Out of order again but I love this photograph
She had finally made it. Venice lay before her. True, she couldn’t see very much with all the mist swirling about but the important thing was she was here. How long had she been planning this? All her life, it seemed to her. Waiting at the bottom of the age-worn steps of the hotel, her gondola and gondolier. Not quite the dashing Italian she had imagined in her twenties, admittedly, more like Mario. She ran briskly down, tripping on the last step, almost catapulting herself into the boat.
‘Senora, you leave your zaino, your packback here. It will be quite safe.’
‘Thank you, no,’ she said firmly. ‘I will keep it with me.’
She wasn’t going to let Ruskin out of her sight. Safely stowed in the rucksack was an annotated copy of ‘The Stones of Venice’ by John Ruskin. She had marked all the features she most wanted to see. Her special guide to the city.
As Mario poled the gondola away from the quayside, she sat back, not without some discomfort, because of Ruskin. It was a large book and heavy, more than she had realised. Charles, chief architect of the practice, had given it to her when she’d had to leave to look after her mother during her terminal illness. She’d envisaged going back to work but Aunt Ida needed her and then her father became so frail she’d returned to look after him. With a faint smile she recalled Charles’ inscription on the flyleaf: ‘It should have been a fortnight’s holiday but ….’. She sighed, there was a time when she had thought she and Charles ….
‘Senora, Senora. We are here, we have arrived.’
With a start she realised ‘Mario’ had been trying to attract her attention for some time. She lurched to her feet, the gondola swaying with her sudden movement, and stumbled towards the side of the boat. Flustered, she moved too quickly, the boat tipped, her foot failed to find purchase and she plunged over the edge into the murky waters of the canal. She could see nothing through the mud-coloured water. She clamped her mouth shut and screwed up her eyes trying not to think of what else might be floating in the vortex whirling round her. Her feet had landed in a soft ooze into which she sank further as she circled her arms wildly. Bubbles of air escaped from her mouth and her lungs gasped for oxygen. Briefly she considered giving up. Then her innate Scottish upbringing kicked in.
‘What, you’ve spent all that money, not even seen the city? Get rid of Ruskin, he’s dragging you down.’
Dropping her backpack to sink into the mud, she shot upwards and surfaced gasping, to be pulled out of the canal by a crowd of voluble Italians issuing contradictory statements of advice. Wrapped in a blanket with a cup of coffee in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, she waited for the taxi to take her back to her hotel, by land, this time. She could always buy another copy of ‘The Stones of Venice’.