I LOVE city breaks and over the last few years I’ve been lucky to visit some of the most exciting cities in Europe. I’ll go anywhere to experience new sights and learn new things but there are particular cities that have always been on my travel wish list.
One of them was Venice and I finally managed to tick it off the list last weekend. With such high expectations it would’ve been easy to be disappointed but thankfully Venice lived up to its reputation of being one of the most stunning cities in the world. We only had three days to explore and this meant we could only scratch the surface of Venice’s many attractions.
But apart from cramming in as much sightseeing as time (and my feet!) would allow, one of the bonuses of the break was to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes – people watching (everyone needs a hobby!)
Noticing the idiosyncrasies of those around you is an essential activity for a writer. Being aware of a person’s mannerisms and eavesdropping on conversations can prompt a story idea or descriptive scene.
I’ve recently dabbled again in one of my other favourite pastimes – writing flash fiction, and I’m sure some of my observations will find their way into a piece of writing. My most recent 75 word story was featured on Paragraph Planet while I was in Venice and appropriately enough it includes an Italian cheese! If you missed it online, here it is but be warned, it’s best not to read it before eating!
A Taste of Home
The door slammed, he was home. Drunk. Again.
‘Is the spag bol ready?’
‘It’ll be a few more minutes; I need to nip to the loo first.’
I smoothed Arinca cream over the purple yellow bruise on my arm. Sitting on the loo seat, I got busy with the nail clippers and file. I was pleased with the handful of powdery flakes my toe nails produced.
I sprinkled generously.
My people watching expedition started at the airport and really went up a gear when a woman sat next to me on the plane and I witnessed an annoying habit that was a new one on me. She spent the entire flight pulling fluff from her mohair jumper. I was glad the flight was only 2 & 1/4 hours long!
We were in the right place at the right time in Venice when we got caught up in the celebrations of St Mark and Piazzo San Marco filled with flag waving locals chanting, “Viva San Marco!” The square was buzzing and when we reached the top of the campanile we witnessed an aerial view of a massive flag being unfurled. The most amazing sight though was right beside me, a father and son ignored this once a year spectacle to keep their eyes glued to their mobile phones. The boy played a game and the father scrolled through Facebook updates.
On the vaporetto to Burano, a man decided to treat his fellow passengers to a ‘song’ with no words, no tune and at a high volume. Only he and his pal who was filming it seemed entertained.
There were lots of other weird and wonderful behaviours on show that I took in while roaming around Venice and it’s certainly true that there’s nowt as queer as folk.
Only the week before our trip I went to hear Irvine Welsh at the Aye Write! Festival and he mentioned that he often does a complete circuit of a city’s subway route to see how folk act, dress and talk.
Do you also find people watching feeds your writing?
13 thoughts on “Viva Venezia! – and the Art of People Watching”
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Thanks for reminding me of how lovely Venice is, Helen, and glad it lived up to your expectations. Your flash fiction made me laugh out loud. And we’re having pasta tonight!
Glad you enjoyed it but sorry for putting you off your pasta! I’d avoid the Parmesan. 😉
I knew I was right in not liking parmesan 🙂 Ah, people watching. I’m obsessed with it along with its sibling preoccupation of people listening. I travel on buses a lot and find them an excellent source of people listening. Folk are fascinating.
Your trip to Venice sounds fab.
Ha! You’re wise to stay away from the Parmesan!
Yes, people listening is a great way to hear turns of phrase or snippets of stories. Venice was amazing but most of the accents I overheard were foreign so relied more on people watching this trip. Train journeys to Glasgow are a rich source of people listening, especially the late ones home at the weekend! 🙂
So Jealous! Well, apart from the tuneless song and the mohair picking. Maybe the latter was a nervous flyer and it was a tic to keep her mind off it?
Yes, to be fair the woman might’ve have been nervous but she didn’t seem to be. She was reading her Kindle at the same time as defluffing her jumper so maybe wasn’t aware she was even doing it – I was! 🙂
Not sure I even want to know what she did with all the fluff….
Flicked it in my direction!
Love people watching… and shamelessly eavesdropping – great fodder for writing. Flash fiction fab… Made me chuckle😄😆😄
People watching is great isn’t it? I’m naturally nosey so it suits me perfectly to sit back and spy. Glad you enjoyed the flash fiction and hope it didn’t put you off your dinner! And thanks for the RT – much appreciated. 🙂
As part of my RGN training many moons ago we had to spend two days ‘people watching’ – spent mine mostly at Newcastle Central Station… Wish I’d taken notes!!
That would be gold to you now as a writer! But maybe just remembering it will churn up fresh memories…