“ Can I take the blindfold off now?” protested his long suffering wife.
“ Yes ..okay!” said Myles Soginist to his spouse Gertie.
Blinking in the strong Italian sunlight, the 75 year old lady didn’t have a ‘scooby’ where she was.
Her husband, not normally the romantic type, had booked a surprise ‘Golden Anniversary’ to celebrate their 50 years together married.
“ What do you think then?” he said triumphantly as she faced the sign Veneto Aeropourto.
“ Bit noisy isn’t it!” she complained but not for the first time ever.
“ What did you expect…it’s a bloody airport for Christ’s sakes!” he protested.
“ Nothing is EVER right for you is it ?” he said as he shook his head trying to keep his remaining solitary brown tooth still in its gum.
Gertrude was a professional whinger, a better moaner than La Gioconda.
She was also deafer than Peter Andre having a lap dance off Jordan.
“ I brought you to Italy to see one of the most beautiful cities in the World that is rapidly disappearing under flood water and rising sea levels!” Myles said dejectedly.
“ But I’ve been to Dawlish before on tinsel and turkey!” said Gertie adjusting her NHS issue hearing aid which was whining louder like a smoke alarm on a Malaysian Airliner.
“ You daft old Bird….we are in Venice not the English Riviera!” replied Myles.
“ Venice….are you sure? …. it smells and looks like the Somerset Levels….!” said Gertie jutting her top set of false teeth up and down as she spoke.
“ Did you pack any Denture Fix ?” asked Myles.
He remembered the last time he had slept with her had been a nightmare, as with her snoring, teeth chattering and lip movements in the night , he kept waking up from a dream believing he had found the missing race horse ‘Shergar’.
Boy had Gertrude Frump changed from the woman he had first married.
Not only her Maiden Name either.
She had trebled in size- no longer the legs of Bette Grable- more like the legs of Beth Ditto…her hair had turned white and thinned so much and what remained was so straggly he felt like she could have been an extra in the ‘Waking Dead’.
She had false teeth, a glass eye, titanium hips, and drooping breasts.
She also had so many blue varicose veins in her legs she looked like a human version skin of ‘Spaghetti Junction’ on a Birmingham sat nav.
Myles being so egotistical, couldn’t see that he had aged too.
He was of the opinion he could have done better and still could if only Gertie would finally give up the ghost.
He already had his eye on the bingo caller at the local OAP complex , who always looked at him suggestively when she called the number six and nine ….69.
Myles didn’t care about her reputation as a ‘Black Widow’….or even that she came from the disputed region of ‘Chechnya’.
With Gertie’s false teeth problem, he no longer was prepared risking having a ‘Marie Antoinette’ style execution of his oldest friend and toy in the World.
“ Gondola Sir?” asked the Italian, Gio Barcorola.
“ I thought I ordered a taxi to meet us at the Airport?” asked Myles.
“ Sir, you do realise that Venice is located in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea?” said Gio.
“ So you can’t DRIVE there then?” asked Myles.
“ This is a ‘sea taxi’ ….Is this your first visit to Italy?” asked Gio.
“ It is my first time abroad…I’m from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales !” said Myles proudly.
At the conclusion of this statement Gio took a step back which is very difficult thing to do in a Gondola.
“ That explains it then!” said Gio.
“ 50 Euros UP FRONT please!” he said lowering the arthritic pair into the narrow boat.
“ Explains what?” asked Myles sensing the condescending nature of the statement.
“ Why you are dressed in a wrangler jacket and jeans carrying your change of underpants in a carrier bag!” replied Gio.
“ The traditional Merthyr Tydfil Wedding suit and office briefcase!” said Gio.
“ Bit choppy innit that water !” Gertrude protested.
On the surface of the grey/brown sea water filling the Venetian Lagoon , particularly around the jetty there was lots of flotsam and jetsam.
A filled ‘Pampero’ nappy floated past the gondola, as the trio made their way to the Medieval City.
“ Is it far to Venice?” asked Gertrude.
“ About ten miles by sea from the airporto!” said Gio dabbing his pole in the water and levering the little watercraft away from the shore.
As he did so he naturally started to sing ‘O Solo Mio’ only in Italian.
“ I don’t know about you Gerty, but as we are now ‘culture vultures’ …I cant put my finger on it but I have a sudden urge that I could do with a Walls Cornetto right now!” said Myles.
“ After all - we ARE on our second honeymoon!”
“ Coincidentally, I have two in my on-board mini-fridge….they don’t cost the ‘Earth’ either…only Ten Euros each!” offered Gio.
“ Ten Euros!” exclaimed Myles ….” You know where you can stick them don’t you!”
“ That’s the trouble with you Myles…in all my 50 years of marriage to you …you have always measured everything in terms of money…..!” said Gertie.
“ Money never has been my God!” said Gertie.
“ I’ll have one !” said Gertie reaching into her Merthyr purse designed with a little bell on it to detect pickpockets.
She handed Gio , a crisp Ten Euro Note who then reciprocated her smile.
“ What about him!” asked Gio.
“ After 50 years of marriage to HIM , old empty bollocks can pay for his own!” said Gertie.
Myles just scowled at his wife.
He knew that on the first bite from her loose dentures, the ice cream would go the same way the nappy did.
As if to spite him, the dentures stayed in place as she bit the chocolate and nuts off the top.
He glowered at her with every successive bite, counting 2 Euros off a time- she even licked out the wrapper so he couldn’t get even a sniff.
After thirty minutes of heavy punting, the gondola arrived at the quayside near the old Arsenale Building leading to Grand Canal.
“ What do you think of the view of this Grand Medieval city- once the centre of the European Renaissance ?” asked Myles.
“ Doesn’t it make you quiver with excitement to think that Marco Polo himself may have stood on this very spot?” said Myles.
“ Not really….said Gertie….I’d rather be down the Club with Elsie…Bingo tonight and all!”
Myles paid Gio and turned to him and said loudly.
“ Do you see what I have to put up with now?....never marry for lust Gio …marry for brains… they last longer than looks!” saged Myles imparting his wisdom.
“ Meester… I never marry …too much hastle…I am like my Venetian ancestor, Casanova my friend, I would rather screw the tourists who come here looking for love, romance and entertainment…I take their money , shag their women and eat and drink their hospitality…marriage is for eediots from abroad ….like your Mr Pilkington on Sky tv!” said the down to ‘Earth’- Gio.
“ What do I owe you?” asked Myles.
“ 70 Euros…!” said Gio.
“ It was 50 Euros when we started!” protested Myles.
“ But in the last 30 minutes there has been a run on the £…!” said the rip-off merchant of Venice.
“ I do take it you will need a ride back home at the end of the holiday!” said the Gondolier in a mildly threatening voice.
Myles realising he was in a foreign country, on an island sinking into a lagoon, with no visible alternative return vessel , suddenly realised discretion was the best part of valour and handed over the 70.00. Euros.
“ And zee tip?” asked Gio condescendingly.
“ Don’t eat yellow snow…I’ll give you a tip when you meet us back here at the Quay at 12 Noon in two days time!” said Myles.
By way of compensation, the Merthyr Man waited for the gondolier to turn his back and pinched two cornettos from his ice box.
As he waved Gio off with his remaining hand, he smiled at the greasy Italian, secure in the knowledge that he was not as stupid a ‘punter’ as he thought he was.
Myles felt a tug on the hand behind his back and turned to see a rabid mongrel dog known locally as Gobbi, foaming at the mouth , running away from him on the quayside with one of the ice-creams.
Gertie had made her way selfishly towards some shade.
Picking up the remaining half-chewed ice cream, he went down on one knee and offered it romantically to his wife of fifty years.
His knee clicked and he knew it might take a lifting crane to get him back up.
“ Well what do you think of the splendid Baroque architecture, the pastel colours and the exuberance of Venice- the Bride of the Sea- then?” asked Myles.
“ It’s alright… but it’s no Mecca is it?” said Gertie sounding like she was in fact related to Karl Pilkington.
“ Besides it stinks to High Heaven here…it doesn’t show that on the postcards!” said Gertie.
“ Why do I bother?” said Myles finally levering himself up.
“ This way!” he said pointing in the direction of the main town.
“ I hope you have booked me somewhere nice and not just a ‘Travellodge’ like last time in Weston Super Mare!” said Gertie.
“ The Doges Palace!” replied Myles.
“ I am not staying in any dog’s place!” protested the old dear mishearing her husband.
“ NOT the DOG’s PLACE….this is the DOGES PALACE…..it is a Five Star Hotel….the Doge was the Ancient ruler of Venice!” said Myles trying his best to educate pork.
A feat he had not accomplished in 50 years of Holy matrimony.
“ As long as I have somewhere to rest my varicose veins and put me teeth in a glass I’ll be fine….!” said Gertie
“ and somewhere to rest my Dukes…..!” mouthed Myles knowing in anticipation what his wife would say before she said it.
After 50 years of marriage, his life had become so predictable, so mundane and deliberate he secretly hoped death would take him soon.
Or better still Gertie.
That was part of the reason he had taken his spouse to Venice.
He knew from reading history, that it had lost almost a third of its population to the Black Death or bubonic plague in Medieval times and hoped his wife might contract it.
“ You’ll like this next bridge ….it is one of Venice’s most famous attractions…Ponte del Sospiri!” said Myles pointing up.
“ It was recently refurbished with a UNESCO World Heritage Site Grant…..it is called the Bridge of Sighs !”
“ What about it ?” moaned Gertie disinterested.
“ I don’t understand ….you normally like misery….especially mine …!” said Myles
“ Do you know why it is named that?” he questioned.
“ No….and I don’t really care…I could have won the National tonight!” said Gertie.
“ The prisoners from the local jail that were sentenced to death were paraded over this very bridge.!” continued Myles relentlessly.
“ You see my dear….in Venice…you are never far away from death…the Grim Reaper casts a shadow much greater than that of St Mark…!” said Myles chillingly, in a way as if in some Freudian way , he had finally made up his mind once and for all.
“ What are you mumbling on about …you know I am deaf …especially here in Venice…your bloody snoring did that….!” moaned Gertie.
For the rest of the journey to the Hotel, the pair moved in silence , through the narrow streets and alleyways in a similar fashion to those Venetian prisoners condemned to die had moved all those years ago.
When they reached the Doges Palace Hotel, exhausted from heatstroke and sweating like bingo players waiting on the final winning number, they collapsed inside.
“ Can I take your suitcase Madam?” asked the concierge.
Gertrude handed him her Aldi carrier bag containing one pair of C & A knickers and a spare pair of socks.
Merthyr people pack lightly- as they are too mean to pay excess baggage fares at Cardiff Wales Airport.
“ Is Madam staying long?” asked the fawning Italian hoping to get a tip for service.
“ He tells me he’s paid for Four days!” she said pointing uncaringly at her Spouse.
As if telepathically, the concierge looked at the underwear and back at Gertie.
“ Wear them once forward, once backwards, then inside and out and they are marked C & A so I know which direction to wear them!” she said to her Venetian ‘flunkey’.
The look of horror was enough to know that not only would he not get a tip, but that imagery would stay with him for life.
The other cultural ambassador for Merthyr walked up the reception desk with his little ‘pinky’ finger crooked upward in a vain attempt to appear posh.
“ Bueno Vista Mon Amigo…I have reserved the Honeymoon suite for my wife and I for four nights under the surname Soginist…!” said Myles.
The Italian didn’t even raise her head in courtesy from her mobile phone.
Myles coughed politely.
Gertie looked around her at the foyer and the extensive decoration of Venetian Gothic design with over elaborate golden gilded pillars and cameo reliefs in white alabaster and Murano stained glass.
“ Myles …..are we sure we can afford this?…it is like going into one of those Cardiff Solicitors offices…I don’t want to pay for all this!” said Gertie.
“ Don’t worry my dear…you have to live every day at our age as if it is our last….you might die tomorrow…you never can tell !” he said and then muttering under his breath….” I live in hope!”
Finally, the Italian Belladonna looked up at him with beautiful brown eyes….eyes that he could happily drown in for ever…..she looked like a younger version of Sophia Loren only even more attractive.
Louisa the receptionist, looked at the odd couple before her and immediately felt pity for them.
He had more hair coming out of his nose and ears than he had on his head with a bulbous nose that W C Fields would have been proud of.
Whilst she was more wrinkled than a walnut belonging to the character, Madge in the TV series Benidorm.
Her drooping lop-side faced made her look like a Basset Hound chewing a wasp.
Louisa looked through the booking list and asked for the passports to verify identity.
As she opened up the passports and photocopied them , she noticed that the British Government Uncivil Servants in the Passport Offices still had a sense of humour.
Whilst specific instructions were given not to smile, the Passport office had added holograms to the photographs which made Myles look as if he had a nose ring and a huge elephant ears , whilst Gertie had snipers crosshairs on her fore head which made her look like John F Kennedy in Dallas, Texas in 1963.
Sniggering to herself , she handed them back to Myles, who took this as a sign ‘he had pulled’.
“ Grazi Senor!” he said to Louisa.
Louisa signalled for Mario to collect their belongings totalling one Aldi carrier bag and one more expensive Asda bag.
When Mario asked about the same, Myles quipped that unfortunately he had now ‘two bags for life’.
A joke that was totally lost in translation.
But the simulation of wanting to strangle his wife was not.
Louisa felt particularly uncomfortable at the crazy look in his eye and the aggression in his face.
The lift ride was also uncomfortable as due to Gertie’s deafness , what she thought were silent chapel farts in the small claustrophobic elevator, could be heard by most people on most of the Hotel Floors and at one point did scatter the pigeons in St Mark’s Square- a mile away.
As they reached the 13th Floor, Mario opened the lift doors and guided the ancient pair towards their even more ancient room.
He bowed gracefully but in all honesty mainly to get more oxygen in his lungs, he held out his hand for a gratuity.
Myles took it and shook it and placed a Werther’s original butterscotch sweet in his palm.
“ No need to thank me son!” he said slamming the door in the servants face before he could react.
Gertrude looked around at the four poster bed and ornately decorated room that would have not been out of place in a Sky Atlantic set of the Borgias.
“ Do you like it?” asked Myles still hopeful there was just the faintest glimmer of the girl he had married there under the surface.
The flame of love was quickly extinguished.
“ I can’t stay here!” protested Gertie.
“ But it’s beautiful…..it’s the Honeymoon suite ….to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary!” proffered Myles.
“ Golden walls for my Golden Girl on her Golden Anniversary in a city known as the Bride of the Sea!” he said romantically.
“ Don’t like it….you know I have condition called Khyzdophobia!” she snapped.
“ But those aren’t dwarves up there on the walls Luv…they are Cherubs…winged naked little boys known as ‘Putti’ to us Art lovers and culture vultures!” he said voice tailing off knowing that he could never reason with a closed mind.
The last 50 years or the ‘Golden Age of Matrimony ’ as he liked to call it had proved that very fact.
“ I can be putti in your hands tonight!” he said hopefully.
She just glared at him with her single eye.
“ Okay…I have Nanosphobia …I don’t care …..it is like being backstage at a 1970’s BBC Top of the Pops set….I can’t sleep with all those naked boys staring at me all night!” said Gertie.
“ You’d never make a good DJ then!” quipped Myles.
“ Those paintings are the work of the famous Renaissance artist Tintoretto….Philistine!” said Myles.
“ Never heard of Philistine!” said Gertie ….” Although that is a Goliath of a painting…who is that little shepherd boy using his catapult on that Orc …..is that the Lord of the Slings?”
Myles just shook his head at the woman that thought Stephen Fry was in the TV show IQ and that Meerkats from Russia could actually talk.
He wondered what he had ever seen in this human equivalent of a Booby bird.
That’s right…. it was her pert breasts fifty years ago.
Now they were so elasticated she had to tuck her nipples in the top of her stockings.
He knew he would get no peace tonight, if he didn’t ring reception.
He held his hand over the receiver and pretended to speak to Sophia.
“ I am very sorry to bother you !” he said in his best telephone voice even if it was to tell a complete lie.
“ But my loving wife is not satisfied with the best room in your hotel or even in fact it is the best in Venice but we need to switch to a much more inferior room ….if possible one without a sea view or overlooking the beautiful Campanile of St Mark ….yes I know she’s awkward try living with her for 50 Golden years…but Madame here doesn’t like it because she has a phobia of the little people ….it affects the older generation that’s why it is called NANosphobia…..yes try googling it ….it really is a true condition it just affects old awkward battle-axes who complain about everything….yes I appreciate there are gender differences….men are from Mars and women from Venice….but hey the customer is always right…..any chance you could move us to the lowest cockroach and rat ridden basement below canal level if possible next to a sewerage outfall ….just to give my spouse something genuine to moan about?.....sorry….what was that?” asked Myles in a Fawlty-esque conversation.
“Fully booked love!” he exclaimed.
“ Something to do with the Carnivale and of course - a Sky Film crew filming a documentary here!” said Myles.
“ Well , you will have to draw the curtains around the bed then so I can’t see them!.....I am exhausted I haven’t had my afternoon nap….I’m fit to drop!” she moaned collapsing on the four poster.
Myles seeing his opportunity tried his luck.
After closing the velvet drapes he asked his beau.
“Shattered are you?.....”
Gertie opened her one eye like a Cyclops.
“ Do you have a headache too then?” he enquired further.
“ No….!” said Gertie.
“ Well that’s the first time in a decade then….time for a bit of rumpy !” said Myles.
Gertie was trapped.
She like Boy George preferred a good cup of tea to sex.
Unlike Boy George she didn’t like the same kind of teabags.
It was her Second Honeymoon….how could she refuse?.
Myles was off like a shot popping a blue Cialis pill as he rummaged through more sets of drawers than a Gurnos burglar.
After removal five layers of lady undergarments, he knew he was close …either that or the Rialto Pescheria fish market was working late.
She may be hard of hearing he thought but not herring.
He looked down a sight he had not seen for ten whole years.
Surely it hadn’t closed up from lack of use?
Was that a vaginal cataract or just a cobweb?
Myles didn’t care.
The dog had seen the rabbit and was off on a chase.
To him an old one closing was just as good as a young one opening.
30 seconds later the old dog was a spent force.
He looked up to the painted Heavens on his Honeymoon Suite ceiling.
He felt like King David , Peter Andre and Gareth Gates must have after they had scaled the peaks of Jordan.
“ Have you finished yet?” asked Gertie looking down over her ‘Chat’ Magazine.
Due to the chemical enhancement Myles tool didn’t stay down long.
It was like it was spring loaded.
Like the Grand Old Duke of York before him, the new Doge of Venice grabbed his wife and began to use ‘Doge- y style’ on the poor woman.
If it got any hotter Myles knew he would have to dip it into the other ‘Grand Canal’.
Very soon the old man became de-hydrated as there wasn’t much liquid left in his body- but the same could not be said for Gertie who was like the ‘Orinoco Flow’.
He had not seen such foaming at the mouth since that rabid cornetto- thieving dog two hours ago.
Despite this marathon love session Myles was still intent on killing his spouse.
Unfortunately, this was no longer the preferred method of choice.
He collapsed on his side of the bed and tried to beat down his knob with his a piece of Venetian Carnivale costume.
It added a new meaning to the ‘Masked Ball’.
Gertie laughed in her sleep at his performance almost like a comedy of errors at the nearby ‘La Fenice’ Opera House.
She slept for four hours after his exertions.
Gertie’s mood suddenly darkened and then her face became twisted and distorted as her dream suddenly became a nightmare.
Inside, her mind played out a scene, where she was trapped on a Venice Bridge, surrounded by little people with jagged knives all out to kill her like the psychotic dwarf dressed in a yellow raincoat in the Julie Christie/Donald Sutherland film ‘Don’t look now’.
It was almost as if her body sensed that her husband now stood next to her with a pillow ready to suffocate his miserable wife.
Myles was weighing up in his mind whether or it was worth it or not.
On the one hand he would nag free, but on the other he would be sent to prison for the remainder of his natural life.
But the question he pondered was whether or not four square meals a day, no utility bills and peace and solitude would be that bad – after all at 78 years of age he was not like to be anyone’s prison bitch.
Gertie made up his mind for him, as she opened up one eye (full of eye-snot deposited by the Venetian sandman from the lagoon ) and asked suspiciously what exactly her husband was doing with that pillow in his hand , as he hadn’t made a bed ever in his 50 years of marriage.