I realised this as I sat eating breakfast while watching the sands of Mont St Michel disappear beneath the waves. Victor Hugo wrote of how the tides move à la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (as swiftly as a galloping horse). A bell tolls as the surge begins for, like many a medieval pilgrim, people still drown making their way across the tidal flats. The force of the rolling waves creates ever-changing fields of quicksand which confuse even the locals. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a trapped rider and horse, with the Abbey of Mont St Michel clearly visible in the background. Other riders are being rescued, with Hic Harold dux trahebat eos de arena embroidered beneath; (Duke Harold pulled them from the sand).
The grey sands literally do vanish; in the time it took to spread butter on my croissant and have a sip of my café au lait, another island of sand had disappeared.
The paper lantern floated down the river, a sort light against the darkness. Dozens of others, red and yellow and blue, orange, purple and every colour combination of colour imaginable drifted nearby, dancing along the current.
In the old part of Hoi An, coloured lanterns adorn every house, and at night a glow fills the town with the softness of candle light.
Although I could see no clouds, lightning flashed across the sky, and a distant rumble sounded. The humidity rose even higher. The wet season is an interesting time to visit Vietnam.
First published Italy Magazine, reproduced with permission
Well, my window
meets San Trovaso
things have ends and beginnings
Ezra Pound Cantos
When Ezra Pound arrived in Venice, he took rooms near a walled garden on the Rio San Trovaso, opposite a squero (or gondola building yard). Only a few squeri now remain in Venice, although at the height of her powers some ten thousand gondolas served the city. The gondoliers’ knowledge of the canals is legendary, and legend holds they are born with webbed feet, to help them walk on water. Continue Reading →
The history of Rome can be read in her water, from the aqueducts supplying an ancient city, to the beauty of Renaissance fountains and the grandeur of Rome’s angel-lined bridges. In 98 AD the Roman Consul was named as Guardian of the city’s water supply; today the Romans have l’acqua del sindaco – the mayor’s water. Free to residents and tourists alike, clean water sprouts from drinking fountains all over the city.
I speak French to my ambassadors, English to my accountants, Italian to my mistress, Latin to my God and German to my horse.
Frederick the Great of Prussia
Kneeappears by 900AD, coming from the Old English cneo, or cneow. These words derive from the Proto-Germanic knewan, from the Proto-Indo-European geneu (an ancestral language of the Indo-European family, dated to roughly 5,500 years ago). From geneu arises the Latin genu, giving words such as genuflect (1630) and geniculate.
Curiously, knee-cap (the noun, not the verb associated with gangsters) doesn’t appear until around 1870, yet knee-high to a grasshopper was first recorded in 1851. The term the bee’s knees became popular in the early 1920’s, as did the bee’s nuts and the flea’s eyebrows.
On the 28th March, 1814, Lord Byron penned in his diary:
Yesterday, dined tête-à-tête at the Cocoa with Scrope Davies… drank between us one bottle of champagne and six of claret, neither of which wines ever affect me. Scrope…was tipsy and pious and I was obliged to leave him on his knees praying to I know not what purpose or good.
Praying, of course, can lead to Parson’s knees. The term Wii knee was first used in 2007 for injuries caused by exuberant playing of Wii games. Wii wrist, Wii elbow and Wii hip soon followed.
“We were highly delighted by our visit to the Hospital of St. John’s. It is a Gothic edifice of ancient structure. The sick lie in a large apartment, which is supported by Norman arches and pillars. The Sisters of Charity attend upon the invalids; and everything appears in that state of order and excessive neatness, so admirably conspicuous in this town.”
Charles A. Stothar, English antiquarian, in a letter to his mother 20th Sept 1890
I first saw Sint-Janshospitaal while cruising along the canals of Bruges. The wall running along the The Groenerei (or Green Canal) is in classic Flemish style: ivy-covered stones, a roof stepping against the skyline. Tall gothic windows looked over the water. In medieval times this wing doubled as both a chapel and a ward (for since spiritual healing was considered more important than healing of the flesh, a chapel stood inside the open ward). The wash from our barge lapped against the weathered stones and landing stage, where a door opened onto the water.