M knew he’d never really had a choice. Stepping down into the red and black interior behind Sam, he decided he would try to enjoy the experience, rather than concerning himself with the opinions of the locals or other passers-by.

When they’d first discussed making the trip last year Sam had suggested the tour straightaway; so he shouldn't have been surprised when he found himself being guided towards a servizio gondole after breakfast. It just seemed a bit expensive, 80 Euros for 40 minutes. Couldn’t they walk around the city and see the same things for free? But it was the experience that mattered – a one-time thing; so even though 80 Euros did seem like a lot of money in this post-Brexit economy, he sat back and tried to look like this was what he would have also chosen to do.

The gondola was different to how he’d imagined, gaudy but extremely intricate, and Sam informed him that it was constructed from 280 pieces of wood, including cherry, oak, fir, larch, mahogany, walnut, lime and elm root. M wondered what the benefits were, if any, of using more than one species of wood for the construction, and who in mediaeval Venice had come up with the idea.

It was peaceful on the canal, much less traffic than on the pavements, so that was something. They cruised along steadily, taking in this different perspective on the city: the tide-marked stonework, hidden entrances and sounds of the oar through the water. As they approached a bridge M looked up and suddenly saw something familiar. It was a Moroccan rug, seemingly identical to one his ex had owned. It had been in the living room, next to the fireplace; but now it seemed to be here, hanging half in and half out of a Venetian window. He recognised the irregular diamond pattern and blue-grey zigzags. The worn centre even seemed to be the same, but perhaps those rugs all age like that? Before he could ponder on it any longer they passed under the bridge and it was gone.