Goodbye Soldier

Goodbye Soldier by Spike Milligan Read Free Book Online

Book: Goodbye Soldier by Spike Milligan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Spike Milligan
a chain in a money belt in his jockstrap.
    After the show, I had planned for Toni and me to go out to dinner. First, a trip in a gondola on a clear starry night. The gondola man can see we are lovers, so he sings ‘Lae That Piss Tub Dawn Bab’*…
≡ ‘Lay That Pistol Down, Babe’.
    It is midnight. Toni and I are at a corner table in the Restaurant Veneziana (alas, now defunct – possibly now the Plastic Pizzeria). It’s all candles and Victoriana and dusty enough without being dirty. There are chandeliers with the odd tear-drop missing and white-aproned waiters lubricated by the growing tourism are grovelling and bowing at the going rate. A guitar and mandolin are trilling through Paolo Tosti and Puccini. I send a hundred lire with a request: “Don’t play ‘Lae That Piss Tub Dawn Bab’.”
    Toni and I are talking pre-dinner nothings. We watch the dancing calligraphy of the ruby in the wine on the tablecloth, we can hear the waters lap as gondolas pass the window. Please, God, let me die now! I am seeing Toni over a bowl of nodding roses, fallen petals tell of their demise, the sickly sweet smell courts the air. The waiter has held back to allow us our billing and cooing. He now advances with the menus as a shield. He recommends moules marinieres: “ Fresche sta matlina, signorina ,” he tells Toni. Toni orders vitello (veal). Today, I’d have told her it was cruel; then, I was ignorant.
    “This is very old restaurant, original home of Contessa de Rocabaldi. She die in 1900, some say she poisoned.” Oh? Did she eat here? “Oh Terry, why you always talk crazy?” says my love. “Here stay Greta Garbo.” Oh? I topped up our glasses only to have the bottle taken by the sommelier , smilingly outraged at the predation on his domain. He tells us that Valpolicella was the wine of Suetonius. I asked him did he come here? But the joke misfires and he says, no, you see Suetonius died two thousand years ago.
    We were alone and eating. I looked across the roses at her and I said what I hadn’t said to a girl since 1939. “I think I love you.” She stopped eating, a moule in one hand. (There are no two-handed moules .)
    She smiled. “You think you love me?” I nodded. She raised her glass, I touched it with mine, they lingered together a moment. Then she said, “When you are sure, you tell me again.” And she elevated the glass, then sipped, her eyes on me as she drank. She called the waiter and rattled off something in Italian. He hurried to the duo which then played the ‘Valzer di Candele’, the version from the film Waterloo Bridge (with Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh). She hummed the tune, a few rose petals fell. God, this was different from Reg’s Café in Brockley! I reached out and held her hand and discovered how hard it was eating spaghetti one-handed. But what a romantic night!
    It was past midnight when the waiter brought the bill, and two minutes past when I realized I’d left my money in the dressing-room at the theatre. I explain the circumstances, he calls the manager; I explain the circumstances, he calls the police; I explain the circumstances. It ends with me leaving my silver cigarette case and my watch. They were all returned the next night when I paid the bill, the manager now all effusive with smiles. The cigarette case was empty, the bastard had smoked the lot. Like my father said, “Life is six to four against.”
    Y es, tonight Venice is to have a carnival, the first one since 1939. Before the show, Toni and I sit at an outdoor café in the Piazza San Marco. The pigeons are wheeling in the sunset, and the light falls on the Ducal Palace and the Basilica, two different stories in stone. Around the square, beautiful buildings run cheek by jowl: soaring up is the great Bell Tower, whose doleful bells are ringing out the hour of six, sending more pigeons wheeling from their roosts. People stroll leisurely. One looks at St Mark’s and is lost in wonder, its

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