Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'm coming home to stay

Today. The Venice adventure is over. It has been fun. I will blog on anyway I guess.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Freaky weather

September the 11th is a sad anniversary for residents of Venice and the lagoon. The significant event was not the famous attack on New York in 2001, however. Instead, the tornado of 1970, which left 37 dead, many after a boat was lifted into the air. On a day when Florida and Alabama suffered a buffering from the weather systems of the Atlantic, we were served up a minature reminder of the curious possibilities created by Venice's weird microclimate.

Across the lagoon to the north a promontary runs from the mainland in the north down towards the north edge of Venice's lido. Susie and I were on a beach on the eastern shore yesterday afternoon. It was a fine day to the east and the sun was hot. We were aware, however, that behind us a storm appeared to be blowing. As the clous built up behind us it has a perculiar feature: what appeared to be a tornado.

When the sun was finally overtaken by clouds, there was a sudden mass exodus from the busy beach. Upon reaching the road some 60 ar 70 yards behind the beach, we found people out on the street, all discussing the same thing: a tornado. As we had been sunbathing, 50 yards away a tornado had swept through, depositing hailstones, and rearranging the dust and burned plantlife of a hot summer's day. I am glad to report there were no injuries.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Having stayed in the pub until the early hours watching Sky news; seeing the pale, shocked face of Tony Blair, and the walls of Tavistock Square an unnatural blood-spattered pink, it was hard to know how anyone could be reacting in any way which could be described as stoic. And yet that adjective was used time after time by correspondants and politicians. The reaction of many seems to have been typically, upliftingly 'Londoner', and perhaps what is being called stoicism is best illustrated by the follwing snippets.

A London taxi driver said: "...people are getting on with it. It's marvellous that they're showing their backbone. The thing is, with us Londoners, we're used to the IRA. We don't know anything else. You don't like it, but you learn to deal with it."

The IHT reports that yesterday afternoon, there were cues of people waiting to give blood on Edgeware road.

A Swedish woman who was on one of the tube trains said: "The car quickly filled with smoke, and a lot of people used their umbrellas to try to break the windows so that we could get air."

To not let terrorists win, life must go on. Seeing Brian Paddick at a news conference yesterday reminded me of the interview he had given after the Old Compton Street nail bombing. That has not been forgotten, but Soho is again vibrant and busy. London will recover from this, but perhaps the most important thing is that it does not colour our views: on Iraq, on ID cards, on the war on terror, on immigration.

As for stoicism, the ability to help each other keep on keeping on is only a small part of it. The deeper challenge presented by Stoicism will be much more difficult, but no less important. As Marcus Aurelius puts it:

"When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you'll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they're misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?"

Of course it is so hard, with people still trapped in the tunnel between Kings Cross and Russel Square. But one thing we cannot and will not do is fight hate with hate.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London bombing

The scale of what happened this morning in London is not yet entirely clear. As far as I know none of my friends and colleagues were not involved, but there are many who I don't know for sure weren't. Having spent five years half expecting an attack, but having always assumed it would be targeted on the City or Docklands, rather than the area around UCL - Tavistovk Sq, Russel Sq and Great Portland Street, and with Si living at Sandwich St, the concurrent feelings of closeness and distance as a result of being in Venice are really quite strange. I don't really have anything to say, and yet...

A dark day.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Implausible deniability?

Two news items caught the eye today, one very silly, the other not so.

Having seen his club win the Superbowl for the third time in three years, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was understandably proud to show off his 124 diamond winners ring when he and other business moguls met Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Having taken off the ring to show Putin, Kraft may have been surprised when Putin tried it on, put it in his pocket, and walked out of the room. Expensive misunderstanding or generous gift? We may never know. But as James Alder summises: "If Kraft's intention was to present Putin with his prized possession, then it was a very generous offer. If he did not, however, this could develop into a huge embarrassment for Kraft and the United States should he attempt to recover it." Quite.

A more serious item has excited the Italian news agenda this week. On 17th Feb 2003, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (aka Abu Omar) was kidnapped while walking down a Milan street, and flown to his native Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured. A week ago, an Italian judge ordered the arrest of 13 foreign (nationalities unspecified) CIA operatives under Ialian kidnapping laws. Berlusconi is in a tricky position. Did he collaberate with the CIA to break Italian law? Or did the CIA unilaterally carry out a covert kidnapping in the land of one of it's allies in Iraq? The CIA implausible claim that "rendition" was undertaken without the knowledge of Italian security services, but with the knowledge of certain Italian officials, in order to protect the CIA's usual cover story viz. "plausible deniablity."

Finally, we are currently plagued by a TV ad campaign fronted by the stupidly beautiful Adriana Lima. You can watch them here, should you wish, and I include a photo for information purposes only!