Venice, Bologna, Family and 2013 365 Challenge #8

Venice from the Grand Canal on our flying visit

Venice from the Grand Canal on our flying visit

Hurrah we’re home. We had a fantastic weekend away in Italy catching up with my husband’s Italian family, meeting the newest member at his Baptism, and eating far too much gorgeous cheese.

We called in at Venice on the way back to the airport (having flown into Veneza Treviso because it was cheaper than flying straight to Bologna) and, as you can see from the photo, we got to see some great bits of the amazing city in our (very) short visit.

Chasing Pigeons in San Marco

Chasing Pigeons in San Marco

We only had an hour so we caught a boat along the Grand Canal, then followed the advice of a local and took a wander through the narrow streets to the San Marco Piazza. It’s not a pushchair friendly city but we coped and the kids had great fun running around chasing pigeons. Thankfully that also meant they slept most of the way home. They were amazing the whole trip and it was a delight to travel with them.

It was a challenge to get up and write my installment this morning. My gorgeous husband is watching Mary Poppins with the kids while I’m in the kitchen tapping away. We’re meant to be at a coffee morning with my daughter’s baby group so today’s post might be a little rough around the edges! More tomorrow.

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Claire peered through the gloom, trying to distinguish bodies from furniture. They were in the Kaz Bar in Tiger Tiger for her leaving drinks. Molly, Polly and Sally were huddled together in a booth, giggling. One or other of them occasionally glanced in Claire’s direction and giggled louder.

I bet they’re laughing about the stupid gift Julia bought with my farewell collection. A 75-litre rucksack and a Maglite torch. Honestly, it’s not like I’m going hiking in the Andes. Actually it’s not like I’m really leaving at all.

Claire thought back to her farewell presentation that afternoon. She had been quite shocked to look up from her desk to see the entire office gathered outside her glass door. Carl had pushed through the crowd and beckoned her out into the centre, like the sacrifice in some ancient ritual. He’d signalled for quiet before launching into a speech about how Claire would be missed, how they wished her well and looked forward to her blog posts and Facebook status updates. When Julia had dragged out the gift and dumped it at Claire’s feet Carl’s grin couldn’t have been wider if he’d been a hyena.

“It won’t be wise to turn up in a hostel with Louis Vuitton luggage my dear. They’ll have you down as a snob before you can ask the way to the bidet. That’s if they don’t just steal it and sell it on eBay. The whole point is to blend.”  And he’d grinned again, like it was all a big joke.

Well it isn’t a joke. Claire looked around the bar at all the people who had come to say goodbye. They will miss me, even if they don’t know it yet. And I will have the last laugh when I’m sitting on a beach in the Maldives while they’re doing Year End and worrying about the next mobile phone ad campaign.

“Get you a drink Claire?”

Claire looked up to see Steve lounging against a pillar near to where she was standing. She realised her hands were empty and was mortified to be caught standing alone and without a drink at her own leaving do.

“That’s fine Steve, someone’s getting me one. I’m just heading to the ladies.” She shone him her widest grin and tried not to run, which wasn’t advisable anyway in her towering heels. I guess I should be glad they didn’t buy me hiking boots or something similarly awful, Claire thought as she tip-tapped to the toilets and shuffled into a cubicle. There was a conversation going on in the next stall and Claire couldn’t help but listen to the slurred words.

“I give her two weeks. She has no idea what they’ve set her up to. I went travelling in Australia and alright the hostels here are probably cleaner and less crowded – I mean, who wants to travel around England for Pete’s sake – but it’s still going to be messy, noisy and Common. Miss La-di-dah will last a day before she’s booking a private room and I know the budget they’ve given her. Private rooms aren’t an option. Couldn’t happen to a nicer person in my view.”

Claire felt her face grow hot. It wasn’t hard to distinguish Julia’s drunken voice booming through the wall. Well, that’s just Julia, I know she hates me. When the next voice spoke Claire felt herself go completely still.

“You’re so right, Jules. Silly cow. Thinks she’s better than all of us because she went to some posh school and her family are loaded. Her sister can’t keep a fella and her brother’s a stuck up dick. No wonder she has nothing to do with them. Good riddance I say, I hope she doesn’t come back.”

Claire recognised the voice. It was Susannah, her best friend from Repro. Claire felt tears itch at the corners of her eyes, causing eye-liner to leak in and make them sting. She sat motionless while she heard the toilet flush. The two girls staggered out of the cubicle, laughing and shushing each other. As the room fell silent, apart from the throbbing bass of music coming through the wall, Claire leant her head against the partition and fought the tears. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to floated into her head, causing a wry smile to twist her lips.

At least I know what they really think, silly bitches.

She pulled herself to her feet, pushed her shoulders back, and strode from the room. Out of the corner of her eye she was aware of Julia and Susannah watching her leave the ladies shortly after them. She sensed rather than saw the consternation on their faces and gained some pleasure from it. Once she had reached the bar Claire ordered a triple gin and diet tonic and turned to face the room. She spotted Mike from Accounts sitting on a Moroccan pouf by himself in the corner and headed over to take a seat next to him. He looked up as she approached and a mixture of confusion and delight crossed his face.

“So, Mike, how are things in Accounts?” Claire settled in and turned on her best charm offensive, determined to enjoy her party if it cost her everything she had.

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