So, a dip into the Venice Biennale was transformed into a Covid curse. I was expecting some of the art to be a struggle but as it was five nights in the Giovanni e Paolo Ospedale took the prize for a piece of inscrutable performance art. Following a slight dizzy spell near the Rialto bridge I was whisked down the Grand Canal in a water ambulance, sirens blaring, feeling very embarrassed to be causing so much trouble. I tested positive at the hospital and so was eventually confined in an isolation room, although not entrirely alone. The two-bed room already contained an old man whom I immediately knew would be trouble. Everything about him was inert apart from his respiratory tracts and orifices from which emanated a range of sounds akin to all the animals of the jungle. Being imprisoned with this human noise machine I knew would mean enduring a sleepless nightmare, and so it was. Thankfully, after three nights he was moved out, but I spent many hours wondering how a lack of sleep aids one’s recovery? My experience of hospitals tells me that a good night’s sleep is not necessarily part of the therapy, and it was certainly true here.
The saving grace of this particular room was its view, which featured the island of San Michele, the Venetian isle of the dead (now home to the tombs of Stravinsky, Diderot, Pound and other cultural luminaries). The tombs are protected by high fortress walls and the interior is crowded with Cypress trees, a sight which brought to mind Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead, although that was inspired by an entirely different place. The only trouble with the view was that directly beneath my window people were freely wondering up and down on the promenade enjoying themselves, so reinforcing my sense of captivity.
Part of my condition (which was pretty much symptomless throughout) may have been exacerbated by the heat. In Venice it was around 30 degrees C, in Milan, a previous stop, a pharmacy sign showed 38 degrees C. This is way above my usual tolerance levels. 20—25 degrees is my comfort zone. I guess being pretty much symptomless throughout can be attributed to having been fully vaccinated and which also possibly led to a relatively quick return to a negative test. But the danger is now apparent—Covid rates are rising and being fully vaccinated is not 100% proof against getting Covid. A lot of complacency has set in and we may be in for a shock. A woman I met in the hospital’s emergency isolation room, who was fully vaccinated, had had a very bad Covid experience. She wondered why she was a victim. Working in a high-end jewellery shop in Venice, she wondered why she had to wear a mask all day when the customers could come and go without. A consistent approach to mask wearing has long since evaporated in the face of ‘If nobody else bothers why should I?’
A strange outcome of this experience seems to be that ever since my blood pressure and pulse have been more in the normal range than ever before. Has something been mysteriously adjusted? Am I the first to be blessed with a Covid benefit? Time will tell. In the meantime I note that tickets for the Biennale remain valid until it ends on the 27th November. Perhaps there’ll be a return trip later in the autumn. Then, it may not be the heat but the floods one will have to worry about.
Having now hopefully broken the Covid blogging spell, what is to be said about our current global situation? IT’S ALL WORSE!