Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Sense of an Ending

Well, you'll have noticed there haven't been many updates on this blog for a while.

There are a number of reasons for this. After five years there are, inevitably, fewer stories to tell. But more than that, a lot of what happens in day to day life involves people who have become friends and I really don't feel very comfortable about using that friendship as source material for the blog. And so, I think the time has come to lower the curtain on The Venice Project.

Living here has changed our lives in ways that we could never have imagined. It has been the most extraordinary adventure of our lives but now, after nearly six years, I think the time has come to change from writing about "building a life in Venice" to simply "living in Venice".

For this reason I'm moving to :-


I'll continue to write there - about Venice, about food, about Nathan Sutherland and whatever else seems worth recording. I do hope you'll join me over there.

I'll be leaving links here to the new site for the immediate future. In the meantime, thank you all for your company and feedback over the past six years. For those of you who haven't always liked it - well, other pages on the internet are available. For those of you who have - thank you, your support made a difference when times were a bit tough.

It has been a delight to share the adventure with you. A presto!

Phil and Caroline.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Shape of the Octopus

The Thursday night class has been a delight for much of the past four years. But this year we've encountered a problem. To be honest, it was there for much of the previous year, but we managed to rise above it. But now it's become unavoidable.

The songs.

Every wretched song in the workbook. Every one delivered in a cutesy-pie accent to the accompaniment of a Bontempi organ, with lyrics along the lines of (taking the subject of food as an example) "a bowl of rice is very nice, but it tastes better with some spice".

Previous lessons have ended with kids wrapping scarves around their ears to block out the pain. To be honest, I could sympathise with them. Maria Giulia once snatched a pen out of my hand and drew a teary face on the board, followed by the words "This song is very very very very very horrible". And, again, I could only agree.

Something has to be done. I look ahead to the next song. It's about the sea and marine life. It includes the words "Don't throw rubbish in the sea. Dolphins don't like it and neither do we." Okay, there's some useful grammar in there but otherwise...the kids are eleven years old and listening to Adele, Fedez and J-Ax.

No, This will not do. I am not going to have my brilliant kids put up with this nonsense. I just need another song about marine life. And I think I have just the one.

And so I arrive for the next lesson and announce that this week - this week - we will not be doing one of the horrible songs from the book. No. We will be listening to "Octopus's Garden" by The Beatles.

I was prepared for the reaction, which can be best described as underwhelming. Questions are asked immediately.

'Not the Beatles! My granddad listens to the Beatles.'

I'm prepared for this one. 'Yes. I'm old enough to be your granddad.'

'Can't we do "Shape of you"?'

I'm prepared for this one as well. 'No, because I'll be sacked.'

And finally, 'Do we have to?'

'Yes. It's great for the conditional and for prepositions. Also, the guitar solo is really good.'

There is a mutinous silence. I spread my hands in my best "Aren't I the best and most laid-back teacher in the world?" gesture. 'Up to you. Either the Beatles or - ' and here I gesture towards the workbook ' - there's a horrible song about dolphins.'

Silence for a moment, then a nod of agreement. We listen to Ringo's magnum opus. Twice. And it may not be the best lesson we've ever done, but neither does it end with the entire class - myself included - with their heads in the hands, whimpering 'please make it stop.'

I'm not convinced they're going to rush out and buy Abbey Road. But we get a bit of work done. Maybe I'll try them with Jethro Tull or Hawkwind next time. But in the meantime, grazie Ringo.