I found a good pose and stood perfectly still. Right hand resting on my ivory cane, my head tipped back at a jaunty angle, legs confidently apart, eyes firmly fixed on the stranger. He was bearded, wearing jeans, carrying a camera, unsure whether to be wearing a rain coat or sunglasses: a typical tourist in St Mark’s Square in Venice in February.
He wasn’t the only one taking photos and I held the pose as cameras clicked. A semi-circle of admirers formed, and a Korean tourist even lay in front of me to take a photograph with the Doge’s Palace in the background. Some people pose in order to earn money: human mechanical mannequins whirring into life when a little girl is pushed forward with a Euro. Not me. I do this for the love of being admired. I love dressing up in a black curled wig, a tricorn hat, a delicately embroidered knee-length silk coat, bright yellow leggings. I keep a completely expressionless face under my white make-up but I am bursting with pride for my city, for Venice: the carnival is a time for us to show the glory of our past, the magnificence of the culture and the confidence of its people.