Archive for July, 2013

Jul
10

A medley of today

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I’m about to shimmer away for a few days in Frankfurt for a big boating event on the river Main, so I won’t be posting till next week.

Here are a few of the things I saw today, just to keep you in the mood.

The morning started with the news that the Ponte della Liberta', the only bridge connecting Venice to the rest of the world, was blocked yesterday due to an acci

The morning started with this not-unusual news: (Left) CAR TURNS OVER ON THE PONTE DELLA LIBERTA’ (the only bridge connecting Venice to the rest of the world) TRAFFIC STOPPED FOR TWO HOURS.  This is repeated by its neighbor newspaper on the right: PONTE DELLA LIBERTA’ TRAFFIC PARALYZED.  May I note that whenever this happens, I wonder why the city doesn’t concentrate more on making an improvement which would help everybody all the time — unlike a certain acqua-alta project I could mention — by constructing a breakdown lane on the freaking bridge already.  When the bridge is blocked, everything stops — sometimes trains, too.  As a bonus, we see on the left: TRAIN STATION: A PICKPOCKET LIFTS 35,000 EUROS FROM A JAPANESE WOMAN. And she was carrying that much cash because………?? All I can say is, the person who stole that much money must be an instant legend among his friends and family.  All Lino can say is, “It was probably a put-up job.”

This little sylph was already so beguiling in her summer garb with a bow in her hair that the ice cream seems almost de trop.  But not to her.  She has evidently discovered some flaw that requires closer analysis, and perhaps immediate correction via her nearby father.

This little sylph was already so beguiling in her summer garb, up to the color-coordinated hairband with bow,that the ice cream seems almost de trop. But not to her. She has evidently discovered some flaw that requires closer analysis, and perhaps immediate correction via her nearby father.

I suppose if the world is divided between cat and dog people, it must also be divided between sunrise and sunset people.  I personally go for both.  This is the latter, but it looks just as good at dawn.

I suppose if the world is divided between cat and dog people, it must also be divided between sunrise and sunset people. I personally go for both. This is the latter, but it looks just as good at dawn.

But I have to say that I do sleep better knowing that the great Bartolomeo Colleoni is always on watch.

But I have to say that I do sleep better knowing that the great Bartolomeo Colleoni is always on watch.

 

Categories : Venetian-ness
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Jul
08

The Saga of the Lost Oar

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These are "Cherub"'s oars in happier days.

These are “Cherub”‘s oars in happier days.

I toil for two weeks every May in the registration office of the Vogalonga.  And every year, something interesting occurs.  This year, that “something” was more than usually diverting.  It had to do with the search and rescue of a foreign oar.

Everything started with an e-mail a week before the event, sent to the office from an English rower, Dr. Adrian Hodge; he was planning to come with his Thames skiff, “Cherub,” and a group from his rowing club (Norfolk Skiff Club). As it was the first time they were undertaking this little quadrille, he wanted information on the parking and boat-launching facilities, which I took it upon myself to supply, along with a batch of my usual unsolicited observations and comments, no extra charge.

Technical digression: “Cherub” is 8 meters/26 feet long, is said to date from the 1890s, and was built at Richmond on Thames. Unfortunately all the records of the company which built her were destroyed when the boat yard was sold in the 1960s, so Adrian doesn’t know who was the original owner.

The oars with monogram.

The oars with monogram.

So they came, they rowed the Vogalonga, they pulled “Cherub” out of the water, loaded it on the trailer, drove the 1,700 km (1,056 miles) home to Norfolk, and unloaded the boat.

Following is a highly condensed version of the most pertinent of the numerous e-mails that ensued.

Dear Erla,

The journey back to England was uneventful, apart from the weather, and I have just inspected the skiff to make sure that she had returned unscathed. To my horror I discovered that we have lost a scull (oar). A moment’s thought and I remembered that we had used a scull to position the lifting strops for the crane on Monday. I suppose that someone put it down on the ground and we simply left it behind. It was beside the orange painted fixed crane and Michele was in charge of the crane team. I’m sorry to lose it because it is antique and carries the monogram of a previous owner of the boat, so, if you have the opportunity to put the word around, and if it turns up, keep it somewhere and I hope that it can be repatriated next year. I’m sending you a picture too, so that if you see it decorating a bar, you will know where it came from! Since the photos it has lost its copper end and had some repairs to the tip. 

Although I dislike disasters, I do enjoy a challenge, so I leapt into action.

Dear Adrian:

I have spoken with the organizers of the Vogalonga and they say they know nothing, and have heard nothing, about your oar.

However, they did suggest that you tell me where you took the boat out of the water.  If you would tell me this detail, I will attempt to contact whoever is responsible for that area.

He replied: We lifted the boat out at the quay just before the bridge to Tronchetto.  There were three cranes and we used the centre one which was painted orange and had Scalo Fluviale and a number 2 on it.  Michele was in charge.  He was driving the forklift truck.

I called the Scalo Fluviale, and they knew all about the oar.  “Sure, we have it,” they told me.  Why should there be panic, stress, visions of mayhem? “It’s right here.”

OAR FOUND!!!! I e-mailed Adrian. I love good news, especially when it’s unexpected.

You are incomparable, he replied.  (I liked that bit.) My prayers to St. Anthony of Padua have been answered. My next plan was to get some real Catholics to pray to him too.

On the practical front, the oar is 290cm (9.5 feet) long and weighs 2.0 kg (in fact, a bit less).  Normal parcel post is restricted to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet).  I think that the most practical method will be for me to fly out and collect it, but first I must make sure the airline will carry it and that I can get it to the airport.

That was an interesting aspect of the project.  How was that going to work? Simple: It wasn’t, as Adrian quickly discovered.

The airlines put it in the same category as a vaulting pole and won’t carry it.  (I haven’t found time yet to satisfy my newfound curiosity about how vaulting poles make it from home to the Olympics.)  DHL will carry items up to 300 cm long, so that must be the default method. I can fly to Venice Tuesday morning, collect the item, wrap it, and deliver it to a DHL collection point, then fly back Tuesday evening.

The day before his arrival, I went to the Scalo Fluviale to locate the oar.  There it was, propped against the office wall, looking pensive.

Some phone calls had already revealed that the nearest DHL collection point was at Piazzale Roma, a mere few minutes away.  This was another happy surprise; I had had nightmare visions of some storefront in the heart of darkest Mestre. I went by to check on the details of the consignment.  On the way home and I bought an exaggerated amount of bubblewrap (nightmare visions of coming up two inches short); unfortunately the bubbles were small, but there was no alternative. I wasn’t up to rigging a splint, and figured if we used enough (but not so much as to exceed the length limit), it ought to work.

Yes, I had become “we.”

Tuesday morning I went to Piazzale Roma to meet Adrian and his wife, Lynne, as they got off the bus from Treviso airport (sure, let’s add another hour and ten minutes each way to the day’s schedule…).

This was our peak moment.

This was our peak moment.

I'im holding 500 square meters of bubblewrap, or so it seems, while we examine the patient and plan our attack.

I’m holding 500 square meters of bubblewrap, or so it seems, while we examine the patient and plan our attack.

We walked to the Scalo Fluviale; the oar was brought out, we wrapped it, we distributed bottles of wine dripping with gratitude to all and sundry (for the record, it was Enrico who had found the oar). We carried the oar, like some titanic assegai, back to Piazzale Roma and the DHL office, where we created a moment of consternation.

Paperwork completed, payment made, oar consigned, deep sighs of relief and satisfaction breathed, we went to a nearby trattoria where Adrian and Lynne treated me to a sumptuous and princely lunch.

On our way toward Piazzale Roma, we presented Enrico (center) with a bottle of wine.  Unfortunately not vintage, but I think it was probably amusing nonetheless.  The bubbly oar is still standing at attention.

On our way toward Piazzale Roma, we presented Enrico (center) with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately not vintage, but I think it was probably amusing nonetheless. The bubbly oar is still standing at attention.

But hold the happily-ever-after.  “We must expect reverses, even defeats,” Robert E. Lee remarked, though not to us personally.  “They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.” I’ll make a note of it, because…..

The oar arrived at 3:15, Adrian e-mailed me, but the end, complete with monogram, was smashed to pieces. I tried to fit it together like a jigsaw, but the wood was crushed too much….It must have been crushed under something heavy, because the wood is deformed. I can’t save this limb and must amputate. I’ll make a sloping cut straight across where the wood is sound and glue on a new piece of wood. Then I’ll shape a new end. Many oars are made like that from new. Unfortunately the monogram will be lost. I’m debating with myself whether to fake that. In general my policy is one of honest repair rather than renovation, preserving as much of the original as possible, but clearly showing any new material.

Adrian is currently involved in some other, more urgent projects, so I haven’t seen the final version yet.  But as any pulverized oar will tell you, the worst is clearly over.

I guess now you could say we’re at happily-ever-after.  In any case, the adventure has been immortalized in a clip which is on the club’s website  (and on YouTube) — set to the tune of the irrepressible Jimmy Durante singing “The Guy Who Found the Lost Chord.”  For e-mail readers, here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Kby8OYXyUtQ

Lynne is holding the oar and the delivery-driver seems at peace with the world. But now that I look closer, the part of the oar that's touching the ground looks a little wrong. As indeed it was.

Lynne is holding the oar and the delivery-driver seems at peace with the world. But now that I look closer, the part of the oar that’s touching the ground looks a little wrong. As indeed it was.

It hurts me too much to say anything.

It hurts me too much to say anything.

And yet, the oar, rising phoenix-like from the woodshavings, will row again.

And yet, the oar, rising phoenix-like from the woodshavings, will row again.

 

Categories : Boatworld
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Jul
04

Birdsong and bluster

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This is the scene.

This is the scene.

As you well know, if you’ve stuck with me, I am driven to gnash my teeth more often than is dentally advisable at the uncivilized, un-neighborly behavior of certain people around here.

But then I come across something that demonstrates that I personally am still in the safe zone, because “neighbors” to me is a vague, general term that means everybody and nobody. On the other hand, some residents define “neighbor” as the ballbuster who lives next door who (A) annoys me or (B) annoys me.  According to whichever neighbor you are.

Here is what I discovered: two signs attached to what evidently was once a shop (as is the case with many closed doors and windows) and which has become someone’s garage/basement/attic/storeroom, here generally called a magazzino.

I am now going to file this in my TAKE THAT! folder, just as soon as I make it.

I WANTED TO THANK THE PERSON WHO WITH SO MUCH ZEAL REGISTERED AN ACCUSATION WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL  BECAUSE OF MY CANARIES.  BECAUSE DUE TO THE OFFICIAL INSPECTION IT HAS BEEN SHOWN THAT I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED AND DILIGENT BREEDER. A TRUE, AND I UNDERLINE TRUE, ANIMAL LOVER. THEREFORE, AS SUCH, THANKS FOR HAVING BEEN ABLE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT. BUT I HAVE TO REPRIMAND YOU, AS A TAXPAYING ITALIAN. BECAUSE THE COMMUNITY FUNDS, WOULD BE BETTER SPENT ON THINGS THAT ARE MORE SERIOUS, AND NOT TO GO TO SEE WHAT SOMEONE HAS IN HIS MAGAZZINO. ANYWAY, I RECOMMEND THAT YOU HARVEST WHAT YOU HAVE SOWN IN THIS WORLD. (signed) TO ANYONE WHO UNDERSTANDS (along the lines of "He who has ears to hear, let him hear").

I WANTED TO THANK THE PERSON WHO WITH SO MUCH ZEAL REGISTERED AN ACCUSATION WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BECAUSE OF MY CANARIES. BECAUSE DUE TO THE OFFICIAL INSPECTION IT HAS BEEN SHOWN THAT I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED AND DILIGENT BREEDER. A TRUE, AND I UNDERLINE TRUE, ANIMAL LOVER. THEREFORE, AS SUCH, THANKS FOR HAVING BEEN ABLE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT. BUT I HAVE TO REPRIMAND YOU, AS A TAXPAYING ITALIAN. BECAUSE THE COMMUNITY FUNDS WOULD BE BETTER SPENT ON THINGS THAT ARE MORE SERIOUS, AND NOT TO GO TO SEE WHAT SOMEONE HAS IN HIS MAGAZZINO. ANYWAY, I HOPE THAT YOU REAP WHAT YOU HAVE SOWN IN THIS WORLD. (signed) TO ANYONE WHO UNDERSTANDS (along the lines of “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”).

ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS/RAISERS: THE ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS (F.O.I.) RECOGNIZED BY D.P.R. 15/12/1949, N. 1166 IS INSTITUTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT, DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION OF THE ORNITHOLOGICAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURALISTIC PATRIMONY.  ITS PURPOSE IS TO PUBLICIZE THE LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF BIRDS AND THEIR HABITAT, AND BY MEANS OF ITS ENROLLED MEMBERS TO PROMULGATE THE SYSTEMS OF CORRECT NURTURE -- WHETHER FOR ORNAMENTAL OR DIDACTIC PURPOSES -- REPRODUCING IN CAPTIVITY EVEN BREEDS WHICH ARE IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION. IT IS CONCERNED THEREFORE ALSO WITH THEIR PROTECTION THE ASSOCIATED ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. TO RAISE IS TO PROTECT.

ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS/RAISERS: THE ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS (F.O.I.) RECOGNIZED BY D.P.R. 15/12/1949, N. 1166 IS INSTITUTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT, DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION OF THE ORNITHOLOGICAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURALISTIC PATRIMONY. ITS PURPOSE IS TO PUBLICIZE THE LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF BIRDS AND THEIR HABITAT, AND BY MEANS OF ITS ENROLLED MEMBERS TO PROMULGATE THE SYSTEMS OF CORRECT NURTURE — WHETHER FOR ORNAMENTAL OR DIDACTIC PURPOSES — REPRODUCING IN CAPTIVITY EVEN BREEDS WHICH ARE IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION. IT IS CONCERNED THEREFORE ALSO WITH THEIR PROTECTION AND THE ASSOCIATED ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. TO RAISE IS TO PROTECT.

 

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Categories : Birds
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