A few days later and our morale has improved no end, due to the company of friends and heroic quantities of wine. The situation with the flat has resolved itself as we've been told that, whilst it'll need a bit of redecorating at some point, it will be in a fit state for us to move into. And Caroline has repacked further and managed to reduce the number of cases to what we hope will be a manageable level. Ten.
I think it's time for me to make the big gesture, and so I tell her that – if it'll help at all – I'm prepared to forego taking my opera cloak with me.
She tells me that the opera cloak failed to make the cut four days ago.
We're staying with my cousin Susie and her hubby Justin who're driving us to the airport. Cathy and Paul arrive to say cheerio, and to pick up the car. I hand over the documentation, and then suggest to Paul that I run through some of its little quirks such as the non-cancelling indicators and the intermittently successful central locking. I show him how the satnav works and the travel computer.
“I can't help noticing”, he says, “that all the instructions seem to be in Italian”.
“Yes, I changed all the language settings a few years back. I thought it would be a good way to practice”.
“Right. Any idea how you switch them back?”
“Erm, I can't really remember, sorry. Anyway, Zoe speaks Italian...doesn't she?”
“Well...I guess she's going to learn.”
Sue and Justin drive us to Gatwick in an efficiently packed, and extremely snug, Zafira; and then it's final hugs and goodbyes.
It strikes me that four months ago we had jobs, a flat and a car, and now we don't even have any keys. If our luggage fails to arrive we'll basically be left with the clothes we're standing up in; but the flight turns out to be uneventful.
A water taxi from the airport to Venice is pretty expensive, but it's the only way to transport this much luggage in one go and, it has to be said, it's quite a special way to arrive. The boat turns into the Grand Canal, quieter than I remember, and I feel rather like Lord Byron arriving in this great city for the first time. Byron probably didn't have a laptop case on his knee with a copy of Doctor Who Magazine poking out of it, but still. The driver drops us off at Campo San Barnaba, which is the nearest we can get to our flat. It's only a few hundred yards away, but a few hundred yards with ten heavy bags between two is not going to be possible, so Caroline heads off to get the keys while I watch the luggage. Giuseppe, the chap who looks after the flat, is out of town until later that evening, so he's made arrangements to leave the keys with a Signor Colussi who lives a few doors down.
Caroline returns after fifteen minutes. Signor Colussi does not appear to be at home. Not to worry, we've made good time, and it's warm enough to sit outside so we drag our luggage to a nearby bar and order some drinks.
Time passes, and I think I should perhaps go and check what's going on. Signor Colussi does not answer his door, but his neighbour sees me ringing and informs me that she thinks he's out of town at the moment.
Oh. Still, no reason to worry, Giuseppe will be back this evening, let's just give him a call on his telefonino and see what time he's due back.
There's no answer.
We order some more drinks, but it's starting to get cold now, and it's not really ice cold Peroni weather. We give it another half hour, and then Caroline remembers she's got Giuseppe's address so she can at least go and bang on his door and see if he's back.
She heads off. I sit there, and draw my coat around myself. It's properly cold now, and getting dark. I do not know of any hotels in this area, and I don't know how we're going to be able to look for one whilst trying to cope with ten heavy bags. It would be fair to say that, by the time Caroline returns, I'm in danger of working myself into a bit of a state.
Happily, she has found Mrs Giuseppe at home, where she has been all afternoon, with a spare set of keys, and who thought it quite funny that we've spent hours nursing our drinks in the cold when our nice warm flat was only a few hundred yards away.
It takes three journeys to transport all our luggage to the flat. I haul the last of the bags upstairs, and look around. There's a few areas where it's evident that paint has crumbled from the ceiling but otherwise we've finally made it : it's dry, it's warm, and right now this is the best damn little flat in the whole of Venice!