Andrea and I am in Venice.
It is almost exactly eight years since we first went out together and we always mark that anniversary with a trip. Well I say always but a year ago the pandemic made that impossible. The year before that however we went to London, saw The Waitress in the Strand, at her choice (although it was excellent) and Early Mozart at the Cadogan Hall at mine (not perhaps just as excellent). We finished with a big "Songs from the Shows" concert at the Royal Albert Hall, although even on the morning of the performance we had to check it was still on, given the lockdown that was patently coming.
Anyway, this year things are back to normal, more or less, and Andrea spent days choosing her ideal location ( she loves that kind of thing) and found it in a loft apartment behind the Frari. I would concede it is not bad. The highest form of Scottish praise.
And we've done lots of touristy things. We went to San Marco to see the carnival costumes and then, when Lent arrived, took in lots of churches and walked and walked and walked. As you inevitably do in Venice, We do have a seven day vaporetto pass but la signora Andrea believes its full utilisation leaves inadequate opportunity for (thankfully mainly) window shopping.
And we have, thanks to some degree from recommendations on Twitter, eaten very very well. Albeit not particularly cheaply. It is Venice after all.
However, to get to the point., I love Italy. But Andi likes other countries as well.
And if we had been able to get away last year she might have insisted we go somewhere else this March. To Prague, or Bratislava or Warsaw or, with no more thought, to Kiev. Wherever the Ryanair flight was cheapest and Booking,com offered the best accommodation.
For Kiev was part of Europe. Alright the currency isn't the Euro but your credit card would still work and you could get cash out of an ATM as readily as if you were in York or Bath or Paris. And I bet, when you wanted to eat, you could, at worst, find an English Language menu and, at best, an English language speaking waiter.
So it is extraordinary that while we have been here, notwithstanding other attractions, we have spent a fair bit of time on our phones checking what is going on in Ukraine. Where English menu restaurants and English speaking waiters are being blown up by Russian speaking tanks.
We thought this was over in this part of the world. It is probably a bit racist to say we were resigned to it happening in other continents, hands up to that on my and many others part, but in Europe we had had the hottest of hot wars and then, for a time, the coldest of cold wars. These were however understood to be over! For thirty years. During which time Kiev had become an indistinguishable city holiday location from Zagreb. Or indeed Venice. Albeit with fewer Bellinis, undoubtedly a bad thing, and fewer Tintorettos, no bad thing at all IMHO.
It is for that reason I simply cannot see Russia winning this. Occupying Kiev, killing Zelensky and, in six months or so expecting things to return to the "normal" of more than thirty years ago? I just can't see it. Obviously because of the heroic resistance of the Ukranian people but also because of the incomprehension of the west that permanent armed occupation of Ukraine could ever be an accepted final outcome. Even if that were militarily possible, which I very much doubt.
I don't really have a conclusion here except to say that, in this Country, in our Government, one person seems to have been strategically focused on this for months. Always impeccably turned out. Always measured in his tone. Acting, in terms of getting militarily aid to Ukraine, rather than engaging in rambling rhetoric. And sticking with the task. If and when Johnson hopefully falls, we could do far worse than having Ben Wallace as Prime Minister. And hopefully making his first foreign visit to see President Zelenskyy in Kiev..