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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care
CYC-Online Issue 116 OCTOBER 2008 / BACK
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Postcard from leon fulcher

From Venice

Buon giorno (bwon jorno) – Good morning from Venice! Come sta? (komay sta) How are ya? Hope you’re keepin' well. What've you been doing in your spare time? Qual 'il suo hobby? (kwal e eel soo-o ob-bee) Me? I’ve been out exploring and people watching again, this time in one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. Built on some 118 islands, Venice is formed by approximately 150 canals in a shallow lagoon on the edge of the Adriatic. The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges. In the old center, the canals serve the function of roads, and every form of transport is on water or by foot. You really must visit Venice, at least once!

View of Venice from St Mark’s Campanile

An immediate feature one notices almost immediately must be the number of kids. Venice has fewer children and young people than any other place in Italy. It also has more old people. Of the quarter million people living in Venice in 2007, less than 1 in 7 of the population were aged 18 years or less. Most of the children one sees there belong to the tourists. Roughly twice as many elderly people live in Venice and they are very visible. It was fun navigating through the narrow walkways, dead-ending at canals, re-tracing steps and discovering interesting new portals through which new worlds opened up into amazing piazza and courtyards.

Locals and tourists – metaphorically crossing bridges

While making our way along one such passage, I secretly observed two young local lads come out of their father’s shop with a box of ciggies and then secret themselves around the side to light up a smoke. I had been following the CYC-Net discussion list debate about smoking in group homes and immediately thought of all the strongly held views shared by child and youth care workers about how we should manage this habit with kids. I also reflected on the Council policy statements now increasingly common in Scotland about how smoking is to be managed in child and youth care services. And yet here were two young Venetian lads secretly puffing away while listening to their iPods. How much ya wanna bet that their fathers were smokers?

Two lads having a secretive smoke

Imagine living in a city built in the middle of a swamp, where the buildings are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. (Under water, in the absence of oxygen, wood does not decay.) Most of these old piles are still intact after centuries of submersion in water. The foundations rest on the piles and buildings sometimes 4 and 5 stories high of brick or stone sit on top of these foundations. Each year during the winter period, the buildings are threatened by flood tides pushing in from the Adriatic Sea. So everything is permanently damp. With so few places to play safely, I suspect that families have chosen to rear their children elsewhere.

Passageways and portals to places called home

During the 16th century, Venice became one of the most important musical centers of Europe, and the early centre of music printing. By the end of the 15th century, Venice had become the European capital of printing, being one of the first cities in Italy to have a printing press. Modern punctuation was established there, along with the page format and italic type. The Carnival of Venice remains a major annual celebration of youth. Everywhere masks and costumes can be purchased for this occasion. Just do it!

A costume and mask for the Carnival of Venice

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