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PHONE HOME (Deaf in Venice 3)

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We are part way through our tour of the magnificent Doge’s Palace in Venice – admiring the pictures in the wonderful Tintoretto exhibition in fact – when Julia suddenly exclaims, ‘You’re not quite the ticket!’ Everybody looks at us. What is going on here I wonder. One minute I am ‘Deafo!’ and now I am ‘Not quite the ticket!’ ‘I’ve lost the ticket!’ Julia says again.

‘What ticket?’ I ask. It can’t be the entrance ticket because we are already in here … and what a palaver that was. We had pre-ordered our tickets on-line over the Internet prior to arriving in Venice and were clutching the relevant photocopies in our hot little hands when we arrived at the entrance to the Doge’s Palace. There were three separate queues to get in but thankfully the lane for pre-paid tickets had no one in it. Unfortunately a large party from one of the Cruise Ships had also just arrived as well and they are given priority over us. And when we do eventually get through the doors the guy at the ticket box won’t accept our photocopied sheets. Eventually we get passed up the chain of command and get issued replacement tickets which the scanner gun accepts. Judging by the numbers of people following us from the entrance kiosk to the ticket office to the manager’s office, and then back again, we are not the only ones with this problem.

The Doge’s Palace is indeed magnificent but we pay extra to see the special Tintoretto exhibition, that is on at the moment, first. Tintoretto was a 16th century Venetian artist, looser in style than many of his contemporaries, a strange mixture of genuine Christian faith and sharp entrepreneurial practice, and we like his paintings. Our rapturous appreciation of these paintings, however, is rudely interrupted by Julia’s sudden realisation that she has ‘Lost the ticket!’ She turns out every pocket and, sure enough, there is not a ticket of any description to be found. ‘What ticket?’ I ask again. ‘The ticket for the left luggage office over by the Basilica!’ Julia explains.

Light dawns. Prior to visiting the Doge’s Palace we joined the queue to visit the ornate St Mark’s Basilica, only to discover that we couldn’t take our backpacks in with us and that we had to leave them at a storeroom nearby. I kept our place in the queue whilst Julia rushed round the corner to find said storeroom and deposit our backpacks. She returns 10 minutes later sans backpacks and flourishing numbered ticket. We shuffle round the Basilica with scores of other tourists. To be honest there is not much to see. It is rather dark and dingy and we are all continually hassled by officious attendants making sure we keep moving and don’t take any photographs. There are lots of extra bits to the Basilica that we can visit … as long as we are willing to pay extra. Blow that for a game of Gondoliers! We are in and out of the Basilica within 15 minutes and on our way to see the Doge’s Palace.

So, everything is fine and dandy … until Julia realises that she has lost the numbered ticket to the storeroom where we have left our backpacks (along with several hundred other backpacks). Our backpacks with all our money, passports, cameras, keys, etc, etc. What if someone has found our lost ticket and claimed all our stuff? Panic ensues. Julia goes rushing off in one direction … I don’t know where she has gone or what she is doing. I wait around for a bit and then male logic sets in. I find my way to the exit, go back to the Bascilica, ask where the storeroom is situated, find my way to the storeroom and explain the situation to the two ladies who are running the show.

The two ladies are not the least bit interested in my plight. They are attempting to deal with a continuous stream of people coming in to the storeroom to retrieve their bags … all of them with the appropriate tickets. They don’t speak any English and I don’t speak Italian but they do allow me to come behind the counter to search for our bags. I can’t find them anywhere … and they won’t allow me to move any bags to see if I can find ours. I have a sudden flash of inspiration … Julia is bound to have left her mobile phone in her backpack, and I have my mobile phone with me, so if I phone her number the appropriate back back will ring. Simples! I phone Julia’s mobile … and although it rings I can’t hear a backpack ringing! After all I am ‘Deafo’ … how can I possibly hear a backpack ringing. I ask the ladies to listen out … but they can’t be bothered. Why should they help? I am just another prat of a tourist. I am from the UK … and we are brexiting Europe aren’t we?

I give up on my good idea and go and try and find Julia. I don’t venture too far from the storeroom because I know Julia will eventually come here and being 6′ 4″ tall means that she should be able to see me above the crowd. Eventually she turns up and we return to the storeroom to repeat the ‘phoning home’ exercise. The two ladies are just as uncooperative as before but do allow Julia behind the counter. I make the phone call … and joy of joys, a backpack hidden in the pile rings and Julia can hear it. We retrieve our backpacks … nobody has stolen them after all … and we are able to prove they are ours!

We are so relieved! We go back to the Doge’s Palace. We resume our tour. The Palace is amazing. We cross the Bridge of Sighs. We visit the prison. We are high on adrenaline when we finally leave and decide that we both need a drink to recover from our traumatic day. We return to St Marks’s Square for a Venetian Spritzer only to discover that if we want to have a drink at one of the prominent cafes we have to pay 12€ just for the privilege even before we buy any drinks because they have a quintet playing light music. Greedy s**s! We go round the corner where the music is free and the drinks are cheeper. We have a delightful time. Julia gets up and dances to the bossanova music the band are playing … so much better than Theresa May’s embarrassing performance the Conservative Party Conference … and we have a great evening.

Julia can’t be bothered to cook for us tonight – we are on holiday after all, and it has been a stressful day – so we stop off for dinner at a gluten free restaurant we have discovered on our way home. When we get back to our apartment Julia remembers that she should have ‘phoned home’ tonight to let her mother know that we were OK. Oh well! It is too late now. We can ‘phone home’ tomorrow … one phone call is enough for today!

Jim Binney

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