Till A’ the Seas Gang Dry (December 1957) is part travelogue, part erotic romance. It picks up immediately after the close of Epithalamium and follows Albus and Minerva as they take their honeymoon in Venice.
The title comes, of course, from this stanza of Scottish poet Robert Burns’s 1794 song, “My Luv is Like a Red, Red Rose”:
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun,
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
It was conceived as a sort of gift to my friend Fishy (JustFishy on FFN), who beta-ed the last chapters of Epithalmium and was an endless cheerleader for the story. She’s a huge fan of AD/MM romance, so I thought I’d give her something romantic and (largely) angst-free.
Inspiration for the story came from several places: my travels to France and Italy with Mr. Squib in the late 1990s, and the 1955 David Lean film Summertime, in which spinster schoolteacher Katharine Hepburn has a holiday in Venice and falls in love with the city and a married Italian shopkeeper (though not necessarily in that order) played by Rossano Brazzi. The idea of Venice in the 1950s intrigued me, and I imagined the city to look to Albus and Minerva very much as it looks in that film–though in winter, of course. Speaking of which, photos from Frank Van Riper and Judith Goodman’s book, Serenissima: Venice in Winter also suggested the romance of a chilly, grey Venice sans the crowds of tourists that teem through the city during the warmer months.
I will admit that Venice, although magical in its own way, was not my favorite city in Italy. I found Florence more to my taste, and fell in love with Assisi. But Venice has such definite romantic associations–it is the city of Casanova and the Bridge of Sighs, after all–that I could hardly resist sending Albus and Minerva there. Moreover, I recently read John Berendt’s The City of Falling Angels, which tells stories that weave the magic and insanity of Venice into an eminently readable narrative that made me want to revisit the city.
The places I’ve written about are, for the most part, places we visited, with the exception of the Teatro La Fenice, which had been burned down by electrical contractors in an unforgivable act of arson several weeks before I arrived. “La Fenice” is, of course, Italian for “the phoenix” (it has risen from ashes twice in its history), so it is especially fitting, I think, that Albus and Minerva visit it.
The descriptions of food and wine are as close to authentic as I could make them, and in some cases are based on memorable meals we ate in Paris and Venice–notably the pig’s trotter, pommes frites, and mousse au chocolat at Le Pied de Cochon (a little pig trotter goes a very long way, but the mousse remains the best I’ve ever had.)
I’ve created a Pinterest board full of photos and videos of the sights Minerva and Albus enjoy on their trip. I used these to refresh my memories, but I will also admit that it gives me more than little pleasure to look at them occasionally and sigh wistfully, anticipating the day when Mr. Squib and I can return–Squiblets in tow–to La Serenissima.