IT had been on our must-do list forever. One day, we’ll get there, we said to a couple of close friends while enjoying supper with them, and they both revealed that they too had been keen to visit Venice at Carnival time, for many years.
Two drinks later, we’d agreed to stop talking about it and get booked up – straight away – so that we’d be fully committed and have something to look forward to early in the New Year.
Next day we found flights and hotel rooms, feeling lucky that we’d been able to capture accommodation close to the Doge’s Palace, and just a stone’s throw from the Grand Canal.
The scene was set. What a spectacularly dramatic adventure this could be…
Come February, we met up with each other at Glasgow Airport, filled with eager anticipation for the experience, and it was clear that our female friend was even more excited than we were and hauled Brenda off to the ladies’ room for a chat as soon as she got the chance.
When Bren returned, her face was drained and I sensed something wasn’t right. Once she could speak to me without anyone else listening, she told me, shocked and in complete disbelief, what had transpired.
Her confidant had told her that she’d decided to break up (they were married) and tell him the bad news once we were in Venice. We were not to let him know we knew as that, she insisted, would make it even worse for him.
So, we were faced with the prospect of spending four days and nights together at what is potentially one of the most romantic happenings in the world, maintaining the pretence that all was still sweet between them.
I wanted to scream out loud, pull my hair out and stamp my feet up and down like a petulant five-year-old does when told that Christmas has been cancelled.
Can you imagine the scale of our predicament – in Venice, when we’d all been dreaming of how amazing it would be?
The very thought of Venice Carnival can already spark your imagination to step up into overdrive, particularly if you recall the opening scene from Fellini’s Casanova, set at a masked ball with Carnival in full debauched swing. He ends up on one of those islands that once was a leper colony, to copulate with a female dressed as a nun for the pleasure of a rich voyeur.
Oh, no, brain, let’s not go there!
How was our very own drama going to play out? Might he throw himself into the canal from the Rialto Bridge, heartbroken and filled with despair? How was she intending to play it? Eek!
We agreed to try to pretend it hadn’t happened, concentrate on soaking up the atmosphere, join in the revelry to the best of our ability, and hope and pray that everything would work out alright.
The Carnival was as entertaining and edgy in equal parts as we imagined it would be. We bought masks, of course, to enter the spirit of the occasion and marvelled at the costumes, some of which must have been hired for very substantial sums of money.
Then after you’ve done all of the people watching it’s possible to fit into a single day, you find yourself easing off and getting more relaxed, maybe even flirting with the notion that it’s starting to feel like this is the most natural thing in the world to be doing in mid-February.
But, your brain takes off again, clicks into overdrive and you start to imagine dozens of different scenarios that might be playing out all around you.
Who IS that tall dark hooded stranger lurking in the shadows as darkness falls, dressed head to toe in black satin and just standing there on his own?