Let's get the envy-inducing bit out of the way at the start: I'm sitting less than a metre from the Grand Canal, listening to church bells tolling and the lapping of the water against the walls, and watching the sun glint off the ripples left by passing boats. All courtesy of Michelle Lovric, who has very kindly let me stay in her lovely palazzo (which has featured elsewhere on ABBA) while I try to resurrect some characters from 16th century Venice. I left them behind in 2007 when they wouldn't quite do what I wanted. One I executed, a couple of others I sent off to Constantinople, some I had die of the plague, one was murdered and another exiled. It's good the revenges you can have on wayward characters, isn't it? But now I have to persuade them to play with me again and they are - understandably, given my treatment of them in the past - rather wary.
I've been to their palazzo, which is currently being used for the Scottish pavilion of the Biennale, and tried to coax them out. I went onto the altana where my heroine bleaches her hair in the sun, and looked at the view she has of the bridge to Campo Santa Marina, a view that is important in her story. Later I'll take a boat to the Lido and trace her route around the Lazaretto Vecchio, the plague hospital she escaped.
It's not quite like meeting up with old friends, as old friends have generally been doing something in the intervening years and these people are pretty much where I left them. But as we get re-acquainted, I'm beginning to see that there are things I'd got wrong about them. That man I thought was led astray by his embittered brother was actually rather more blameworthy than he seemed; and his wife is a bit of a slut, to be honest. I still don't know whether they will now be willing to engage with me enough to kickstart the story, but it's fun to spend time with them again. Perhaps we've all moved on, and at the end of the week I'll leave them to a watery grave and light a candle for them in Zanipolo. But at the moment it looks as though some of their surprises might bring the story back to life. I've discovered a secret key wasn't lost in the canal, and a clue that had fallen down the back of the bed. There are a number of darlings that need to be slaughtered, and I'm still unsure whether we need a major structural overhaul. Meeting them on their home territory is a good way to open negotiations again. And if I'm found at the bottom of Rio Santa Marina wrapped in a sail stolen from the Arsenale and chained to a block of Istrian stone, you'll know that they got the upper hand.