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Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist – 10 Nov 2006

Rat’s the problem

I’ve worked with some rats in my time, but none quite so troublesome, nor indeed as furry, as the one who decided to pay a visit to friends of mine working in a high street travel agency.

Of course, while the 21st-century woman likes to think she can handle most things that come her way, there is one field in which only a man will do. Rodents. When it comes to pest control, it’s a ‘like finding like’ situation. Enter the male of the species.

My friend tells me she nearly suffered a coronary when one of her colleagues screamed and leapt several feet in the air. “Rat!” she screamed, “A rat just ran under the desk!”

You can imagine how the fear multiplied in a shop full of women. It was decided a brave man should be sought and the shop shut until it was a rat-free zone.

My pal left the shop in search of a hero while her colleague phoned the council pest control team.

But heroes and pest controllers are in short supply these days as neither girl had much luck. The pest control department said no one would be able to help that day, despite the fact the site of ‘infestation’ was a high street shop serving the public. It gave the number of a private ‘rat man’ and suggested the girls try him.

In the meantime, two helpful neighbours, detecting the distress emanating from the shop, entered armed with brooms and boxes and began an elaborate and vigorous dance in a bid to persuade the thing to run out of the door. Unfortunately, the rat had other ideas and instead lurked under the desk smirking. The accompaniment to the mayhem was the high-pitched screaming of women who do not relish close proximity to urban wildlife.

The broomstick option had partially succeeded with the rat contained in a box containing a modem and wiring, but with all entry holes stuffed. The two helpful neighbours made their way back to their own shop, to be replaced by the real rat man.

Kneeling down with a torch, he examined the box, peering into one hole. “How are you going to get it?” asked my friend.

“I’m gonna shoot him,” said rat man, “It’s the only way.”

Seven shots later and the rat is still sitting at the back of the box, cleaning itself and imploring rat man to ‘bring it on’. And bring it on he does.

In a matter of seconds, George the terrier has the rat in his mouth. “Shake, George, shake!” Urges rat man, with which George puts paid to the rodent’s life.

The office finally re-opened at 4.45pm. The girls were hoarse from screaming and their legs ached from keeping their feet raised from the floor. The health and safety officer would have been proud!

Goon news

By now I imagine we’ve all heard about the acquisition of Kirker by Kuoni. I received the news by e-mail from Ted Wake, Kirker’s sales director.

Initially, I thought Ted was just gooning around in his inimitable style as the e-mail was entitled ‘Goon News from Kirker’.

I’ve always suspected the Kirker office was an entertaining place to work, and the ‘Goon Show’ could well have been a likely model. Which part, I wondered, would best have suited Ted? Eccles, the ragged idiot? Or Hercules Grytpype-Thynne, the smooth conman? Or possibly even the flatulent and suggestive Major Dennis Bloodnok?

Seeking clarification I rang Ted. “What? What? What?” I asked in a truly dreadful impersonation of Neddie Seagoon.

Ted told me the e-mail should, of course, have read ‘Good News’, and the misspelling was a Freudian slip. I laughed and so did he, though when I called him “you silly twisted boy” he clearly failed to pick up on the Peter Sellers reference and I’m concerned he may never speak to me again.

I wish them all well in their new venture!

Time out in Thailand

I know it’s been a great week at ExCeL with the usual energetic frenzy that is WTM and I enjoyed my visit enormously. Visitors to WTM were offered prospects of escape from a British winter and escape I have. If everything’s gone according to plan and the flight took off on time, my next column will come from Thailand, where I’m taking a little time out!

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