Romance is not dead, even in thermals

Gondolas moored at sunset in Venice. Picture: LJM

Gondolas moored at sunset in Venice. Picture: LJM - Credit: Archant

Yes, it was cold, yes it got colder and yes, I had to cuddle up to my husband for warmth

I have gondled... if that is, indeed, the past perfect of the verb that means to voyage on a gondola.

Expertly manoeuvring around the narrow canal streets of Venice, the gondolier was absent a stripey T-shirt and straw hat. He was in a warm gilet and a quilted jacket. Nor did he sing O Sole Mio (aka Just One Cornetto) as we floated the waters of the lagoon inlets, passing by a house where Mozart lived and bobbing along the Grand Canal.

It was our second time in Venice, the first was a day trip when we were holidaying on nearby Lake Garda in the later Nineties, and the pound was stronger against the euro. The gondolier didn’t sing on that occasion either. I expect you have to pay extra to be serenaded. This time, on a three-night trip with our friends, Jane and Richard, my husband gave us a few bars of an aria from Don Giovanni. Which was nice.

We decided against partaking of afternoon tea at the Florian cafe (37 euros per head) on St Mark’s Square but this did not spoil our enjoyment a jot. Neither did the one hour delay on the tarmac at Gatwick before flying out, nor the 90 minute delay getting through the Dartford tunnel, driving home. What you have to do, you see, is make inevitable hold-ups a part of the bigger adventure; embrace them, eat wine gums.

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We flew no-frills with BA but were near enough business class to hear the frequent fliers being plied with cups of tea, sandwiches and victoria sponge. I have never flown anything but lower class, however, I have pretensions to being upper class. I have an urge to crawl under the blue curtain that separates us and them and inveigle myself into a vacant seat but couldn’t face the ignominy of being rumbled. I know my place.

Aeroplane pilots are very good about letting you know what’s going on when there are delays, these days. On the way out, Rupert ? not his real name ? said the engineers had been called to check ice on the wing (cue Twilight Zone music). Once upon a time that would have been enough to have me hyperventilating, shedding my shoes and heading for the exit wearing my life jacket but I’m a more relaxed air passenger today.

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Returning home and enplaned at Marco Polo airport (did you hear about Marco Polo? He went to China and made a mint), Guy, the pilot, told us the engineer had been called because fuel appeared to be leaking from an engine (cue reprise of Twilight Zone theme). Ten minutes later, we heard: “It seems to have stopped now, so we’ll soon be on our way.,” ? a jetsetter’s average day.

Landing at Gatwick we retrieved the car and discovered the hold-up at the Dartford tunnel was causing one and a half hour delays so we stopped at Clackett Lane services and had a McDonalds and went large... as a result I have gone large too.

Back home, because the central heating was playing up (even as I type, Pete is installing a new system) we turned everything off and returned to an East Anglian ice box. Even putting socks on and snuggling up to my husband (I checked with the instruction book about how to do this) in bed failed to offset the biting cold. And now, for a few days, I don’t have any heating at all.

I am, naturally, wearing my thermals... but have been for at least a month. Even in Venice, one of the most romantic cities on the planet, I was happy to wear my M&S (other retailers are available) thermal vest.

As well as romance, Venice is known for its culture and we did some of that. The views that inspired Canaletto, the women who inspired Casanova and some of the quietest passing traffic in the world. Sadly, I didn’t get kissed under the Rialto Bridge, the water was too cold.

• A Christmas note from my friend, Dorinda, reminds us this is the season of peace and goodwill to all men. “I walked through to the kitchen with the post this morning reading aloud from one of the envelopes which was addressed: ‘To the Boiler Owner’. ‘That will be me, then,’ said (husband), Chris, taking the post and simultaneously ducking out of the way.”

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