New Year’s Eve – I’ve never been a fan. If there was a bigger gap between Christmas and January 1 I might feel more like celebrating. It might be something to do with self-employment. After a week of eating and drinking too much of all the stuff I shouldn’t be eating too much of, feeling the spare chins multiply and the belt tighten with each slab of chocolate, I’m ready to get back to work. Or more specifically, get back to sending out invoices. But there is no escaping it. It must be faced up to. New Year’s Eve has arrived again. The fireworks are nice though. I do like a good firework. And there is the consolation that every day is getting a little longer and lighter, unlike myself in both respects.

I suppose I should be taking stock of the passing year’s ups and downs, but I find myself looking forward to all the stuff I want to do in 2018. Books to write, trips to take, new friends to make, unanticipated encounters. I can get excited about all that, whatever the date. Just the same, it’s as good a time as any to brag about the adventures I’ve had in 2017. I’ve been to India (twice), to Finnish Lapland (several times), on a working icebreaker in the Baltic, to Japan, to a remote Baltic island with my best friends, all over Europe from Switzerland to Denmark and from Amsterdam to Italy. I have had a book published and held an exhibition of my photographs. Not too bad then.

I just spent Christmas in Venice, a wonderful time to be there. The main tourist spots, such as St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge, were busy, but it was easy to lose the crowds in the deserted back streets and canals. It’s always a challenge to see a place from an original or fresh viewpoint, but it’s a bigger challenge in a place like Venice where the beauty and attractions are so obvious. So I was up early and went out late at night to get some different perspectives. I hope.

While I contemplate the extreme measures needed to shed those superfluous kilos, here’s a quick tour – six views of this extraordinary city.


Giant hands rise out of the Grand Canal. A sculpture symbolizing global warming, by Lorenzo Quinn. Considering all the environmental pressures that Venice endures, it’s a miracle that it’s still in such condition.


Stallholder at the Rialto fish market in a crabby mood.


Early morning on the Rialto bridge on the Grand Canal. Silent witnesses.


Checking his likes on Facebook?


A Vaporetto – ‘ little steamer’ – water bus passes under the Rialto bridge on the Grand Canal. Imagine: this city was built on thousands of wooden posts planted in the bed of the lagoon. I still can’t get my head round that. As long as they remain submerged they don’t erode or rot.


The brightly painted houses of Burano, an island that takes a 45 minute ferry ride to reach across the lagoon from Venice. The houses follow a strict colour scheme, and bright colours have been traditionally used, they say, so that they would be visible even in the thickest fog.

Lastly, a nod to the wonderful Trattoria Corte Sconta where we enjoyed a brilliant Christmas Day lunch. Highly recommended, but book in advance. This fellow, dressed in festive finery, was having an especially fun time.

Happy New Year!