Mirth and Woe: Venice
You'll never believe me, but I'm a romantic at heart. OK, perhaps I overdid it a bit on the eyeliner in the 80s as a New Romantic, but under this rock-hard, unfeeling exterior, I am a bit of a softie. That's why, then, I took the soon-to-be Mrs Duck to Venice, the most romantic city in the world so I could propose marriage to her.
In fact, we were already engaged, as she had badgered me non-stop for several weeks, until I finally got down on one knee in the kitchen and said the magic words. Then I biffed my brains out on a cupboard door as I stood up, and bled all over the happiest day of her life.
This time, then, we would do it properly.
Pissing a month's salary up the wall, we bought a holiday in Slovenia, and finding ourselves the only non-Germans in the hotel, sat on beaches for much of the time. In fact, we sat on so many of those Adriatic beaches, that I developed a rather nasty case of sunstroke, the day before we were to take a hydrofoil trip across the Venetian Riviera to the city itself.
Buggered if we were going to miss this once-in-a-barely-adequate-lifetime opportunity to get fleeced by street vendors and hideously expensive cafes, I drunk about seven gallons of coffee before we set off and took far too much Nurofen to dull the pain in my head.
That's what the trip was: woe.
I'm not the greatest of sea-farers at the best of times, and I had unfortunately left my sea-legs in a small flat back in Reading. As the Soviet-built hydrofoil bumped and buffeted across the Adriatic, my chin bumped and buffeted against the rim of the hideous ship's toilets, as I bowked rich, brown vomit all the way to Italy.
I had barely recovered by the time we got to St Mark's Square in the City of Venice, and it truly is the most awesome of sights. Awesome too was the café bill for just a couple of glasses of Coke, as Mrs Duck tried out her Italian on the fawning, yet simultaneously money-grabbing waiters "How much?!?!?!"
After the obligatory guided tours round glass factories and the Basilica, during which I kept vomiting down to a bare minimum, we were left to our own devices. I grabbed my chance - the whole reason for dragging my almost-official fiancée to this place. Find somewhere romantic, get onto one knee and pop the question properly.
The Rialto Bridge, that's where!
The Rialto Bridge is on the Grand Canal, utterly beautiful, and possibly one of the most romantic places in the whole world. Unfortunately, to get to it from St Mark's, you can either go by boat (and, frankly, I'd had enough of that for one day), or walk down dozens of narrow, alley-like streets following painted signs on walls saying "A Ponte di Rialto". It's just a shame, then, that two of the most beautiful vistas in the whole world are joined by streets that stink like all the shit on the planet is buried just below the surface. Which it probably is, in some ill-advised scheme designed to prevent the city sinking any further into the lagoon.
By the time the Rialto hove into view, the strains of the day were beginning to catch up with me, and I confess that there are times I have felt better in my life. The heat. The smell. The crowds. The ill-advised slice of pizza from a street vendor, containing meat products from at least one named animal. What could possibly go wrong?
I led my intended to the bridge, and in an overly extravagant gesture, as loving, and hugely ripped-off couples drifted under our feet on gondolas, my plan swung into action.
I sunk to one knee, and landed in the biggest, foulest Italian dog turd I had ever seen.
At least I thought it had come from a dog. You can't tell with these foreigns. The dervishes will crap in your airing cupboard given half the chance.
So, instead of "Will you marry me?", I said this:
"Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarch willyou yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarch marryme yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarch."
In my defence, I hardly got any on her.
She said yes, eventually.
You can't take me anywhere.
Brucie Bonus: Crikey! An obituary piece for Steve Irwin, what I wrote for The Friday Thing, that almost nearly got published. Staying just on the right side of 'You sick bastard', CLICKY-ME-DO.