Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist

What a Carry On!

One of our elderly clients came in to collect the tickets for one of her regular coach trips in the UK. With Gillingham being a small town, everyone knows everyone else and they all seem to book the same holidays at the same time. It’s all very friendly, indeed quite the new way to meet the neighbours. So Rick wasn’t surprised when our lady asked if a Mr So-and-So would be on this trip.

“Unfortunately we’re not at liberty to divulge that sort of information,” said Rick, clearly in training for a job with the council.

“Well, if he is on it, do you think the company could provide some pyjamas?” she said. “It was like being trapped in a Carry On film last time! And he has a look of Bernard Breslaw now I think about it…”

Rick laughed as he tried to imagine what had gone on. He didn’t have to. In the way old ladies have of spreading gossip, she leaned closer and said: “We all ended up staying in the same hotel and he got locked out in the middle of the night in the altogether!”

I knew it was true. It’s not just the Club 18-30s who are having all the fun. It’s the free TV licence brigade. All those episodes of EastEnders and The Jeremy Kyle Show are clearly making them restless.

It turned out that this Mr So-and-So and his wife had taken themselves off to bed one evening only for the old chap to get up in the middle of the night needing the loo. Somewhat disorientated and not wishing to disturb his sleeping wife, he tiptoed to what he assumed was the bathroom door. Of course, as the door shut behind him, he found himself on the landing wearing only his birthday suit.

And there he stood, tapping on the door in the vain attempt to wake his wife. When it became clear she did a fair impersonation of the dead, he decided to make his way discreetly to reception by stepping out of the fire exit and down the stairs, thereby avoiding any guests arriving late.

He made his way to a door which he assumed led into the foyer, opened it and stepped outside only for it to slam shut behind him leaving him outside in the cold. The entrance to the hotel being locked, he rang the bell, but no-one answered. He was left to shiver and regret the advice that, when overnighting in strange places, one should always wear a little something just in case the fire alarm goes off. He shivered some more.

And then, out of the shadows stepped a sort of superhero. Not sporting a cape or bionic eye or anything, but a superhero nonetheless, for he was a man with… spare tracksuit bottoms.

The chap explained that he lived in the house opposite and had witnessed the sorry farce and that, indeed, it wasn’t the first time.

“I keep these handy for just such occasions,” he said, “one size fits all!”

The two men went back to the superhero’s house and rang the hotel reception who let our accidental rover back in. Swapping the tracksuit bottoms for a hand towel, the emergency clothing was restored to its owner.

“Do you have a skeleton key to open my room door?” Asked our guest. “Only I don’t want to wake up the wife.” (Clearly she hadn’t noticed the lack of a man in her bed as she certainly hadn’t raised the alarm.)

The bleary-eyed clerk informed him that such a key did not exist and that he’d have no alternative but to rouse her from her slumbers. Which he did, though in hammering on the door and shouting, he also managed to wake up the woman in the neighbouring room, who came out just in time to see his bare backside disappear into the room.

It was this woman who stood before me now, wondering whether the pharmacy next door sold paper pyjamas, just in case…

OAPs feel the chill

There is something very British about the coaching holiday and, as our lady client observed, the scenarios it throws up can be very comic in a ‘Carry on Coach Trip’ sort of way. Take the old couple who also called in this week to book their coach trip.

The husband casually mentioned that when they boarded the coach for their last holiday, the driver advised them that the air conditioning wasn’t working properly and that ‘those at the front would be alright’ but that the poor people at the back ‘would freeze’.

Our client then went on to say he carries insulating tape everywhere he goes, ever since his wife’s spectacles broke on a trip to Madeira.

“Be prepared!” he quipped. “And I wasn’t even a boy scout!”

This time he used the tape not to fix the lens frames, but to tape up the draughts around the window frames while other passengers stuffed tissues in the air vents. And no, I don’t think there could have been a health and safety officer on board.

It was little wonder then, that germs harboured by one soul quickly multiplied and spread like wild fire so that almost the entire coachload of passengers spent part or all of their holiday laid low!

Oh no! BO!

The clients did not complain on that occasion, though I felt they had every reason to point out the faulty air conditioning to the operator. I was less sympathetic when confronted by a client with an altogether more trivial complaint.

“The cabin crew member who served me my meal had BO!” she exclaimed.

“BO might have been the problem,” I observed, “but I’m guessing BO might also be the response you get if you complain about it… as in ‘bog off!’

Well, tell me I’m wrong!

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