Sunday, March 8, 2020

So I Didn’t Go to Venice…

A couple of weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I was supposed to fly to Venice for a four-day break. It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit but never managed to see. I was hoping that the timing—late February—would mean the weather would not be too warm for some serious walking around, the infamous odours would not be too, well, malodorous, and the crowds would be bearable.

I was due to arrive the day before the end of the annual Carnevale di Venezia, so a chance to see the masked costumes for which the festival is famous before everyone dispersed. Ideal.

Photo of the Carnevale di Venezia courtesy of Ingeborg Gartner-Grein, Unsplash
The fates were not with me on this.

Over the weekend before I was booked to fly, the news was suddenly full of the first coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy—in Lombardo, which quickly spread to neighbouring Veneto province. The final two days of the Carnival were cancelled.

Decision time.

Cancelling the trip would not result in a refund. By that time, it was the morning of the flight out and the Foreign Office guidelines were that it was OK to travel if you took sensible precautions. The greatest number of fatalities seemed to be among the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

Plus, come on—it's Venice!

Photo of Venice courtesy of Tom Podmore, Unsplash

My travelling companion was in her seventies (although is undoubtedly fitter than I am) and she also has asthma.

Even if I did not contract anything—and I was bearing in mind the dangers of passing through several international airports as much as the country of destination—what about the possibility of quarantine? Every news report brought a steady increase in numbers of those infected. I had no desire to have our trip forcibly extended by two weeks, as happened to holidaymakers in a hotel in Tenerife, or those aboard several cruise ships.

One of the affected cruise ships, the Diamond Princess
Not only that but three friends living locally, whom I see on a regular basis, have undergone recent cancer treatments that have left them with compromised immune systems. Another friend is prone to serious respiratory illnesses.

Becoming ill personally would be one thing.

But being responsible for passing it on to someone else? For that I would find it hard to forgive myself.

So, the flight came and went and I was not on it. Instead, I have been visiting Venice vicariously by indulging in movies partially set there. The end of Casino Royale, for instance—particularly the scene where James Bond and Vesper Lynd arrive, on a rather beautiful yacht.

Daniel Craig as James Bond, 007, at anchor in Venice in Casino Royale
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade had some scenes set there, and during a more stylish era to boot.

Denholm Elliott, Harrison Ford, and Alison Doody in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
And finally, The Tourist mostly takes place in Venice, which provides eye candy not only in the city itself but also in the forms of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. So, plenty for all tastes.

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie arriving in style in The Tourist
But that’s not all.

Because, staying put has meant more travelling for me rather than less. I’ve walked into isolated farmhouses on the side of Cumbrian fells in the Eden Valley. I’ve watched Gypsy horses being washed in the River Eden at Appleby-in-Westmorland. I’ve leaned over the shoulders of two detectives as they interrogated a suspect in the death of a child. I piggybacked onto a drone flight over a waterfall, searching for trace. And I was there when someone who should know better tried to plant evidence to incriminate another.

Yup, I’ve been caught up in the latest work-in-progress, which has been slightly delayed due to STILL only having one arm working properly.

Because, let’s face it, the greatest journeys anyone can make are inside their own head. And no matter what the travel restrictions, now or in the days to come, the travel agent of a good book is always open for business and you can usually get a first class seat near the window!

This week’s Word of the Week is Scrivener’s palsy, which is the old-fashioned name for writer’s cramp. It is also called mogigraphia, and is a disorder caused by certain muscles in the hand and forearm going into spasm, or being attacked by cramp, when the sufferer is writing or playing an instrument.

Upcoming Events:

May 1-3, Newcastle City Library, Newcastle upon Tyne.

June 4-7, Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel, Bristol.


  1. Sorry you missed it, but a smart decision in my book. And there will be opportunities in the future, I'm sure.

    1. Hi Michael. I hope for an opportunity to go in the near future, that's for sure. And having just received a news item this morning about 16 million Italians being in lockdown, I'm thinking it was a smart decision, too!

  2. Very prudent - Venice will still be there after the virus disappears.

  3. Craig and Alex(Robertson and Sokoloff) were there for the festival and got the last flight out back to Scotland. Some irony in their facebook posts about the plague doctor....

    1. Hope they've been keeping to themselves for the last couple of weeks, then, Caro!

  4. Dear Scrivener: Best wishes for many merry trips within your head, a land of wonders and terrors beyond the imaginations of many lessor travelers.

    1. Why thank you, EvKa! When I wrote my very first book, by hand at age 15, I did indeed end up giving myself Scivener's Palsy! It's no laughing matter...

  5. I empathize with your predicament, Zoë. Circumstances have led me--at the incessant but caring prodding of my bride (citing every medical advisory on the planet)--to abandon our much anticipated travel plans. As much as we like to consider soldiering on as the courageous way to be, some battles defy common sense. Such as challenging microbes to a game of chicken.

    1. Hi Jeff. Well, much as you will be missed, I think you're very wise -- and so is your bride. There will be other days and other trips.

  6. I'm scheduled to leave for Rome on May 2nd for 17 days around Italy and since they just locked down the entire population today, I don't think that's going to happen. There will be another time. Now, since it appears that I won't be away from home, I'll be able to attend the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, which I usually enjoy very much. The remaining time, I'll do as you suggest, Zoe, and let my imagination be my tour guide.
    I'm sorry you missed Venice. You'll appreciate it all the more when you do get there. I have a great little coffee shop I can suggest.

    1. I will pick your brains when the time comes, David. And yes, there will be panic-buying of books, so I would advise everyone to start stocking up on novels immediately!