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  • Philip Bryer

Don't Look... Now!


As previously noted on these pages, I’m going to do my best to avoid writing about holidays and hospital stays. It is clear, however, that on this occasion my best isn’t going to be good enough.

There we were last week at a swanky hotel in Venice. So swanky that included in the breakfast buffet were a cluster of gleaming, silvery ice buckets loaded with bottles of chilled prosecco, corks popped and all ready to go. This was the upside. As is the case with upsides, there’s often a downside lurking further down the alley and swinging a baseball bat.

Overnight, our lovely hotel’s relaxed clientele of excited tourists; the keen and friendly Americans, gauche Chinese who got dressed in the dark, and rude and stuffy Germans (I hate to perpetuate the cliché, but it was true) were nudged aside by a dull-eyed troupe of message-checking conference goers. Business types at breakfast in ties, and badges and business suits were almost enough to curdle my scrambled eggs, un-smoke my salmon, de-fizz my prosecco, and turn Nonna’s dessert cake sour. Except for two of them. Who were most intriguing.

He in full business fig, including cuff-links and the dreaded ID badge in case he forgets his own name. She similarly smart. He perhaps 10 years older and punching above his weight by several divisions. So, both done up for work, all ready for a long day’s conferencing chat, the setting up of the networks, and the doing of the sums - I think this is what goes on. But the best preparation for a long session of the spouting of the corporate bollocks (particularly if you’re making any attempt to take it seriously) surely isn’t four, yep, at least four big beautiful glasses of fizz, each one that he delivered to his, er, companion accompanied by an affectionate caress of the shoulders.

They were a fascinating sight, and this sort of people watching is right up Mrs Bryer’s street. It appears to the side of her that incorporates Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Poirot, but without the woollier elements of their thinking. Maybe they’re married, I suggested.

“Well,” Mrs B began, “he’s wearing a wedding ring, but she isn’t. Also, he was down here on his own to start with – see his book and sunglasses on the table? So that suggests they’re staying in separate rooms and are not married. Unless of course they are sharing a room but come down separately for appearance’s sake. They’re not married. I’d guess she’s his P.A., Mrs B illustrated “P.A.” with air-drawn speech marks.

“And getting on the piss to this extent, at this time, and just before work?” I asked, thoroughly bamboozled, and most impressed with her forensic analysis.

“Probably going to bunk off. Feign a headache, some hours before getting one for real.”

It’s clear to me that having an affair is so bloody complicated that I wonder where the angst stops and the fun begins. Or maybe that’s all part of it.

I know one another thing about this subject.

Recently I was caught up in a period of commuting delays and, I’ll be honest, dropping into a friendly boozer to have a beer or two with some pals on the way home. Now, when one’s spouse suggests, however light-heartedly, that these delays might actually be the result of you having an affair, there is one very, very, very wrong answer. An answer that couldn’t be more wrong if it was written out by Karl Marx.

That answer is…

Drum roll…………

“When have I got time to have an affair?”

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