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I’d never fall into a Venice canal taking selfies – all mine are done in secret

<span>Photograph: ANSA</span>
Photograph: ANSA

I mean, I’ll just come out and say it: it’s pretty tempting to laugh out loud at the tourists who fell off their gondola into the canal in Venice last week because they just wouldn’t stop taking selfies. Their gondolier had apparently asked them to sit down and quit all that dangerous posing, but they didn’t listen and toppled right in, overturning the boat and throwing him into the tentacles of the lagoon, too. The poor man then had to try to get his very upset customers out of the big sink – there’s a video of this online – and, well, let’s just say he’s a nobler man than I am, still trying to help them by this soaking point.

So it’s tempting indeed to laugh but, oh, I can’t, because my secret hobby is taking ridiculous selfies, too. Only I do it when nobody is looking, so they can’t judge me. Don’t you? Don’t you find a nice moment of sexy lighting in, er, a public lavatory, or a restaurant loo, or a lift, or a shop, or in the park with the dog, or in your friend’s kitchen when she has left the room – I mean, I could go on. The reason I take so many is because none of them ever turn out the way I think they will, or because someone else has had the audacity to get into the lift and ruin my private moment with my phone.

I always think I'm going to look like an off-duty Cindy Crawford and am startled when it's like an on-duty vicar of Dibley

Having not practised enough in public, like the Venice tourists, I still haven’t worked out how to pose. The triangle thing that models talk about (one hand on a hip so your body has three points to it)? I tried, but the I’m a little teapot vibe was overwhelming. And I definitely haven’t mastered the one where you stretch your face into a big smile with eyes super wide open and then stop smiling but keep your eyes wide. Which apparently leaves some people with a great photo face, and me with the expression of a woman with a burning badger up her rectum.

My problem is not low self-esteem or any kind of body dysmorphia; my problem is that I always think a photo of me is going to look like an off-duty Cindy Crawford and am then startled when it comes out like an on-duty vicar of Dibley. So then I have to take 20 more. Just to check.

We Brits, we hide our selfie-ing, some of us, because we were raised in the stiff upper vernacular. To take a photograph of oneself is to manifest a need to be seen, a desire: perhaps a desire for oneself. It is a boast as well as a vulnerability and there is still that sense that we are supposed to wait to be photographed. Which is why I love it when my 12-year-old asks if she can take a picture of me with my phone.

Me? The subject of your photoshoot! Darling, of course! She stands and aims the camera, takes several shots while I pretend to be awkward but in fact adore the attention, lost in my little poses. This old thing!

Then she hands it over and it turns out I have fallen for it once again, as the gallery is now full of pictures of her face, not mine. She has sneakily turned the camera to face the other way and screams with laughter afterwards. Meaning I might as well have taken a picture of my bloody self.

With family like mine you’re better off falling in the canal.

• Sophie Heawood is the author of The Hungover Games