Pizza topping The Veneziana - onions, capers, pine nuts, raisins, never to be found in Venice.
And what’s your least favourite aspect.
Do you think that Venice is dying/drowning?
Not as much as it likes to wallow in thinking it is, and always has.
If you were Mayor of Venice for one day, what would you do?
I'd ban those huge tower-block cruise liners from the lagoon, employ a few graffiti-removal teams, enforce poop-scooping laws for dog owners, and make it illegal for anyone to visit Venice if they have a name that doesn't begin with the letter J.
Venice // Florence // London // Berlin