Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist

Every little helps

During the course of what I loosely term my career in the travel industry I have met a number of people whose determination I have admired, and none more so than Prue Rushmer of Caribtours, whom I bumped into at a recent brochure launch.

The last time I’d met Prue was some years ago when she had been diagnosed with cancer, so it was great to see her looking so well and back to her bubbly self.

Having beaten the big C, Prue has been set on giving something back and to this end she entered the Race for Life, raising money for Cancer Research UK.

Along with five of her best friends and her daughter Gemma, Prue formed ‘Prue’s Pink Prancers’. She created a website to enable sponsors to donate which has been hit many times with encouraging messages and promises of cash.

These pink ladies took the whole enterprise very seriously and had team T-shirts printed, courtesy of Almond Beach in Barbados, ready for the big day.

After a warm-up led by a Rosemary Conley lookalike, the fillies were let loose on Kempton racecourse where they were approached by other ladies sporting bright pink T-shirts – all Tesco staff who assumed our gang also worked for the store.

Well, every little helps. Prue explained that, far from working on the checkout, they worked on a check-in desk… for a Barbados hotel!

Prue finished the race tired but elated and said she had been especially touched by all the messages from supporters and runners. One little girl was dressed in a T-shirt that read: ‘I’m walking for my dinner lady Mrs Brown’.

With so many families challenged by the disease, Prue has every right to feel proud of her achievement in the Race for Life and of the medal she received for completing it.

And no-one could have been more proud of her than her husband, who’d arranged for the family to gather in the Royal enclosure for a picnic of champagne and strawberries. Who said romance was dead?

The money is still pouring in and at the last count, Prue’s total stood at £1,200. I call that inspirational!

Confusion reigns

We get asked for everything in this office, and being situated next to the local pharmacy, when I say everything, I mean everything. An old chap came in and asked for a tube of Anusol for his piles before realising he was in the wrong place.

So no-one batted an eyelid when a middle-aged lady swept into the shop and bellowed: “Have you got any flags?”

Rick misheard her. “Fags?” he replied. “I’m sorry but we operate a strict no smoking policy,” he continued.

“No, no!” exclaimed the woman, “I said flags! Italian flags to be precise. I’m an events organiser for an old people’s home. We’re having an Italian evening.”

Rick said that had it been a French evening she was hosting we could have helped as we had some bunting left over from the French day we staged last year. As it was, on the Italian front it was strictly un problema…

“Well French flags are no good!” shrieked our highly strung events organiser, “They don’t look anything like Italian ones! Everything’s got to be Italian. We’re having pizza and spaghetti for supper!”

We puzzled. Somebody came up with the idea of looking on the Internet for the flag, downloading it and copying it several times, but this suggestion was rejected on the grounds it was too ‘technologically advanced’.

I have to say, I felt a little smug. It’s nice to know there are people out there who know less than me. (One old lady recently asked me if I took my work home to finish on a lap dog).

“How about cutting up a sheet and painting the flag on it?” was the next suggestion.

“That sounds difficult” came the reply. For ‘difficult’, read ‘time-consuming’.

“Not that difficult”, piped up a voice, “I mean, it’s not as if it’s the Welsh flag you need!”

With that, the woman rolled her eyes and left the office, hot-footing it to the local Italian restaurant where she hoped for better luck, while we were left to imagine those old folk, sucking their spaghetti up through the gaps in their dentures…

It’s all Greek to me

I’m going to have to do something about my lack of linguistic talent.

It’s just about okay when I’m speaking to people who speak my own language and I can even manage un petit peu de Francais, und ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch, but throw an Eastern European language into the fray and you may as well hit me over the head with a dead cow.

That’s how I felt when a Polish woman came into the shop to ask for some help finding flights home for her three sisters, all of whom were in Crete.

Her English was as good as my Polish, but after a lot of smiling, a certain amount of frowning, a couple of photographs and a finger on a map I got the general idea.

I phoned Stephanie at Libra Holidays reservations and she could hear the desperation in my voice as I gesticulated Les Dawson-style to my client.

Stephanie had some availability and spoke to the Libra operations department to release the one-way seats and give us a price.

We eventually booked them, thanks to Stephanie’s determination not to be beaten, and I now have some new Polish friends and an open invitation to Warsaw.

So, many thanks for that, and, as my client left the shop, I remembered to say ‘do widzenia’ (goodbye). At least I hope that’s what I said…

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