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Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist – 3 Nov 2006

Orient Express elegance

Our long awaited Orient Express window display arrived this week, and what a stunning display it is! It’s a full-size replica of an Orient Express carriage, complete with tables, chairs, lamps and bone china crockery. The only trouble is I feel rather under dressed when I come into work now; I’m thinking of investing in a drop-waisted dress and a cigarette holder.

Assembling the whole thing was a job for the men who spent the afternoon grunting more than usual, but who looked pretty damned pleased with themselves at the end of the day.

As the props were delivered an elderly couple popped their heads around the door and bellowed, “How much do you want for the chairs?”

“They’re not for sale,” Rick replied.

“That’s a shame,” said the old woman, “those colours match my carpet perfectly.”

Later in the day, after all the masculine sighing and rasping was finished, the window was well and truly dressed, with a lamp giving off a soft, romantic glow. The magic of the Orient Express was at work.

“Have you got the complete set for the dinner service?” asked a woman paying more attention to the crockery than to the Palmair day trip brochure she had come in for.

“Yes, we have,” I replied, “but we haven’t the room to display it all.

“Well I’ll buy it from you and you can give me the display stuff when you’ve finished with it!”

I’ve had to make up a sign clearly stating that ‘display items are not for sale’. And if one more person asks for a table for two at 8pm there really will be murder on the Orient Express.

Bakers Dolphin baby

Fortunately, we have had a stream of very welcome visitors as well as the furniture dealers. It was lovely to see Nicola Rich, our Bakers Dolphin rep, when she called in for the first time since the birth of her daughter Lilia May.

Alongside the flyers from Bakers Dolphin, we were shown adorable photographs of Nicola’s beautiful baby, now six months old. I said I was sorry she hadn’t brought Lilia with her, but Nicky’s response was she couldn’t fit the brochures and the baby in the pushchair.

What distinguishes the career-girl of old from Nicky the new mother, however, is her mobile phone ringtone. Her phone used to alert her with cool Ibiza dance tunes, now it rings to the melody of a calming lullaby. A brilliant idea which nearly sent us all to sleep!

Houston is no problem

Also breezing in for a flying visit was Sunset Faraway Holidays account manager Mark Houston. He brought all the latest publications as well as wine and chocolate.

I have to say I do admire reps who drive long distances to see us. Mark had driven from south London and was driving back that evening rather. When I asked why he was going back he said he wanted to see his girlfriend. My heart melted.

“She’s going away for a week with her friend,” he elaborated.

“How romantic you’re making all that effort for her,” I sighed.

“Not really,” he said, “I just need to earn some brownie points before I spring it on her I’m going to my mate’s 30th birthday party in Ireland on my own!”

Race to the North Pole

And finally, we all know there are some very special, resourceful people in our industry and none more so than Argo’s Charlie Cooper. Charlie has been selected to join the 2007 Polar Race Team, racing to the magnetic North Pole.

There are five teams of three people carrying backpacks and sledges in this extraordinary challenge. Charlie is undertaking it all in the cause of the Wessex Cancer Trust. We’ll all be rooting for Charlie and anyone wishing to donate can log on to justgiving.com/charliecooper polarrace

I gleaned this information from Charlie’s friend and former colleague, Dana in agency sales at Hoseasons.

Dana, who has been with Hoseasons for nine years, will be leaving the company, and indeed the travel business, next month, moving to be closer to her boyfriend. We all try to cut loose at some point, but I assured her she’ll be back. Travel’s addictive!

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