I should have learned from last year.
The period between Christmas and Easter is the most difficult time of the year. The evening classes are still there, and the demand for lettori in schools is at its height. There are also - the end of Carnival and the occasional saint's day aside - no holidays to speak of. I promised myself that I would try and take on less. Instead of which, I've taken on more. Which means the weeks are now a hallucinatory blur of fifteen hour days interspersed with half-hearted attempts at cooking and not enough sleep.
There are times when I think it would be nice to see my wife again. I think I last saw her about three days ago, half-buried under a pile of marking. Perhaps I should check when I'm next home?
Why am I doing this? Seriously, why am I doing this?
Because you're in Venice.
The only reason I know I'm in Venice is the Marangona bell, chiming at midnight to remind me that I'm not going to get enough sleep.
But today is Friday. An early start, yes, but an early finish too, albeit with a slightly difficult class (loveliness:unloveliness rating 60:40, a ratio that only needs a couple of absentees to ensure the week spirals into chaotic miserableness at its end). And then beers, great foaming pints in the bar over the road, before heading off to a rehearsal.
I get off the tram and notice my friends up ahead. I stride it out to catch them up, and then one of them turns to me...
I'm a bit taken aback (although, in my heart of hearts, just a little bit pleased).
Is it because I seemed to appear out of nowhere? Is it the long coat (which, with your eyes half-closed, slightly resembles the one worn by Max Schreck)? Or is is that the 6.00 starts are starting to take their toll?
There are drinks and snacks at the end of the evening, and Caroline has left a pasta sauce for when I get home. I read for a bit, H P Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth. Still scary after all these years, even in Italian. I hear the bells chiming midnight and decide I should try and get some sleep. Then something plops on to the end of the bed. There's a kick against the mattress, and a scrabbling of claws against wood...
Mimi the cat has taken to sleeping on top of the wardrobe. There is nothing wrong with this beyond the fact that once she's up there we don't know when she'll decide to come down, hurling herself with deadly force onto our sleeping bodies in the small hours of the morning.
Like Lovecraft's narrator, I lie awake, listening for the tell-tale creak, the unexpected movement that reveals Something Bad is About to Happen.
And then the alarm is bleeping for 6.00. I shower and shave, and gaze back at the stranger in the mirror. Three months, I think, has turned me from this...
I make a coffee and call it breakfast. Fittingly, it's still dark outside. I make my way to Piazzale Roma, and then it's onto the bus and over the bridge to the Land of Shadows...