Whitby Goth Weekend

Leaking tent, fabulously dressed people and befriending as many dogs as possible without resorting to kidnap. It was our first ever Whitby Goth Weekend. And we forgot our sodding makeup.

General Pinkinton was packed full of books and other con gear as well as all our camping paraphernalia. Turns out, this does all fit in a Smartcar. Trust us, when you’ve had to squeeze 20 hexagonal tubs of ice cream into a freezer, you can pack a Smartcar. We were halfway to Whitby when we realised we’d left our toiletry bag back at home: shower gel, hair wax, moisturiser, eye gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, body spray, facial wipes. And makeup. We were going to the most important event in the Goth calendar. And we had no makeup. A cloud of silent rage descended upon General Pinkinton. The toiletries we could replace in Sainsbury’s but very few places sell vegan makeup. The places that did would be closed when we arrived and would only be open during the hours we would be trading. Our eyelids would have to remain distinctly un-black.

We got to our campsite, Broadings Farm, to find chickens, a dog, sheep and lambs! We pitched our tent then wandered the farm to meet our furry neighbours. The sheep seemed suspicious of us. Like they knew we wanted to pat their babies. The chickens had no trust issues and came over for a chat. The campsite had a lovely heated toilet and shower block, a pot wash area and a laundry room! No more peeing in bushes for us! (We mastered that art last week when camping with our mates, Bryn and Jo.) We went to Sainsbury’s to grudgingly replace our toiletries and buy a tub of vegan ice cream then spent the evening watching The Addams Family TV series on our portable DVD player. Turns out, camping in Whitby is cold. So very, very cold. We had thermals on under warm pyjamas, blankets, coats and sleeping bags. And we still froze. We even wore gloves. The only way we could keep our faces warm was to sleep with the blankets covering our heads. Like what they do to dead people in hospitals.

We got up early and arrived at the pavilion at 8:30. Our pitch was in the Spa Theatre. Near the doors. The outside doors and inside ones were open to allow for easy access. We’re cold blooded, hadn’t warmed up from the night in the tent and can’t seem to regulate our own body temperature, so we froze. Though it was warmer than the campsite. We regretted our fishnets though. And our lack of layers. We only had 4. Whitby AbbeyWe kept our hoodies and big coats on. Our carefully selected Burleska dresses were covered by coats, which ruined the look. And we had no makeup. Least glamorous goths ever. Nobody else seemed to notice the cold, but most traders seemed relatively local. We travelled up from Cardiff. It’s a lot warmer down south! We managed to get all our books, jewellery and merchandise on our three foot table. Hell, if we can get all our gear in General Pinkinton, we can get all our merchandise on a three foot table.

Whitby Goth WeekendOur aim when doing these events is to make back what we paid for our table each day, but now we had a new goal – pat 10 dogs a day. And we succeeded. To be honest, we made more of an effort to speak to the dogs and get their attention than we did with potential customers, but that’s true in our non-working lives too. Striking up conversations with dogs doesn’t seem creepy. Neither does offering them the dog treats you forgot to take out of your pocket.

Whitby Goth Weekend

badges of honour

Although we did make friends with two of the traders – Andrew who owns Cave Crafts and Stuart who was raising money for Tees Valley Guinea Pig Rescue. As we have rescue piggies, it was fitting to be beside his stall. We made our table money back for the day so we were happy. It was a good start! We loved seeing everyone dressed in their gothic finery. Though only 50% of the customers were goths or steampunk. We expected a much higher number. Even kids were dressed up, which was awesome. We inspected the lovely clothing stall that was there but being only 5’1 works against goths. The skirts’ waistband came up to our armpits! That would not be a fetching look.

Robin Hood's BayIt rained on Friday night, which showed us that our 20 year old tent leaked. And that we should have bought the Anne Stokes umbrellas we’d been eyeing up on a nearby stall. Considering how much it rained, the leak was fairly minimal and it was in the porch area, so we didn’t mind. Again, we watched the Addams Family and made a trip to Sainsbury’s to buy a tub of ice cream for our tea. Much cheaper than eating out and it meant we avoided the hassle of parking in the town. We also did our flexibility stretches in the tent – becoming flexible won’t happen by magic.

Robin Hood's Bay

Not your usual beachwear

Saturday’s trade we did about the same as Friday’s, except what sold really well on Friday, barely sold on Saturday. Though more books sold so we were happy with that. It’s not always easy making your table back when your most expensive item (Soul Asylum) is £7! And we bought those umbrellas. We noticed all the traders had changed their clothes. Our dresses didn’t allow for more clothing space in our bags. Whitby AbbeyThough under our coats, no one would have noticed. We didn’t smell so it was all good. We chatted to a lot of people who bought books. Everyone was so nice and seemed genuinely pleased when we complimented their outfits. Saturday night we decided to explore Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s beautiful and there happened to be a ghost walk in an hour. Naturally, we joined it. Even when we’re working we can’t keep away from the paranormal. We were the only goths in Robin Hood’s Bay. So the only goths in the village.

Whitby AbbeySunday morning we packed up our tent, got temporarily adopted by the farm dog and still got to the pavilion an hour before everyone else. Sundays in cons are normally slow and we take a third of what we take on a Saturday. Not this time. Sunday was our best day. We sold two books in the first 15 minutes! It was definitely a day for book buying. Whitby AbbeyOne man, Ash, who bought a book on Saturday, bought another one on Sunday. Weirdly, our book customers were all non goths and mostly older. Though we hopefully now have some younger fans too. Providing they don’t have nightmares. We’re gutted we can’t make the winter Goth weekend as we’re booked in for Birmingham Horror Con’s Halloween Special but we definitely want to return in April. We love Whitby and we had so much fun trading.

Whitby AbbeyIt finished at 4, which gave us enough time to pack up and head for the Abbey. General Pinkinton looked tiny among the hire vans in the pavilion car park! A bit like our tiny stall among everyone else’s massive towering pitches. But it meant we could do a three point turn to get out while everyone else would either have to reverse, or wait for other traders to leave. We reached the Abbey an hour before closing. The guy at the ticket office was fascinated with us. Considering how many goths he must have met over the weekend, we were surprised. Especially since we weren’t that dressed up on the Sunday. And we still had our big coats on. The Abbey is stunning. It was originally built in 1250, replaced in 1500 and inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Going to the Goth Weekend and not visiting the Abbey would’ve been an insult to both the Abbey and to Stoker. When we were in Whitby in November for the comic con, it was closed by the time we packed up so we’d wandered the outside and got photos of it lit up. This time, we could actually be inside it. We didn’t want to leave. But we had a five and a half hours drive home and that bag of popcorn wasn’t going to eat itself.Whitby Abbey

Literary killed the horror genre

Can you smell that? That fetid odour of decay seeping into your nostrils, coating your tongue? That’s the death of horror. And our career. Seeing as they’re linked, it’s only fitting they die together.

We used to blog regularly – once a week at least – but lately months will pass without a blog post. There are no excuses, we just have nothing to say. We’re finding it hard to keep motivated when we’re failing at the only job we love. Writing advice often tells you to enter competitions because they’re a great way to teach you to work to deadlines, they help get you noticed by agents and publishers, and they can be a great boost to your career and bank balance. But that’s if you win. We’ve been shortlisted and longlisted in various competitions and has it boosted our career at all? Has it fuck. Things is, many competitions are expensive – novel ones are easily £20 per entry. Short story ones range from £5 upwards. Poetry ones usually start at £3. Over a year, it mounts up. For this tax year, we’ve spent £285 on competition entries. One win would make that worthwhile, but when that win never comes, all you’ve done is spent money with nothing to show for it.

So we decided to change tactics and spend the next couple of months submitting to magazines instead. You don’t pay to submit and some even pay to publish your work. We’re now avoiding the ones that don’t pay. Publication is brilliant but we can’t pay vet bills with a PDF copy of a magazine. Can you imagine calling in a plumber and telling them you’re not going to pay them, but the work will be great publicity for them? You’d be left with a blocked toilet. Yet people think it’s ok to do this in the creative industry. But that’s a rant we’ll save for another post. In order to try to reduce our vast amount of rejections, we’ve been buying the latest issues of the magazines we want to submit to, to see if our style of work is suitable. And it’s left us feeling despondent and questioning why we’re bothering to write anymore. Because we’re reading these horror/dark fantasy magazines and asking:

Where is the horror?

Horror is about producing emotions – fear, unease, anticipation, an unsettling feeling that something is going to happen. Yet we’re reading these stories and the only thing we’re feeling is bored. And pissed off that we’ve spent money on this tripe. There is no horror. One story had a smidgen of horror in the final few pages, after making us wait 7000 words to get to it. By which point, we didn’t care. We’ve also noticed that some stories are told in a really detached way, so if there is any horror, this way of narrating lessens the impact of it, and makes us not care about the characters. Oh no, something may have possible happened to X, but it’s not explained and the story goes on and…nobody cares. There seems to be this new breed of ‘literary horror’ that just isn’t horror at all. (Don’t get us started on literary work. There is no good reason to leave out speech marks just to make your work ‘experimental’. Why not go really experimental and leave out the words?) It’s like arty films. All pretty cinematography and bugger all happening. This is what literary horror is. All purple prose, characters as two dimensional as a Justin Bieber cut out and about as scary as a blade of a grass in a leafy meadow.

Horror doesn’t have to be about blood and gore. That’s one sub genre of it, mostly in the slasher/spatter sub genres. There are other sub genres, such as: body horror, zombie, psychological, crypto/nature, paranormal, supernatural, gothic, etc. There are sub genres within sub genres and genre cross overs, such as sci-fi horror, (the best example being Aliens) action horror, horror comedy (Tucker and Dale vs Evil. Friggin’ genius). But their main aim is to scare or unsettle you. If they don’t, they have failed.

And yet we’re reading these magazines and wondering when did it become ok to leave horror out of horror fiction? We are rapidly running out of markets that we think would be a good fit for our work. Sadly, we’re spending money to find this out but at least our rejections will be reduced and the magazines are tax deductible. In one magazine’s guidelines it says ‘sci fi, fantasy and horror with a literary slant but if you write what is considered classic in these genres, it’s not for us.’ So do they want sci fi that has no science? Fantasy that is realistic? Horror that isn’t scary? It seems we don’t write what these magazines publish. Maybe we need to rename what we write as ‘the genre formally known as horror.’ We’re from the old school of horror – Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz before he found God. The classic films – Nightmare on Elm Street, Fiday the 13th, Snowbeast, Candyman. But magazines don’t want this. They call themselves horror magazines but don’t actually publish any horror. It would be like us setting ourselves up as window cleaners and refusing to actually clean any windows. Remember that song by Buggles? Video killed the Radio Star? Well Literary killed the Horror Genre. Sing it. The words fit.

So if competitions pick literary stories as winners and genre magazines chose literary over genre, where does that leave genre writers? How are we supposed to get published? The main piece of writing advice given is ‘write what you love’ but if nothing is publishing what you love, what are you supposed to do? Self-publishing doesn’t guarantee you’ll find readers or success, but that may be the only option left. One way of getting readers would also be to graffiti your work on random walls and buildings, but the council frown upon this form of creative expression. So if you see any form of spray painting horror writing on the streets of Cardiff, it wasn’t us.

Horror does have to evolve to stay alive, (not with sparkly vampires please, you’ve ruined it enough) but not to the point where you take the main ingredient – the emotions of fear or unease – out of it. It would be like romance stories where no-one falls in love, crime where no crime is committed, or comedies where no-one dies. No, wait, that’s horror comedy. Horror films are sticking to the right ingredient, even if it is all just remakes for profit, but at least it’s still horror. (Are you listening, Hollywood? Fucking stop it. Start paying attention to Indie films – they have imagination). Horror is finding a resurgence in TV series based on classic horror films: The Exorcist, Wolf Creek, Ash Vs The Evil Dead, Scream. And other series – American Horror Story being the most well known. However in the writing world, it’s getting harder to find horror fiction that actually contains an element of horror.

Horror isn’t dead – especially in the indie film scene – it’s like Michael Myres or Jason Voorhees. It can’t be killed. But maybe it’s waiting at the bottom of the lake, biding its time for unsuspecting campers to revive it from its watery grave. *Does stretches* Fancy a swim?

The Amazing Maurice

Since we first heard of Monstrous Productions a few years ago, we have been to every play. This year, we were faced with the unpleasant realization that we were going to miss one, due to being in Doncaster for Digicon. Fortunately, director Amy Davies kindly spared us the sadness of missing their latest play by allowing us to come to the tech run, as we’ve been part of the company when we played the snake twins in Witches Abroad.

And we’re so grateful for that or we would have missed a fantastic play.

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents follows streetwise tomcat Maurice and his educated rat friends. They’re educated due to eating magic-tainted waste thrown out by the Unseen University. This has allowed them to think and speak and develop a love of stories. Every town in Discworld knows that the best way to get rid of rats is to hire a piper who leads them to a river. (Don’t tell anyone rats can swim.) So Maurice has come up with a plan to make money – the rats invade a town, gnaw on wood, widdle on food and generally behave like the uneducated rats. Then Maurice found a stupid looking kid – Keith – who can play the pipe. He leads the rats out of town and collects the money, which Maurice looks after.

Then they visit the town of Bad Blintz and their plan is discovered by a young, story-loving girl, Malicia, who is convinced that everything has a plot – including life. And there’s the slight problem of other rat catchers being in town who capture rats not to kill them, but to make them fight terriers. Darktan, played by Josh Stevenson-Hoar, is military minded and organises the rats into three camps: Widdlers, Trap Experts and Food Destroyers. Their mission is to cause as much chaos as possible. One rat, Peaches, is obsessed with a story called Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure and believes it’s real. She uses it as a guide and carries it everywhere she goes. Hamnpork is old and grumpy and convinced Darktan is trying to take over as leader. He is captured by the ratcatchers and put in the terrier ring but Darktan abseils down to rescue him and fights off the dog himself. The rats get their names from food tins and packages.

Then of course, the real Piper shows up. He’s paid far more money than Maurice and his educated rodents are. Keith challenges him to a pipe-off. Sardines, the tap dancing rat, dances for Keith. No rats respond to the Piper as they have cotton wool in their ears. Keith is then given the job as the town’s Piper.

Maurice was played fantastically by Matthew Hitchman. Being owners of 5 cats (12 in our lifetime) we can say that his was a very realistic portrayal of a cat. Becca Smithers, who played Malicia did a great job of being an overenthusiastic know-it-all. All of the actors played their parts brilliantly and it was nice seeing new faces as well as the regular cast. There wasn’t a single bad performance and the actors’ enjoyment of their roles really shows.

The set and props were the most ambitious yet, with shed walls for the rat catchers’ hut and a white screen with shadow puppets for the fighting ring. Clever lighting was used to represent a man hole cover in the sewers. There was also a brilliant use of red lighting and a scary voice recording for the King Rat to show it in Maurice and the rats’ minds. It added a chilling element to what was otherwise, a very funny play. There was also an excellently choreographed fight scene between Maurice and several of King Rat’s minions, which resulted in the deaths of Maurice and Dangerous Beans. But Maurice behaves very un-cat like when he trades one of his lives for Dangerous Beans’s and both are returned to life.

We’ve never read Maurice so had no idea what to expect. We loved it, and now we need to read the book. It shows that you don’t have to have read anything by Pratchett to be able to enjoy the plays Monstrous Productions put on. The acting, sets and behind the scenes work cannot be faulted. It’s clear from the actors’ performances how much they love the plays. Monstrous Productions outdo themselves with each one, which isn’t an easy feat. We hope there will be many more plays and can’t wait for the next one.

Cast

Maurice – Matthew Hitchman

Keith – Ben Harder-Allen

Malicia – Becca Smithers

Darktan – Josh Stevenson-Hoar

Peaches – Sarah Roberts

Dangerous Beans – Josh Flynn

Sardines – Asher Townsend

Hamnpork – Harry Spencer

Ron – Tony Beard

Bill – Jamie Gibbs

Nourishing – Katya Moskvina

Mayor – Terrance Edwards

Delicious – Ellen Warren

Feedsfour – Loz Shanahan

Special Offer – Davina Darmanin

Bitesize – Sarah Burrow

Kidney – Jasmine Iskasson

InBrine – Isabelle Burman

Piper – Michael Dickinson-Smith

Agent – Gavin Rea-Davies

Sergeant – John Simpson

Gary – Paul Woolley

Nigel – John Dent

Death & mask maker – Matt Burnett

KeeKee – Nick Dunn

Sharks in Venice

San Michele cemetery island, Venice

San Michele cemetery island

We spent our last day in Venice in a cemetery, visiting museums and elbowing our way through crowds. The carnival had arrived. And we did our best to avoid it. We got up early and headed to San Michele alone. San Michele is the cemetery island just off Fondamente Nove. It’s illegal to bury people on Venice. This was one of our top places to visit before we came to Venice and we were not leaving without seeing it. We spent hours in Pere Lachaise in Paris, even picnicking there. Visiting cemeteries is one of our favourite things to do. Though trying to convince other people that spending their holiday with dead people is a great use of their time doesn’t always go down well.

VeniceWe tried using our Murano tickets to avoid paying for the ferry but alas, we were foiled.  The cemetery is actually pretty small. We managed to tour it in an hour. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos. Or picnic. We found the graves of Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. Most of the graves are actually ossuaries because you rent the graves and if you stop paying, you get moved into the ossuary. So whilst the island is small, there are a lot of people buried there because they’re all in what is essentially chest of drawers. There were some huge tombs. Some even had chairs inside them with glass doors. Sadly, the doors were locked.

church of Santa Fosca, Venice

church of Santa Fosca

We returned to the apartment to collect Tom and Amy and set out for a day of museums. First we took a detour to find more haunted places and to visit a supermarket. Our first haunted place of the day was by the church of Santa Fosca. An old money-lender, Bartolomio Zenni, staggers up and down the Campo dell’Abbazia, begging for help. If you approach him he turns into a fiery skeleton. That is one of the coolest ghost stories ever. On 13th May 1437, a fire broke out on the opposite side of the canal. He refused to help his neighbours save their children because he was saving his bag with his belongings. He dragged it to a nearby canal and vanished into the waters. Several nights later, he reappeared with the bag, breathless, and asking people for help. Everyone avoided him. His soul will only be free when someone helps him carry the bag from the Campo to the church of Santa Fosca. We’re great at carrying bags. And we hate children.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

one of the Mastelli brothers

We headed for our next haunted destination and ended up walking right past some statues we wanted. Typical. Fortunately, Amy spotted them. They are the Mastelli brothers – Rioba, Sandi, Afani and Antonia and are on the wall of Campo dei Mori. They were merchants who were apparently turned to stone due to their dishonesty and meanness. Rioba used to say “May the Good Lord turn my right hand to stone if what I say is not true.” They could buy any jury and ruined many families. One day in February, a woman came to them to buy Flanders lace for her shop. Mastelli brothers, VeniceHer husband had died and she needed to re-open her shop. Rioba showed her many fabrics, claiming it was Flanders and she couldn’t afford them but he wanted to help. He and his brothers quoted his line about being turned to stone. As the woman paid, she said “May the good lord be a witness to your honesty and may you be held to what you have decided.” With that, the coins and his arm turned to stone. Then his brothers’ arms turned to stone. The woman was Saint Magdalen. “Criminals! Liars and hypocrites! You will turn into the whited sepulchres that you have shown yourselves to be during your lifetime.”Mastelli brohters, Venice

The statue of Rioba has been seen crying in February. If someone who is pure of spirit lays their hand on his chest, they might feel his heart beat. We were too short to reach his heart. Tom and Amy could touch his heart no problem. We managed to touch his stomach while stretching up on tip toes as far as we could reach. Otherwise it would’ve been a groin grab and according to legend, that’s not what you can feel throbbing.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

Rioba, whose heart you can feel beating. If you’re not short arses like we are.

We insisted on heading to the museums through parts of Venice we hadn’t yet explored. Getting lost is how adventures happen! We wanted to see as much of Venice as possible, rather than retracing the same route we’d take every day. First up, we found another vegan gelato/sorbet place, Gelateria Alaska.

Gelateria Alaska

Gelateria Alaska

The guy serving asked if we were here for the carnival. We said we were here for our birthday so he insisted on giving us an extra scoop of sorbet for free. That was so nice! We had strawberry and mango and strawberry and lemon. They were delicious.

Museo di storia Naturale, Venice

dinosauro

We managed to find our way to the natural history museum, Museo di Storia Naturale, despite Cat having the map. Usually CatNav is unreliable and easily distracted. CatNav took detours a few times but did manage to get us to the gelato place and the museum. That was a really cool one, probably our favourite after San Servolo and Doge’s Palace. To be fair, it had dinosaur bones and anything with dinosaurs is a winner. We were so excited as we headed in that we started squealing and bouncing. Some people, can’t take them anywhere. They’re just an embarrassment. There were also sharks and other creatures. We love sharks as much as we love dinosaurs. This was our happy place.

Museo di storia naturale, venice

sharks in Venice

Some people on Trip Advisor complained that none of the information was in English. However, there is an English guidebook at the desk and an English audio guide. Plus, in Britain, we don’t have museum information signs in any other language, so don’t complain when other countries do it. Wales is the exception, as we have bilingual signs in English and Welsh. We were heading upstairs saying “dinosauro” and doing our best not to show our excitement. And failing. Our friends doubted that this was the Italian for dinosaur. Turns out, we were right. It was amazing being able to touch the fossils. It’s like we were touching history without the danger of being eaten.

Palazzo MocenigoLynxNav took over and experienced technical difficulties when she ripped more of our battered map. It was one day from retirement and it was a battle to keep it intact. We headed to Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a perfume museum and had 18thc furniture. That was interesting. There were glass bottles filled with scents that you could sniff. Some places don’t trust tourists with touching furniture, but this place let you lift glass stoppers to smell the scents inside. Palazzo MocenigoCat sniffed too enthusiastically in the scent bottles and spluttered. A woman next to Cat laughed. At least we’re keeping people amused. There was also a table filled with bowls of different raw ingredients that you could smell. It’s the first time we’ve visited a museum that has an interactive olfactory section, so it was good to do something different. There was a collection of perfume bottles, some dating back 6000 years!

Ca'Rezzonico, Venice

Ca’Rezzonico

Our final museum was Ca’ Rezzonico, which had 18thc furniture and paintings. We kept our tradition by touring the museums the wrong way around and only discovering our mistakes when we found arrows pointing the opposite direction. There was a beautiful 18thc writing desk that puts our £10 IKEA metal writing table to shame. Though we have no room for a writing desk in our dungeon. We particularly liked the 18thc apothecary that was randomly inside the house but we weren’t allowed in. Each room was beautiful and proudly displayed its wealth while taunting us that we could never afford such luxury. The upper floor was all paintings.

Ca'Rezzonico

writing desk envy

Then we headed back to discover everyone had arrived for the Carnivale. We imagine the carnival itself is spectacular. The crowds, however, were not. This is officially the worst circle of Hell. You couldn’t move down the streets. We all got very frustrated and murderous and also claustrophobic, as our heads are generally chest, armpit or shoulder height to most people so all we could see was the back of the person in front of us. Being in crowds is horrible enough but when you’re short, it’s even worse. People were moving so slowly! There were even police officers directing foot traffic. We were glad to be leaving the following day to escape the madness.

VeniceWe found our way to another haunted spot, which as it turned out, we walked past every. Single. Day. It wasn’t far from our apartment. Although it gave us excuse to escape the crowds for a bit. In the Campiello del Remer on the Grand Canal, the corpse of Fosco Loredan floats to the surface holding his wife’s head. He was extremely possessive of his wife, Elena, whose uncle was Doge Marino Grimani. In 1598, the Doge heard a woman scream as she ran towards campiello del Remer chased by a knight with a sword. The Doge blocked the knight then recognised them. Fosco said “what right have you to stand between me and my wife? I am going to kill her and it is my right to do so.” The Doge replied that he wanted to know what Elena’s crime was.

Fondamente Nove, Venice

Fondamente Nove

Fosco suddenly recognised the Doge and claimed Elena had been unfaithful. Elena protested her innocence and said Fosco was jealous, even of her cousin, who was young enough to be her son. She begged the Doge to protect her and he agreed. Fosco swore he would do as the Doge wished, but Elena warned him not to trust Fosco. The Doge sheathed his sword. Fosco shouted “behind you! Armed men!” As the Doge turned, Fosco decapitated Elena.

The Doge drew his sword and Fosco dropped to his knees, begging for mercy and swearing he would do whatever the Doge asked, providing he spared him. The Doge replied “you will lift this corpse upon your shoulders and you will hold the severed head in your dirty hands. You will never put them down, day or night and you will go to Rome to see the Pope. When you appear before him, you will show him what you have done. He will decide your fate.” He threatened to chop Fosco to pieces if he disobeyed. Fosco walked for months and when he reached Rome, the pope refused to see him, sending him away without absolution. Fosco returned to the spot where he killed Elena and threw himself into the Grand Canal. His corpse now re-emerges holding her head. Sadly, he didn’t do it when we were there. Perhaps he was also avoiding the crowds.16807644_10155179942500982_5116692098111421778_n

Tom and Amy returned to the apartment while we stayed out because we wanted to find a Murano gondola with black cats and a moon that we saw a day or two before and hadn’t seen since. Lots of shops sell glass gondolas, but hardly any sell them with cats instead of people. We’re starting a collection of pewter models of the cities we’ve visited – for Paris we have the Eiffel Tower, so we wanted a pewter model representing Venice – a gondola or the Rialto Bridge. We didn’t see any, then figured that Murano is famous for its glass, so a glass gondola would be perfect. On Murano, we saw a black gondola with two cats and a heart and whilst we liked it, hearts aren’t really us, so we wanted something different. We ended up constantly in the crush because we kept going wrong. Couldn’t find the cats with the moon so decided to get the one with cats and a heart. We saw it before Tom and Amy left us but could we find it again? No. So we had to retrace our route through the crush. In one shop, a shopkeeper’s dog was barking. She hated the crowds. We agreed with the dog and told the owner we wished we could get away with barking at people too.

p1200288It was so busy, there were police directing the pedestrian traffic at crossroads. That’s the first time we’ve ever experienced that. And hopefully the last. Lynx got stuck behind three women who stopped to window shop, so a police officer marched them on to keep the crush moving. It was like being back in high school when they locked the doors, trapping several hundred kids in a corridor. We eventually found the shop with the cat gondola and headed back. By now, our tempers had frayed so much, the slightest provocation would result in someone being Hulk smashed in the face and tossed into a canal. Our rage is bigger than us.

When we returned home, our feet were back in the pans of cold water while Tom and Amy went to get pizza for them and kindly got chips for us as we couldn’t physically walk anymore. We uploaded our pics, chilled out, packed and celebrated not being outside with all those people.16730201_1452867414755530_7725308376231030617_n-1

16903144_1455424244499847_4630676275197451023_oThe next day, we left. We got to the airport very early and had to sit around for half an hour until check in opened. Our bags were underweight. Hooray! We waved them off and headed to security. Everyone got through without a patdown, except Lynx who got checked for drugs. We needed a Red Bull. We went to every shop downstairs. No Red Bull. They only sold Coke or water. We needed a Red Bull. The headaches were forming. Our thirst was increasing. Our tempers were rising. We headed upstairs, our rage starting to burn brighter than a dying star. No Red Bull. This was reaching dangerous levels. This was reaching…Edinburgh levels, where Cat had a meltdown on Canongate and nearly destroyed a man’s fridge. Finally, as the meltdown started to reach Volcanic levels, we found a shop that did one. €3.3o! For a small can! We paid in disgust, cracked it open and like a bomb being diffused with seconds to spare, our rage dissipated with each sweet sip.p1200594

Mad World

Venice

Settee of Despair

Naked statues, getting lost and visiting an insane asylum island. We spent out birthday in style! We got up at 6:30 a.m.  to take Lesley to the Vaporetto. And found our apartment building’s settee (the settee of despair) on the other side of Pont San Caterina, the next street over, looking like it was contemplating throwing itself into the canal.  This was the settee we’d spent hours sat on as we waited for someone to let us into our apartment. Had our soul crushing despair seeped into its fabric? Could it no longer live with the burden of our sorrow? Or had someone just nicked it and dumped it for a practical joke? So long, settee, you were there for us in our hours of need and we will never forget you.

Museo Correr, VeniceFinally, the fog we were promised had arrived. The Vaporetto arrived at 7:30 so we scurried back, only to discover the boiler had broken so we had no heating and no hot water. Not a great start to our 34th birthday! It’s the first birthday we’ve ever spent away from home so it felt a bit strange. Though our mum and sister did video call us and we opened the presents we’d brought with us so we’d have something to open on our birthday.

Museo Correr, Venice

statues being melodramtic

We set out and went to Museo Correr. It was cool and massive, taking up half of St Mark’s Square. There were a lot of Greek statues, but half of the men were missing their penises. Now we know that in Ancient Greece having a small penis apparently meant you were highly intelligent, but we’re not sure why these statues were castrated. Were they geniuses maybe? Had Cronus snuck in and hacked at them with his sickle? Though knowing Greek myths, their lack of penises was probably a good thing, seeing how many tourists there are in Venice. Have to say, Ares has a better arse than Poseidon. When we see the statues, especially the ones posing melodramatically, we like to make up what they’re saying. In Paris, we immersed ourselves in culture by imitating the statues. In Venice, we ad libbed for them.

Museo Correr, VeniceMuseo Correr, like Doge’s Palace, had stunning ceilings. There was also a large library with beautiful engraved books. You certainly don’t get those covers on Amazon! There were also large coin collections and two Egyptian mummies, which we hadn’t expected to find. We particularly liked the handmade cabinets. They’re much fancier than our Ikea cabinets, though probably took longer to make.

Museo Correr, VeniceWe left there at 12ish and had lunch by the Grand Canal again. It’s now our spot. It’s like recreating our last day in Paris of picnicking by the Seine but without the smell and Lynx jumping in after her phone. It was really cold and foggy. To be fair, we’d requested fog for our birthday. And whilst we were happy that Venice looked suitably gothic for our birthday, we were less than impressed at the cold. At 12:30, we headed to the Vaporetto stop while Tom and Amy went shopping and returned to the apartment to chill out. While our feet were still agony, we were determined to shove as much adventure into our holiday as we could. Our feet would recover but we can’t make up for lost opportunities. Birthdays are made for adventures!

San ServoloThere was only one place where we wanted to spend our birthday: San Servolo insane asylum museum. It opened in 1725 and was run by the religious order San Giovanni di Dio. All insane men were relocated there and in 1798, women were admitted as well. Over 200,000 patients were admitted and most would never leave. It closed in 1978 following a change in Italian law and the Venice government created the “Istituto per le Ricerche e gli Studi sull ‘Emarginazione Sociale e Culturale’.” In other words, the Institute for the Study of Social and Cultural Marginalization. This was to preserve documents related to the history of the hospital.

San ServoloIn 2006, it opened in its current form as a museum. There are nine sections: laboratory; ambulatory; didactic products; sickness therapies; straitjackets; the sick; lodgings; pharmacy and anatomical theatre. Archives house photos of patients from 1874 to the 20th century. The rare trees on the island once supplied the pharmacy.

San Servolo

apothecary

It was foggy on the way over to San Servolo so was really atmospheric. This is the side of Venice we wanted to see. We like to peel back the skin of a beautiful city to watch its dark heart beat below the surface. We wondered whether we should be concerned that unlike other vaporettos where there was barely room to sit, this one had four passengers on board. We were two of them. Our horror brains warned us this was bad. Like we were being unwittingly shipped off to an abandoned island to be sacrifices. Our writers’ brains tingled at the possibility of a story being created from this eeriness. And our anxious brains just loved the peace and being away from people.

San Servolo

anatomical theatre

We landed at 12:45 so wandered the island filming and taking photos. The island now houses a university and a hotel. The Venice International University opened in 1995. But we were here for a different form of education. With all the fog surrounding the island and the silence it created, it felt like we were the only ones on the island. And the only island in existence. It was perfect. It’s rare to experience feeling so isolated in the world. We then decided to head inside to hide from the cold. We should’ve worn our big coats but vanity overruled sensibility and we wanted our outfits to be seen. According to overpriced magazines, beauty is worth suffering for.

San Servolo

asylum chapel

At two, the guide appeared. There were only two other girls on the tour. They were Czech and university students so the guide just pointed to the information and did his best to talk to us in English. We visited the 18th century apothecary first. That was fascinating. All the medicines were kept in pretty porcelain jars as they were herbs. It’s so different from the plastic bottles and blister packs we have today. The museum is inside the university. After the apothecary, we went to the anatomical theatre. It had the examination slab, real skulls who looked like they were in gurning competition and real preserved brains. We could’ve stayed in there all day. It was interesting to read how they preserved the brains. Might come in handy for future…writing. Definitely future writing.

San Servolo

different forms of restraints

In another part of the university, we saw patient admittance records, patient photos of before they were admitted and after they were discharged. The difference was incredible. They went in looking like how asylum patients are usually photographed and came out looking healthy. They’d gained weight. One looked suspiciously like Tom. There were also things the patients had made and a room filled with various restraints – some, like the leather muff and lock gloves, were new to us – and information on the hydrotherapy, where they would be blasted with cold water or put in a bath for up to 12 hours. We get wrinkly after thirty minutes! Another room contained medical equipment.

San Servolo

ECT machine

The guide asked us how we knew of San Servolo. It seems tourists don’t tend to enjoy visits to insane asylum museums. We know. How do these people have fun? We explained about our interest in psychiatric hospitals. If a tourist destination has anything remotely unusual or creepy, we will find it. Research is part of our job. We also explained how usually, the hospitals we visit aren’t exactly open to the public. He looked nervous, like we might use our urb ex skills to hide out there. Not today, sir. But next time…

San ServoloWe caught the ferry back and decided to explore parts of Venice we haven’t seen before so we went through San Marco a different way and walked through Dorsoduro and San Polo before heading back over the Rialto bridge. Only went wrong a few times and that was when we encountered streets that weren’t named on our map. We can get home from Rialto now. We were wandering for two hours! Our feet were not happy. We stumbled across the shop of the guy who made masks for the film Eyes Wide Shut.

Lynx trying the vegan pizza

Lynx trying the vegan pizza

We headed back, put our feet in cold water, like we’ve done every day then went out for chips with Tom and Amy. We’d been gone five hours! We tried some of Tom’s vegan pizza. We’ve never eaten pizza before, not even in our pre-vegan days, but we figured as we were in Italy, we should probably be brave and try Italian food. It was covered in tomato sauce and herbs. And nothing else. We could smell the herbs as Tom walked past us with the closed box and when we saw the pizza, we nearly backed out.

Cat eating the vegan pizza

Cat eating the vegan pizza

But we’d vowed we’d eat an Italian pizza so damn it, we were doing it. If we can hold a tarantula, we can eat a tiny bit of pizza. It was officially the most disgusting thing we’ve ever put in our mouths. It took a lot of chips and Red Bull to rid ourselves of the foul taste. Even now, in quiet moments, it haunts us. Tom and Amy went back to eat the offensive pizza in the apartment while we headed for the vegan gelato place. Us “Due vegano per favore.” He responded in English. Damn it good sir, we’re trying to be cultured here!

We finished the day with uploading photos, writing this blog and doing our squat challenge. 150. Happy birthday to us.

Museo Correr

mirror images

Glass Act

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We set off for the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), determined that one day was going to go to plan. Each time we go to San Marco, we end up finding a new route there. We’re claiming this as a deliberate mistake to see a lot of Venice and not because our method of ‘keeping heading south’ is not an accurate way to navigate. Normally on holiday we like to do a lot of things, such as visiting as many places as we can squeeze in before closing time. Wandering around, whilst fun on our way to somewhere, does not feel like a productive use of our time. We didn’t pay all this money to walk around. What would we we write in our postcards? ‘Spent five days walking around Venice. Our feet hurt. Wish you were here.’ No. We want to cram so much into our holiday that our family struggle to read all the information on the postcard.

Doge's PalaceWe went to the palace and the guard remembered us. We bought a museum pass so we can do 11 museums. That should keep us busy for the rest of our trip. The palace was stunning. The rooms are huge, the ceilings are beautifully painted and there’s just so much to look at. KT, our polefit instructor, had done splits in the grand hall when she visited in November and we promised to honour the class by doing a pose. We did a double figurehead pose. It was the best we could manage without flashing the other tourists. We’d promised Neen that this holiday, our posteriors would not make a guest appearance.

Doge's Palace

double figure head

The armoury was very impressive and puts our weapons collection to shame. Granted, we don’t have the room for that much weaponry but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Some of the swords were taller than us! Each time we saw the sign for the prisons, we got excited. They were the main reason we wanted to visit the Doge’s Palace and they were saving the best ‘til last. It’s like they knew that if we saw the prisons first, we’d spend all our time there and wouldn’t bother with the rest of the palace. Venice, we’ve only been together two days and you already know us well. Cat found some cell-like doors in the armoury and tried the bolts. They slid back. Before she could open the door, a worker appeared like a ninja and slid the bolts closed again. Maybe Casanova was still inside.

Doge's PalaceWe went over the Bridge of Sighs to the New Prison. That was cool. We imagine the prisoners didn’t appreciate the view of the Grand Canal as much as we did, what with the impending torture they would receive on the other side. Though we failed to cross it without thinking of The Small Faces’ ‘Itchycoo Park’. “Over Bridge of Sighs…” We wondered how many other tourists failed this challenge. We got very excited at seeing the prison. Nobody else on the tour seemed as excited as we were. We ended up going the wrong around the area near the courtyard and got totally lost. This would trigger a habit of going the wrong way around museums that we were unable to break. When in Rome…no wait, wrong city.

Doge's Palace

prison cell

We were able to go inside some of the cells and one area had wooden planks on the floor. We lifted one to see if anyone skeletons lay beneath, grinning at their impending discovery in the longest game of hide and seek. Sadly it was just dirt. A child loitered to watch us do it. Look away, kid, we are a bad example of how to behave in public. Doge's PalaceOne room was filled with prisoners’ graffiti. Mostly it was our level of drawing skills, with badly drawn people and it was clear they hadn’t seen female company for a while as someone drew boobs up by the neck. One prisoner was clearly gifted and had done an amazing portrait of a woman, boobs in the correct place as well. There was also a graffiti penis. Even back in 17thc Venice, men were drawing penises on walls. It’s almost comforting to learn that our male high school classmates had so much in common with 17th Venetian prisoners.

Doge's Palace

Bridge of Sighs

We had lunch sitting by the Grand Canal then educated ourselves on the vaporetto and caught one to Murano. The vaporettos are incredibly punctual, which makes a nice change. Turned out, we could’ve caught one by the Fondemente Nove, by our apartment. We didn’t realise we were supposed to get off on the museum stop and got off three stops too early. It was Paris all over again. But it meant we got to explore Murano. We bought ourselves Murano glass pens with glass nibs, ink and a glass stand. They write beautifully. Being writers, we can’t resist pens, especially novelty ones, but these are the finest in our collection. We were allowed to test them in our shop so drew our C L Raven wings signature and a skull. So should the shop face bankruptcy, the owner can sell that on eBay and raise about 5 cents.

Murano

Murano

We got lost trying to find the museum and had to ask for directions. The lady couldn’t speak English but hand signals are universal so we were able to follow her directions. The museum pieces were lovely. So intricate! We didn’t think it would be very interesting but we really enjoyed it. We were so nervous we were going to break something, but fortunately, most of it is safe in glass cabinets. There was even glass barbed wire! We found more shops and bought our mum a multi-coloured Murano vase, our sister a blue Murano photoframe and our niece a set of green sealions. The woman in the shop couldn’t speak English and we didn’t learn the Italian for ‘sealions’ so we used the fail-safe method of pointing. She laughed and said “multi-lingual.” Yes, our mastery of language is impressive.

Murano

Murano glass butterflies

We caught the vaporetto to Fondemente Nove, convinced the boat was going to sink under the amount of people on board. It was like public transport at rush hour. We protected our Murano gifts, ready to growl and bare our teeth at anyone who so much breathed near our bags. We returned to the apartment, uploaded our photos then went out to get chips and chilled out in the apartment for a bit. We immersed ourselves in culture by watching a French film in Italian and making up dialogue for the characters.

Murano

glass centrepiece

We think our improv was funnier, though not as funny as the lead actress’s dress sense. Then we went out for drinks, as it was Lesley’s last night. After getting lost trying to find the nice bar we’d found on Tuesday, we ended up in a Jazz bar. First time for everything. There were bras hanging from the ceiling. We find the classiest places. We’re so cultured. We wondered if it was a custom of ‘donate a bra, get a free drink.’ Sorry, but our Ann Summers bras would cost an entire round and we’d rather be jiggle free in public. Then when we got back to the apartment, Lynx realised she’d left her gloves in the bar, so we had to go back. Luckily we found them.

One thing we’ve noticed – the dogs don’t care. There are a LOT of dogs in Venice. And not one of them even looks our way. It’s crushing.

Doge's Palace

us and Tom being prisoners

Corpse Groom

VeniceOn Wednesday, we woke so full of hope. We were going to visit dungeons and torture chambers and not allow Tuesday’s curse to hang over us. We were going to conquer Venice and finally achieve something. We were…going to fail.

We decided to head to St Mark’s Square – Piazetto San Marco – and the Doge’s Palace. Doge’s Palace had been top of our list for museums. We’d promised KT, our Polefit instructor that we would honour the class in the palace. We ended up going the same route we took on Tuesday night and eventually found our way to St Mark’s Square using a combination of a little bit of map reading and mostly guesswork. The guesswork consists of ‘keeping heading south’. St Mark’s Basilica is beautiful.Venice It’s where St Mark’s body is kept, after the Venetians stole it and claimed him as their saint. They also stole the lion on the post that is his symbol and the horses on the Basilica. The Basilica also has a ghost story attached. On the corner of the Basilica are two lights, which tradition claims they symbolise atonement for when Venice wrongfully condemned Pietro Faccioli, a little baker boy, to death. On the corner of the Basilica is an execution block where he was decapitated. He was accused of killing a nobleman, Alvise Guoro. The block was a section of column in perfidy brought from Acri. Since the boy’s death, on foggy nights, people report seeing blood drops on it. clock tower, Venice

We couldn’t find it. There’s a surprise. It’s the story of our lives, being in the area something is and not finding it. As we discovered when we went to the front of the doge’s palace – Ducale Palazzo – and realised we had walked right past St Mark’s Square on our first night and didn’t see it. If only we had looked to our left. Yes. We walked past Venice’s most famous square and Did. Not. See. It. In our defence, it was dark. And we weren’t looking. And it was dark.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We wanted to do a secret itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace but we’d read that at midday during the carnivale, an acrobat jumps from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. As it was 11:30, we decided to hold off on the tour until after the acrobat. It didn’t happen. We decided to do the tour, and the guard with the metal scanner at the entrance took one look at the metal on our outfits and laughed. He didn’t speak much English but managed ‘sexy’ as he waved us inside. Once inside, we couldn’t decide which tour to do. We wanted to see the dungeons and the cells where Cassanova was kept. Yes, that Cassanova – world’s greatest lover – he was jailed for hitting on the magistrate’s girlfriend. And we wanted to see the torture chamber. Y’know, the touristy stuff. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world, the day after Valentine’s Day and we wanted to see the place where people were tortured. And people think romance is dead! We suspected the secret itineraries tour was the one we wanted but the last one was at 11:35. So instead of wasting half an hour for an acrobat that didn’t show, we could’ve done the tour. Now we had to wait until Thursday. Yet another wasted day. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wasting time. It can’t be replaced. Our fury was reaching a level considered dangerous. Tourists were looking nervous. We cracked open a Red Bull and tried to deactivate Tantrum Mode.Venice

So our day wasn’t a complete disappointment, we decided to check out haunted spots we’d researched. We walked across the water front and stopped at a pizzeria so we could finally get some wi-fi. Well, the others wanted food, we just wanted the internet. It was a good job too because our sister video called us with exciting news: we have a new guinea pig! He’s two years old, called Shadow (we might change that because we had a cat called Shadow) and his owner was about to give him to Cefn Mably farm because he and the other guinea pig he was with kept fighting. So we got to see him on video, as well as our duck, our youngest cat and our dog, who was very excited to hear us and even waved at the phone. Much nicer than his usual response, which is to ignore us on the phone. While our friends enjoyed their lunch, we sat by the Grand Canal eating Discos and waving at our pets. Time well spent.

Venice

At the Grand Canal

We made our way to the island of San Pietro and San Pietro church. It was in a lovely, quiet residential part of Venice. That’s the great thing about incorporating haunted stuff into your holiday – you get to see parts of the place you wouldn’t normally see. San Pietro’s story involves two lovers – Ennio and Tosca. They met in Treviso where she lived and he worked. They swore eternal love and vowed to marry, dead or alive. Technically, two corpses marrying would be impossible as they’d be unable to say the vows and you don’t even want to think about the wedding night. Mind you, Corpse Bride managed it. Ennio, on return from a job in Florence, became ill and died within hours. Tosca didn’t know. The following night, Tosca was in bed and heard Ennio call to her from the courtyard. She ran to the window and he said, “hurry up and get ready, then come downstairs without saying a word to anyone. We’re going to get married in Venice.”Venice

Now our response would have been something along the lines of “get off our land,” but Tosca, although confused, was so in love with him that she didn’t argue. We suspect this is how most marriages happen. After a while of walking, Tosca offered Ennio bread. He said “don’t you know that the dead don’t need to eat?” A gust of wind then transported them to San Pietro. We could’ve done with that magical wind today – saved our poor feet. Tosca was too terrified to scream. Ennio left her outside the priest’s house while he went to fetch witnesses. Tosca shouted to the priest for help. The priest ran down to let her in so she explained the story. He didn’t believe her. To be fair to him, it does sound made up. Magical winds? Dead groom proposing marriage? Hollywood has probably already done this and it probably stars Johnny Depp.

Venice

San Pietro

Then the priest looked out the window and saw Ennio with a group of musicians. He had buried Ennio that day and knew he was looking at a band of dead souls. Ennio said “I want my fiancée, because we swore that dead or alive, we would be married.” The priest said “Away with you, you damned soul. Go away, you and your friends.” Ennio “Give me at least her ring finger or I will never leave her alone.” The priest told Tosca there was no other choice, (um, how about ‘no’) cut off her ring finger and threw it out the window. Ennio caught it and left with the band. Tosca’s mind never recovered and she refused to leave the priest’s house. The priest looked after her until one evening she left and was never seen again.

San Pietro Venice

San Pietro church

At night, she can be seen wandering in front of the church in elegant 19thc clothing, dressed as though for a wedding ceremony. She wanders and moans as she searches for her ring finger, because without it, she can’t enter the church to be married. We also couldn’t enter the church but that’s because we weren’t dressed modestly, not because a priest had chopped off our fingers. Plus you had to pay to enter and the ghosts haunt outside.

We made our way back to towards our apartment and en route, bought ourselves a flail. Y’know, typical Venetian souvenir. Then we ended up by the Fondamente Nove, which is also haunted by the girl who was never buried. On 29th November 1904, Francesco Quintavalle, captain of the vaporetto “Pellestrina” left Fondamente Nove for Burano, despite visibility being almost zero. Two gondolas rowed by Antonio Rosso and Andeto Camozzo were filled with inhabitants from Murano on their way back from Venice. They waited for Francesco to pass the tip of San Michele then left to ferry  their passengers home. Francesco passed the cemetery then decided to reverse. He didn’t see the gondolas and crashed into them. Rosso’s gondola split in two and sank. Four people were pulled on to the vaporetto, but five women disappeared. Rescue efforts began immediately and lasted through the night.

Fondamente NoveSeveral hours later, Maria Tosa Bullo was seen clinging to a post. She was taken to Murano but died a few minutes later. Lia Toso Borella and Amalia Padovan Vistosi’s lifeless bodies were found the next morning in the stern of the gondola. The remaining two passengers – Teresa Sandon and a little girl, Giuseppina Gabriel Carmelo – weren’t found.

In September 1905, Teresa Sandon appeared to her sister in a dream and said “pray for me, for my soul, because my body is still imprisoned, but if you pray it will be freed from the bindings that hold it to the bottom of the canal, and I can rest in blessed ground.” Ten days later, a battered body was found by two fishermen in the canal of the ‘Bissa’ towards the island of the Vignole. The scarf she wore identified her as Teresa.

Giuseppina was never found. But on foggy nights, a floating casket can be seen, lit by candles so ferry boats don’t crash into her.Fondamente Nova

We returned to our apartment to rest our aching feet in a saucepan of cold water and write the blog. After an hour and a half’s rest, we headed out for food and ended up in a pasta place. Tom, Amy and Lesley all ordered. We tried our best to explain to the waiter ‘vegano’ but he couldn’t speak English and gestured for us to point to what we wanted on the menu. We pointed out chips, but ‘what are your chips cooked in’ and ‘are they cooked separately from the meat/fish’ wasn’t available to point at. We didn’t have internet access to Google translate either. We’d just about mastered basic Italian. So we just said ‘no food’. It’s easier that way. He then seemed really affronted that we were taking up breathing space and not eating as he brusquely gathered our glasses, cutlery and plates and marched off. Calm down, sir, we’re just not eating. It’s not like we punched your mother.

vegan gelatoWe then returned to the chip shop for our meal then headed to one of the gelato places on our list that did vegan gelato. We had the cherry/vanilla and it was even listed as ‘vegano’. This is what we like to see. Is it really so hard to just add ‘vegan’ to a label on food? Whilst we ate, we made our way to a pub we had seen last night – The Devil’s Forest. It turned out to be an English pub. Which meant it had football on TV. Real Madrid and Naples. We had to constantly endure deafening chants of ‘Napoli’ as we tried to play a great card game, Million Dollars But. The guy next to Lynx kept knocking her and she was sorely tempted to punch him, but we’ve never started a bar fight and would like to keep that record clean.

The pub had promised us wi-fi but the barman didn’t know the password, so we returned to a café whose wi-fi we had used before and had memorised their password so we could lurk and use it without buying anything. We know that’s bad etiquette but we needed it to access our email as our host had emailed us our apartment’s wi-fi password. That would have been useful before. Lesley then joined us and bought a coffee. We hurriedly uploaded our 200 photos under the waiter’s suspicious gaze. The upload was slow. Lesley had finished her coffee and was ready to leave. The waiter watched us. The upload icon was spinning. Lesley stood. The waiter moved closer. The photo upload froze. We avoided eye contact with the waiter. The photos uploaded. We shut down the laptop and fled before we had to buy a drink we hated. Now we know how Jack Bauer feels when he’s downloading information onto a usb stick while armed men hunt for him. Note to selves – sit further away from the establishment whose wi-fi you’re stealing.St Mark's Basilica