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Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist

Wardrobe malfunction

By now I expect the girls among you will have received this season’s fashion must-have, namely the Ocean Village bikini that comes with the Ocean Village training pack.

I’m already struggling with ‘trans-seasonal clothing disorder’ – you know, when it’s impossible to make sensible wardrobe choices as we go from summer to winter. This bikini has just made things worse. Do I wear it over or under my long, stripey cardigan? That’s assuming I can fit into it at all; this two piece is strictly ‘one size fits all’ and I’m sure that, around the country there are offices where one size fits no-one, or where colleagues are scrapping over who gets the top and who gets the bottoms while male colleagues look on bemused or just plain jealous.

Accompanying this gift is a suggestion as to how it might best be used: ‘informal wear for a winter sun break, just like an Ocean Village cruise.’ Rick was prompted to ask what male agents were supposed to wear on the same winter break; their birthday suits? The thought silenced me for a moment before I replied that, at the very least, a birthday suit is tailor made…

We also had a laugh at the postcards sent by Ocean Village to enable us agents to identify Ocean Village ‘types,’ ranging from the Young and Funky to the Free-spirited Forties and the Too Young to be Grandparents. It’s like playing Happy Families and I fully expect Mr Bun the Baker to come into the shop any day now clutching his Ocean Village brochure and cheque book.

And Mr Bun would certainly appreciate the food on board. Have a glimpse at the sample Bistro menu devised by celebrity chef James Martin, (definitely the Young and Hunky type) as it certainly makes mouthwatering reading.

Adventure in the blood

We’re used to selling adventure holidays, be they jungle treks, safaris, whitewater rafting trips or backpacking in Tasmania. Invariably the people purchasing are middle-aged men trying to prove something to themselves and although I’ve sold many adventure holidays, I’ve never met a proper Indiana Jones.

Until this week. Our client came in to pay the balance on his shooting trip to Sweden. Sitting in front of Rick, his jacket fell open to reveal what looked like an action hero knife tucked into his belt, the sort of implement that would get one out of all sorts of dangers. Or into them, of course…

I commented on the lethal weapon, at which the client blushed, and, covering it quickly, he stated that he’d just come from his work as a gamekeeper. Phew, I thought, so he’s only lethal around pheasants.

The client further proved his action man credentials by advising Rick of the number of sporting rifles he and his colleagues would be taking to Sweden before booking another trip, this time to New Zealand, to shoot mountain dwelling game from a helicopter. Clearly this chap can’t get enough of his work.

Belfast and furious!

I was one of the lucky guests invited to the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism awards in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

The BMI journey out was smooth and I arrived at Belfast City Airport to be met by a bubbly blonde journalist by the name of Pauline Weston , who works for the Belfast Newsletter and she took me to the venue.

The majestic building housing Slieve Donard Resort was originally a railway hotel, purchased by the Hastings Hotel Group in 1972. The beautiful décor and opulence of this grand hotel is truly exhilarating and the place fully deserves its reputation as the ‘Gleneagles’ of Northern Ireland.

From the windows of my room I could enjoy the most spectacular view of a sunlit sea with the Mountains of Morne in the background. It was all so breathtaking.

I was hoping for a quick tour of the spa, but with very little time to change for the champagne reception, I had to forgo the treat.

I was hosted for the evening by the Barbados Tourism Authority and was thrilled to meet up with my old friend Nan Short, Sales Rep (Ireland) whom I haven’t seen in a decade.

Nan hasn’t changed a bit and it was a joy to share her company, though unfortunately her daughter, Ann Murphy, formerly of Almond Beach, was unable to join us having recently undergone major surgery. I suggested they bring her in on a flat bed, but Nan, quick as ever, told me dead pan that they’d ‘never get her through the revolving doors.’

When it came time to join my table, I sat opposite Petra Roach, Barbados Tourism Authority’s vice-chairwoman. Petra lights up a room and on this occasion she might have done so quite literally. For no reason I could discern, the candle in front of her fell from its holder and missed her by inches. It must have been a Friday the thirteenth thing.

Also at my table was Brendan O’Connor of Selective Travel who proved to be a very jovial dining companion.

We enjoyed a fabulous meal after which Angela Rippon presented the awards with special guest Jeff Hardley of Emmerdale fame and thereafter followed dancing to the Joe Melean Band and drinks at the bar.

All I can say is, thank God for those complimentary packets of paracetamol so thoughtfully donated by another sponsor.

The hospitality of the people of Northern Ireland was overwhelming and my thanks to The Barbados Tourism Authority, Petra, Nan and Aysha – top o’ the morning to you all.

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