scribing tlic degradation of the cliain linkrnby link, from plankton to fisherman tornpoet. Nor am I a political scicnhst, whornconld make the point bv mapping thernerosion of the rights of the individual inrnthe present epoch of transnahonal governmentrnand multinational corporate interests.rnI am just a 20-a-day smoker whornvowed to Neptune he would not litter inrntlie lagoon, and I’m making the intcgralistrnpoint as best I can.rnOne sunny day there came acquci alta,rnfor the first time that year and mv vervrnfirst in Venice. It is ca,sy to describe whatrnthis is like to another Russian, because it’srnexactly like the first snowflill, when thernknown landscape of ycsterda is convertedrnovernight into the surgical cottonrnwarehouse of a Martian field hospital,rnwhile the banal, leafless tree branch outsidernyour window that had been lookingrnalmost utilitarian since September suddenlyrntakes on the irrahonal contours of arnbeautiful and profligate thought. Thernchildren are out in the street, horsingrnaround in the newsworthiness of it all,rnknee-deep, as if, literally, there was no tomorrow,rnwhile the parents are uncharacteristicallyrnindulgent, as if their ownrnchildhood, along with e’ervthing that’srnever gone right in their lives, has been restoredrnto them in that blessed instant.rnTo a person who knows nothing andrnwants to know nothing of the transport ofrnthe elements, somebody who would insistrnthat a more urbane and forthright descriptionrnbe supplied to him, I can sayrnthat acqua alta works exactly like thernbathtubs of Claridge’s, that great flagshiprnof pre-war, afternoon-tea-perfect hydropneimiaticrnengineering in London,rnwhose porcelain vastness the water fillsrnthrough the plugholes from below, ratherrnthan the taps from above, wifli flie expensivernconsequence that, after the initialrngurgle of welcome, it is utterly noiseless.rnHere in Venice the streets, which arernrarely wider than a Claridge’s bathtub,rnfill up through small plughole-shapedrngrates cut into paving stone wifli just thernsame plush noiselessness and the samernefficient tjuickness born of the eagernessrnto please, to provide Old World value forrnmoney, to compete with the Hilton andrnwin. The water rises, changing flie aspectrnof the city and providing the residentrnwith the excuse to buy special rubberrnboots that anyone but a sexual deviantrnwould agree look like medieval armor,rnstays a few hours, and eventually recedes,rnleaving flie cobblestones clean as a shoprnwindow and the occasional ground-floorrnshopkeeper cursing the dav he turnedrndown the offer to move to Mestre.rnAnd m cigarette butts? They gotrnwashed awa’ and ended up somewherernout in the lagoon, in an unwitting yet directrnviolation of m pact with Neptune.rn’Hie ground of Venice and the islands, itrnturned out, is not as indifiFerent and impersonalrnas I and all the other transientrnforesti might have supposed, but is thernsolid shell of the liquid sea and part of itsrnmystery. So, too, with the chain of wellbeing,rnwhose healthiest sections —thernones least likely to snap right in front ofrnme, flic ones most certain to last me untilrnabsolute disillusionment settles in —I devoternmyself to seeking out and recording.rnOnly rarely does flie chain show itself tornbe stronger flian one has assumed, and asrnever it is only nature that is capable ofrnpleasant surprises and of teaching therncynical pupil a cynical lesson.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rnLetter From Englandrnby Derek TurnerrnNew GaybourrnIn 1988, the Conservati’c governmentrnpassed the Local Covernment Act. Thernmost controversial part of the Act wasrnSection 28. Subsection 1 stated:rnA local authority should not (a) intentionallyrnpromote homosexualityrnor publish material wifli the intentionrnof promohng homosexuality orrn(b) promote the teaching in anyrnmaintained school of the acceptabilityrnof homosexualit}’ as a pretendedrnfamily relationship.rnSubsecflon 2 was slighlly more conciliatoryrnin tone, saving that “Nothing in Subsectionrn1 shall be taken to prohibit therndoing of anything for flie purpose of treatingrnor prevenfing flic spread of disease.”rnSection 28 was the culminafion of arnlong campaign carried out by pro-familyrncampaigners who had become increasinglyrnconcerned about the promoflon ofrnhomosexuality in schools; even veryrnyoung children were being exposed to didacticrntracts like the infamous jenny Livesrniiv’f/? Eric and hiaiii]i. It was one of thernbest things the Conservatives did in anrn18-year incumbency remembered nowrnmore for its missed opportunities flian forrnits achievements. Predictably, there wasrnoutrage from the usual suspects, but evenrnsome moderate homosexuals supportedrnSection 28; they at least could tell therndifference betveen “not promoting”rnand savagely repressing homosexuaht)-.rnBut a pledge to repeal Section 28 appearedrnin Labour’s 1997 general electionrnmanifesto; this clause alone showsrnhow far Labour’s governing elite hasrnmoved from flie party’s traditional supporters.rnFew asked how this fit in withrnLabour’s oft-stated desire to bolster faniilvrnlife and Tom Blair’s highly public visitsrnto churches.rnThe issue ran through the whole electionrncampaign. Labour fielded severalrnopenly homosexual candidates who werernelected; some of flieni are presently ministers.rnSince the election, there havernbeen more revelations of zoophyte affiliationsrnin Labour ranks, most famoush’rnNorthern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelsonrnand Ron Davies, then Welsh Secretary,rnwho had a bizarre escapade whilerncruising for black boys on ClaphamrnCommon, during which he was robbedrnby a man whom he had followed into arncouncil estate.rnThese individuals are amongst thosernagitating for flie repeal of Section 28, sayingrnfliat it leads to “homophobic” bullyingrnin schools, alfliough flie governmentrnadmits that it has only “anecdotal evidence”rnfliat fliis is a problem. (An interestingrnaside on the homosexual debate isrnhow the customar)’ roles of right and leftrnare reversed, with leftists believing all of arnsudden that homosexuals are born ratherrnthan made, while rightists believe thatrnhomosexuals are made ratiier flian born.)rnThere are still enough traditionalistrnLabour or eros,s-bcneh peers —like LordrnLongford, who thinks of “homosexualism”rnas “sinftfl, sinful, sinful”—for Millbankrnto be approaching flie issue warily.rnThere are also some heavyweight campaignersrnon flie right side, such as ChrisrnWoodliead, chief inspector of schools,rnand the redoubtable Tory BaronessrnYoung, who arranged for a display in flicrnHouse of Lords showing the kind of agitproprnlikely to be forced on children asrnyoung as six if Section 28 is repealed. Seniorrnchurchmen (like Scofland’s RomanrnCatholic leader. Cardinal Winning),rn38/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn