Shake some booty

No doubt you’ve heard of Notting Hill Carnival, that riot of colour and noise with women shaking their hips and wearing garish colours and men, well, shaking their hips and wearing garish colours. I’m now informed the travel folk of Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire have established their own rival to compete with the London-based event.

Rendezvous Travel has a large garden to the rear of its office and three times a year, during the summer months, they stage their own ‘Caribbean Calypso Client Evening’.

Recently, Rendezvous invited around 50 of its top Caribbean clients, along with representatives from Antigua, Anguilla, Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, the Caymen Islands, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as personnel from airlines, hotels and marketing, all of whom were only too happy to socialise Caribbean style.

Fortunately, the pub next door which provides all the catering, is owned by Carol Decker, formerly the vivacious, red-headed singer with T’Pau. That’s not the lucky part, unless, of course, you forget the words to China in Your Hand at the karaoke. No, the lucky part is that her husband and chef Brian Sullivan is Jamaican, so, when briefed to provide traditional Caribbean fare, he came up with the lot: curried goat, jerk chicken, rice and peas, beef patties, fried plantain, ackee and saltfish and more, all accompanied by rum and Guinness punches.

Everyone had a thoroughly good time, by all accounts, eating, drinking, swaying to the music and generally ‘liming’, which for those without a dictionary of Caribbean slang to hand, means ‘hanging out’.

With prizes kindly donated by exhibitors, Rendezvous’s clients went home laden with gifts and brochures. According to my slang dictionary, the evening was ‘bad like yaz’.

Monkey business

From Carnivals to carnivores… I was very sorry to have missed the Kuoni ‘Out of Africa’ evening which I’m told was quite something.

The venue was the splendid Marwell Hotel and Zoo, not so much ‘Out of Africa’ as ‘not that far from Southampton’, set in the Hampshire countryside.

Kuoni’s Lucette phoned me to tell me all about the delicious cocktails and canapés I’d missed and to fill me in on what had gone on.

Apparently, once the drinks had gone down the party was taken on a private sunset safari through the park where the stars of the show were two snow leopards. Far from sleeping, the animals were wide awake and Kuoni’s 94 guests got to see tigers, giraffes and all manner of other animals. But for the coolness of the evening, I’m sure they could have imagined they were in Kenya, although Lucette did comment they couldn’t always be certain whether some of the animal noises were genuine or whether they were made by agents monkeying around. (I must say, my hippopotamus call is much more authentic when I’ve had a few.)

A chance to meet up with the contributors to the Kuoni Africa brochure was next on the agenda and agents were given five minutes with each supplier and a chance to win a place on a Kuoni safari.

Already sore at having missed the fun of the evening, I told Lucette not to mention the three-course dinner with fine South African wines enjoyed by all, as I might have had to set the snow leopards on her.

After the dinner there was a presentation by the Kuoni staff: Sally, Shane, Simon and Lucette, and then it was time to bid their guests farewell. The team was staying at the Marwell Hotel and Lucette tells me she didn’t get the best night’s sleep.

I wondered if it was the sound of the wolf crying to the blue corn moon that had kept her awake. (Okay, I know, it was the theme was Out of Africa and not Pocahontas) but she said no, it was the animal-print décor in the corridor.

I have another theory on the cause of her insomnia: the jungle juice!

Twin beds? Inconceivable!

My friends in the local Tourist Information Centres are recovering from one of the busiest summers in the West Country with bed and breakfasts reporting high occupancy rates, which is good news for local economies.

It hasn’t been problem-free though, and even when you think you’ve done a good job, there will always be someone who comes along to burst your bubble. Take, for example, the case of one TIC clerk who thought she’d surpassed herself when she managed to secure a room for a couple from Germany.

Their holiday happened to coincide with the Great Dorset Steam Fair, a week-long event that attracts around a quarter of a million visitors a year and for which people attending book accommodation a year in advance. It’s simple. If you arrive in north Dorset on the off chance of finding a room you’ll either be lucky beyond belief, or sleeping in a ditch.

The German couple had been lucky beyond belief.

Imagine then, our heroine’s disappointment when the same couple reappeared after their two-night stay, to complain the room they’d been offered had been a twin and not a double.

The clerk explained that, in the circumstances, they’d been fortunate to have slept in a bed at all, but this didn’t wash. “You don’t understand,” explained the German Frau, “we’re trying for a baby and you ruined it.”

The clerk’s reply came: “In England we have a saying: ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way!’”