I am just back from a short holiday to Venice and Florence.What am I bringing back, Officer? Not much.
Two tiny fridge magnets. A blue and gold postcard of the bold lion of St Mark on the façade of the Clock Tower. Two Pinocchio pens for small people. Assorted tickets and receipts to remember restaurants and hotels.
Anything else. Madam? Well, yes.
Venice. Alleys and passageways. Footsteps in the dark. Music pounding from an early morning delivery boat passing below the window. Ice creams. A meal on sun-washed square, watching people pass and children play. Another restaurant, squashed, brisk and busy. A master violinist who almost danced and jigged as a method of competently conducting his small orchestra through Vivaldi. The soft melting blueness of the wide lagoon in the late afternoon, seen from the back of a vaporetto.
Florence. The sudden noise of traffic! The wide,greenish Arno. The host of statues striking heroic poses in the Piazza del Signori. The three men on the crane platform inspecting the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in the same bold heroic manner. The painted bodies tumbling down, down on the inside of Il Duomo. The holy gold biblical comic-strip in the Baptistry ceiling. A day in The Uffizi’s time-line of paintings when I almost began to understand the History of Art. The vast cool naves of the empty churches. The utter style of the shop window displays. The stalls piled high in the food market. The frequent scent of leather.
So much, so much - and more to declare, Officer. Of course there are photographs but I haven’t even begun on them yet. These are the pictures in my head.
Just now I’m not sure if any will ever be translated into a flickering moment in a story. But I’ll try to keep the memories warm, in case.
I wonder what have you brought back through customs from your adventures?
Penny's latest novel is A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E (Bloomsbury)