What did you do in Venice?
I got lost.
What do you mean, lost?
Indeed - what do I mean, lost? As a child was taught that 'lost' is something terrible. It means someone nasty might take you away. That storms would rage and winds would howl and there'd be no gingerbread house for me, oh no, I'd be cold and wet and what's more nobody would love me.
But lost, I've learned, can be many things - rarely starkly good, or bad - rather it can be uncomfortable, or inconvenient, occasionally alarming. And it can also be an opportunity. Lost is the place where we find the unexepected. It is the place where we can look up and see the sky is a different blue, the buildings a strange shape, the people with smiles you don't recognise.
Some years ago I was Hue, in Vietnam, for the Chinese New Year. I was studying a map - useless, when all the street names were in a different script - when a man came and used his one sentence of English: What is your name? He led me to his home, to his frail parents and his gentle wife and his sister and three children who bounced around my knees. The children knew we didn't need words. I spent the day with them. I have no idea what was going on, what I ate, nor what sense they made of me. It was a wonderful, 'lost', opportunity.
I didn't meet unexpected families in Venice. But I wandered into a church and found a picture by Tintoretto. I was tempted by tiny passageways that led to a courtyard where the sun shone on flaking pink walls and tiny white flowers shimmered. And I sat in the sun, in my lostness, and watched tourists studying maps.