Thursday, April 16, 2015
Thirty miles of Arcades Devoid of One Armed Bandits and Space Invaders
Well I can work a one armed bandit and it's been a while since I engaged the evil forces of space invaders so with a suitcase full of cents and with some air traffic wallahs on strike we headed south around France to the promise of Vegas in Southern Europe.
Within a few hours of landing it became quickly apparent that this was no Vegas or Rhyl, with not a fruit machine to be found,
I think that was the correct translation of the information board at its base.
With language abandoned we ascertained through a series of pictures and mimes that the rail company were on strike and all the tickets to Firenze had been sold for a few days,
So we went to Venice instead.
A train that travelled at nearly two hundred miles took us across the broad valley of the Po to a city that I last visited in May in 1981 at the age of 13 when it was a bit niffy, the canals contained several dead dogs and St Marks square was empty and we enjoyed a cheap pizza sitting outside.
It's changed a bit.
think the Olympic opening ceremony with selfie sticks instead of flags,
and there we must pause to examine the phenomenon that is the "selfie" and its accompanying stick.
After the hundredth offer of such a stick in under ten minutes, it started to grate
It might be one for the marketing department lads, but please reassess your target audience.
Is Greek no longer on the school curriculum because this selfie fad is the stuff of Narcissus, with Vodafone playing Nemesis, Social media as Echo and a smart phone for a puddle of water.
I don't get it, and on a final note, you don't see the selfie stick sellers taking selfies of themselves in the spectacular environment in which they ply their trade.
Anyway, to return to Venizi, we walked along the front where everything seemed to be three times the price of the same item in Bologna and several chanced their arm with a fishing rod, which was not the case in 1981 as I spent half a day looking for any signs of people fishing in what was pretty filthy water. Three parts foxed following further prosecco (it really was rather good) we hopped onto the aquaporto that took us the wrong way around the lagoon before delivering us up the Grand Canal to the station with two minutes to spare.
Venice remains a spectacular place to visit but blimey was it busy, the highlights were undoubtedly the walk from the station to Square St Marco and the forty minute aquaporto ride that provided an aquatic tour for only seven euros each.
Oh yes, a message from Venice for the cream of our local town society now that the weather is warming up.
And then Richie Benaud died.
As a youngster I didn't know Richie Benaud had played cricket.
I assumed he was a professional commentator, or possibly somebody Peter West had bumped into on Come Dancing, he was a natty dresser was Richie. It was always the radio commentary for me if possible, but if no wireless was available Richie's take on the game was the next best thing.
Hendo provided the best summation for me (and why doesn't he write on cricket anymore)
"Less is more, Ah yes, but how difficult it is to master that apparently simple precept. Benaud never talked about himself, either on air or off it. He thought it vulgar, and besides his playing record was there for to see. As the captain of a side that thumped England 4-0 in 58/59, he is in the annals.
Compare that modesty with the modern manner, when a cricketer-turned- broadcaster like Ed Smith, who played three times for England in a thin year, mentions himself more often in a single session of play than Benaud did in five decades"
Richie Benaud played at our local club many times as part of an invitational side put together by the Times Cricket Correspondent of the day, and there are many old timers who haunt the boundary full of tales of games for Longparish against Benaud, Tyson, Inverarity et al.
On four consecutive days I took an egg out for the day.
The bottom of my camera bag resembled a hen house, Without doubt I was missing the dog and had subconsciously replaced our Otis with a replacement whose name bore three letters and ended in the letter g,
That or, I'd gone broody.
The premise was to build a bridge with a seven metre span and a height of over a metre from thin cardboard strips .
There were fifty teams who had the whole day to complete their task. Now I'd back myself to work a bridge or two and it struck that if this new twist on recycling really works then we should put a recycling bin by the fishing hut for Sunday Supplements and the like, as materials for next year's new river crossing,so we hung around for the whole day.
After an hour the favourites were fairly clear, skill levels were varied.
Five hundred years ago the good people of Bologna sought shade and shelter on their trip up the hill to what could be the church of San Luca, (it's coming back to me now)
Eschewing the umbrella and parasol option, they constructed a substantial portico that takes you out of town a thousand feet up the hill and is two and a half miles long, it may well be visible from space, we could certainly see it from the plane as we left.
It's tremendously bonkers, and somehow typical of this city that I suggest is a more convivial place than some of its celebrated near neighbours.
The many arcades, the small streets, lumpen basilica, the friendly people the wonky towers all go towards making this place a fabulous place to spend a few days, but the undisputed star of the show is the food.
And at this point I'd like to say, hey Prizzo, Usk and Zosso, up your game a bit eh, it's pretty poor stuff you dish up in comparison and for twice the price!
Same to you Starburks, Costas, Cafe Mero,
Who seen to fear to mingle among the coffee bars of this town where a freshly ground brew can be had for under a pound.
We found ourselves saying "Wow" a lot during our dining, and while reflecting in bed in front of some Italian TV, we took in an episode of Italy's Junior Masterchef. The two teenagers competing had breathtaking culinary skills and demonstrated a deep understanding of fresh ingredients and their preparation and use.
They really got food, and worked coolly on a set which resembles a culinary coliseum with two presenters and two professional chefs gathering on a balcony above to bait them and deliver the thumbs up or the thumbs down at the shows denouement. It may be subjective to suggest, but either would have gone a long way in the adult version over here.
Bologna is an old, but vibrant city, reassuringly bonkers at times with the odd risque statue, beautiful, fun, friendly, and free of one armed bandits, it is a city comfortable in its own skin,
But the food, oh the food, they get the food thing more than anywhere we have visited.
We shall return,
After I've had a sandwich.
Previous readers of this guff may remember that each trip abroad I like to give the gift of a corkscrew to the chaps at airport security to facilitate our passage to the aircraft. This year I discretely placed our holiday corkscrew in Madam's handbag for our return journey, who found the item while bagging up her liquids of 100ml or more. Taking an alternative course of action to myself when previously placed in such a situation, she owned up to security, who consulted and reported back with "Don't worry madam it's only a picnic corkscrew, carry on through"
Aghast at Madam's fortune I reared up and bemoaned the fact that three times I had been required to hand over such an item that I had inadvertently retained in my camera bag, and what was it about my face that suggested I was hell bent on boring a hole in the cabin wall that was missing from Madam's demeanour, at which point a snap of the rubber gloves and Madam tugging at my elbow carried us away from the scene.