Whenever I think about Dirk Bogarde, with a moustache, in a vaporetto, I hear the Adagietto from Gustav Mahlerâ€™s fifth symphony. Such is the power of cinema. If youâ€™ve seen Luchino Viscontiâ€™s Death In Venice (1971), you will know exactly what Iâ€™m talking about. I often find myself thinking about Dirk Bogarde, with a moustache, in a vaporetto, probably more often than is normal, and I have absolutely no idea why. If I am able to snap out of the thought within thirty seconds or so, all is well, but once I hit the half-minute mark I invariably break into great heaving sobs, and have to dab at my eyes with an expensive handkerchief, or a rag, whichever comes readily to hand. I try to make sure there is always an expensive handkerchief in one of my pockets, or tucked into the waistband of my trousers, like a midget cummerbund, but if I am going to muck out a pig sty, say, or to scrape grease off the wall of a drainage chute, I am more likely to opt for a rag.
Foppishness has its attractions but it is ill-advised in some circumstances. Dirk Bogarde was occasionally foppish early in his career, but by the time he sported that moustache in a vaporetto he had become a sort of Euro-thespian, a serious man, of a kind I would like to see youngsters emulate today. No one has ever asked me how I would tackle the modern plague of feral inner city youth. If they did I would recommend that young tearaways grow moustaches and sit, shattered, in vaporettos. The Adagietto from Mahlerâ€™s fifth could be piped at them through loudspeakers, or loaded onto their pods. If the government was willing to stump up the cash it might even be possible to have orchestras sent in to the more gruesome sink estates to play the Adagietto live.
I recognise that many teenage girls are as violent and unruly as the boys, but the stick-on false moustache is a perennial favourite in joke shops and theatrical costumiers, so the resources are there. It just takes the political will to make it happen. Clearly there would have to be a major increase in vaporetto imports, but a beneficial side-effect would be the regeneration of our canals and estuaries. Speaking as one who has to haul a cart along winding country lanes, sweating like a pig, I would certainly welcome that. I use my expensive handkerchiefs to wipe the grime and perspiration off my neck as often as I dab the tears from my eyes when thinking about Dirk Bogarde, with a moustache, in a vaporetto, if truth be told. If the contents of my cart could be shoved on to a barge and go by canal I would be a happy man. I am already, like the later Dirk Bogarde, a serious man. Happy and serious would be a fantastic combination. I live in hope.