This past week I was watching the news when I saw a clip of the flooding in Venice, which has left 70 percent of the city underwater. As I watched images of the water in St. Mark’s square reaching inhabitants’ thighs, my mind wandered to the annual Erotica Show that takes place every November in London.
Admittedly to you, the reader, this will seem like a pretty significant leap in my stream of consciousness, but there is a connection, so allow me to fill in the blanks. Two years ago I travelled from Vancouver to Venice the old fashioned way – by ship and train. Venice was in full seasonal flood when I got there, but the authorities throughtfully lay down duckboards – wooden platforms – so that tourists and residents don’t get their feet soaked as they move around the city.
A few days later I found myself standing in the rain outside London’s Olympia, waiting to get into what is billed as ‘the world’s largest erotica exhibition.’ I was astonished to learn that among the 200 exhibitors that year was the venerable and highly-respected Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The RSPB had decided to ‘ruffle a few feathers’ by embarking on a membership drive at the event. The charity, whose patron is the Queen, set up a stand, among the purveyors of fetish equipment and sex toys, in a bid to sign up new supporters.
And when you think about it, it made perfect sense. It’s an internationally recognized event, drawing visitors from all over the world that generates massive media coverage. And after all, it wouldn’t be the first time a few feathers made their ways into the bedrooms of the world! Indeed, burlesque dancers sporting feathers performed at the stall beneath the slogan, “Come and Play in our Wetlands.”
Fast-forward to the present, and I realized watching those news clips how the strange elements that shaped my European oddysey form an important part of my novel, Spank: The Improbable Adventures of George Aloysisus Brown. St. Mark’s in Venice, bird-watching, and erotica each play a role! But I’m not going to spoil it; you’re going to have to read it to see how all those elements fit together.