Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist

Pickled for posterity

It was great to speak to TUI UK marketing manager Sue Parker White. Sue and I go way back, to a time when the pace of life was slower -30mph along a winding road with great views as opposed to a million miles a minute along the information superhighway.

She laughed when I unwittingly suggested a telex was sent to a resort on behalf of a client. Obviously I meant ‘e-mail’ but we’re all entitled to our senior moments.

Sue remarked there were other signs that life had moved on. At one time she’d rush to the wine bar straight from work; these days she hot foots it to her art class. Back then, it was about oblivion, now it’s about education. Very commendable and, judging by the jpeg she sent me of red and green peppers she’d painted, she’s not half bad.

I, on the other hand, am positively all bad, having not changed beyond a comprehensive collection of unwanted lines and wrinkles. I’m afraid for me, the wine bar, or more accurately, the wine, still has an irresistible appeal. As for art – well, my bed is in the style of Tracey Emin’s…

Still a bit green

Another lady embarking on a new activity is Kirsty in Prestige reservations. Married to a golfer, she has come to the conclusion that ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ and is planning some golf lessons for herself.

Kirsty disclosed this when I phoned to request a holiday in the Westin Hotel in Spain. My client wanted to book spa treatments and beginners’ golf lessons. I checked with Kirsty that it would be possible to hire all the necessary equipment (golfers can be dreadfully possessive of their balls).

“It’s fine,” she said, “they have plenty of bats for hire.”

“Surely you mean clubs?” I replied.

“Oh yes, of course I do,” she said, “I’m sorry, but I’m only just getting to grips with it myself.”

Kirsty’s husband works shifts, so she reasons that if she takes up golf she’ll see more of him. I agree, but the first handicap to overcome is the terminology.

The boys from brazil

Over the years, we agents have become suspicious of the telephone call urgently requesting a flight for that evening or the following day.

I don’t know about you, but my mind goes into overdrive and thousands of film narratives come into my mind… it’s gun runner, a drugs dealer, a spy, a man on a romantic mission – all totally worthy of 007 himself.

But more seriously, with so much credit card fraud these days it’s prudent to be cautious so when Mandy Lipscombe of Stowaway Travel took a call from a fella wanting an urgent flight to Sao Paulo, she didn’t really expect the booking to materialise. However, just before closing time, two chaps arrived to pay in cash.

Chatting to Mandy, one of the men claimed that the reason for the trip was to pay a surprise visit to his mother at which both men laughed. Mandy grew wary. Diamond thief and accomplice? Or was she being dramatic?

The clients handed over the cash and then asked if Mandy knew anything about cars.

“Generally speaking,” she said, “I find I turn the key and it starts.”

It transpired that this was precisely what didn’t happen when the client tried to start his.

“It could be the starter motor,” said Mandy, helpfully, “especially if it makes a clicking noise.”

Clearly hours spent in front of Jeremy Clarkson had paid off.

“Rock it until it clicks, that’s what I’d do.”

The gents went to ‘sort out their motor’, leaving the girls in the office to analyse the goings-on. Cash, dodgy motors and loving their ol’ mums was all adding up to a plot fit for Miramax.

Not long after it was time for them to shut-up shop and make their way to the car park themselves.

When they arrived, the two men were still there, struggling to start the car, so Mandy found herself in tight skirt and stilettos, pushing it for a bump start.

“I was frightened they’d miss their flight,” she said, and it must have been clear to her by then that a motor that won’t start doesn’t make for a getaway car!

Dirty laundry

It’s easy to forget when we book villa holidays, that the villas have owners and the owners have stories. I pondered this when a client of mine returned from a villa holiday.

My client had a good time and had made friends with the woman in the neighbouring villa who lived there permanently and who was the local gossip. Over the garden wall the neighbour mentioned that the woman who owned a villa opposite my clients had complained to her that the noise of my clients’ toddlers was keeping her from taking her afternoon siesta.

Naturally my client was upset at being considered a ‘noisy neighbour.’

“Oh, don’t worry about her,” said the gossip, “she’s made enough noise of her own!”

It transpired that the villa had been bought by the woman’s former husband so she could relax in the sun while he worked away. In true desperate housewives style, she’d taken to entertaining a gentleman friend in the traditional manner (so much for the siesta back then.)

Her husband had returned to the villa, caught them mid-entertainment and shot him. Audience participation, you might call it.

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