every word as they spoke of the city in the lagoon; of the thousands
of ships that voyaged all over the world under the ﬂag of San Marco
and the craftsmanship of the men of the Arsenale. Benno dutifully
served his apprenticeship as carpenter, but had no desire to make
tables and chairs. His aim was to build ships, ships large and
strong enough to withstand the roughest storm and the most
terrifying sea monsters. Ships that would return safely to their
home port laden with riches. The moment he was old enough he
set off, without a glance behind him, down into the ﬂatlands at the
feet of the mountains. Once in the lagoon he was amazed at how
quickly he found a job as apprentice carpenter at the Arsenale.
But alas, his luck was not to last. One morning whilst a
mast was being erected a badly ﬁtted pulley came crashing down
and without warning landed with a dull thud on Benno’s left
shoulder, crushing it to smithereens and bringing to an abrupt end
his career as shipbuilder. His left arm was as good as paralysed.
But, optimist that he was, after nights of high fever Benno began
to show signs of recovery. The doctor had decided against
amputating the arm, for which Benno was to be eternally grateful.
And with the tiny, one-off compensation payment awarded him he
took over the tenancy of a small tavern across from the entrance to
the shipyard. He had found his place in life.
A magniﬁcent view of the ships and air drenched in the
scent of freshly sawn wood, hemp and tar had made a more and
more contented man of him. At the end of every day, as the gates of
the shipyard opened like the jaws of a mythological sea monster to
spew out a wave of workers, his tavern would ﬁll up within seconds.
And he was blessed with the help of Rosa and Maretienna, who
with a happy smile kept the wine-beakers of the thirsty constantly
reﬁlled. Visitors could always be assured of a bite to eat, and even if
they weren’t hungry the smell wafting from the kitchen would soon
have their mouths watering. Benno always had something on the
stove, mostly a recipe from the village of his birth, and the rich
aroma of herbs, casserole of rabbit or smoked capon escaping the
warm kitchen seduced everyone within range.
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