A brick short of a load

While Stephanie Hills may sound like an upmarket suburb of Los Angeles, I can assure you she’s a real person and works for Holiday Extras as a sales account manager. She called in this week to update us on the new and exciting products available from Holiday Extras online.

With a selection of Lego-addicted grandchildren – you are no-one in the world of grandparenting if you can’t tell your Bionicle tribes apart – I asked Steph about the company’s Legoland deals.

She explained how to book them online and I now have no excuse not to experience the magic of the mini Lego kingdom. However, from what Steph was saying, one client had a very good excuse not to get down with the square people.

An American client had booked Legoland Windsor with Holiday Extras online as it fitted exactly what he was looking for in a spring break – ideal for all the family and a fun place that was new to them. He booked for two nights and paid in full with his credit card.

Having confirmed his Easter break, he rang his friend in Windsor to make an arrangement for the families to meet up.

Using the location information he’d printed off from the Internet, he reeled off some street names to his friend, who, unfamiliar with them, jokingly suggested his pal had booked Windsor, England when he meant to book a break in Windsor, Canada (damn that British Empire).

Further investigation proved the friend right. The American client had indeed wrongly navigated his way around the world wide web and booked the wrong city in the wrong country.

Being unable to travel to England for a two-night stay as he lives in St Johns, Michigan, US, the chap sent a sheepish e-mail to Holiday Extras asking if they could refund his trip in full.

This the company has done. I just hope he didn’t book bed and breakfast at the Castle nearby.

Steph is a game sort and takes on a variety of roles in the Holiday Extras cause. You may have chanced upon her in London’s theatreland last November when she and other Holiday Extras’ staff members dressed up as characters from Mary Poppins and braved a cold winter’s night to launch Holiday Extras’ Show and Stay theatre breaks.

Apparently, Steph made a fabulous little Jane Banks, and much to her amusement, found herself signing autographs for passing tourists, with the Japanese especially keen to be photographed with her.

It’s my bet she needed more than a spoonful of sugar after that chilly evening, but what a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way to launch a new product.

In fact, the idea worked so well, the team might do it again this year, and next time, Steph has promised me a part. As long as it’s not Widow Twanky, you can count me in.

No ticket to ride

The telephone rang and, like a fool, I answered it to a breathy female voice I was sure I recognised.

“Hi, is that you? It’s me,” she said. “Of course it’s me, is that you?” I replied. “Yes, it’s me, Mandy. I’m on the train!” With the basics established, it was too late to put the phone down, so I let the lovely Mandy Nickerson, managing director of Bales Worldwide, continue.

I already had the sense of imminent disaster that accompanies these sorts of calls from Mrs Nickerson and wondered which aspect of her life would have gone ever so slightly awry this time. Usually something has been stolen or gone missing – keys, handbag, passport, marbles…

“I’m going to London and I went to buy a ticket and realised I had no money, credit cards, ID or anything on me. It’s going to be a bit tricky when I get to Victoria as I won’t be able to vault over the barrier in this outfit.”

“Mandy, how can I help you? I’m in Dorset and you’re approaching London at high speeds. Short of promising you a visit when they bang you up in Holloway, there’s not much I can do from this end, is there?” I said. “Have you rung Steve?”

Mandy’s husband is very good in these circumstances, but she told me his phone was switched off – he’s no fool.

“I’ve rung Vivienne from the office and she’s promised to meet me at Victoria station with some money to get a ticket.”

“Was that what you rang to tell me?” I asked.

“No, I was actually returning your call.”

“But I phoned you more than a week ago,” I said, “I’ve sorted that out now. I did try you on your mobile and I left a message.”

“I’ve been in Germany,” Mandy said. “And you wouldn’t have got me on the mobile because I lost it in the States!”

I thought it best not to ask how she became estranged from her phone, but she did tell me Raymond, who works for Bales but who clearly has a future in care in the community given how often he has to intervene to ensure Mandy can survive her life, replaced it with a hi-tech, all-singing, all-dancing, blue-toothed, WAP-enabled, hot-wired model which of course, she couldn’t operate.

Not being one for reading instruction manuals, she’s swapped it for her son David’s phone which has fewer applications.

While we had Mandy on the line, Nigel asked if she would like to take part in a sponsored walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End.

She declined on the grounds she had already entered into a sponsored bicycle ride. Only problem being she doesn’t have a bike.

So, if any of you London-based agents spot a woman dashing through the streets in a tight skirt and high heels being hotly pursued by London Transport Police, tell her to get on her bike!

Maureen Hill works at Wessex World Travel, Gillingham, Dorset