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Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist – 1 Mar 2007

That old devil called love

I know Valentine’s Day has been and gone, but it’s still good to hear an old fashioned love story and that’s exactly what a couple presented me with when they came in to book a flight to Australia.

The pair, in their 70s, were the picture of romance, holding hands throughout the booking. The gent was fit, tanned and healthy while the lady was very pale with the sort of winter skin that would have me reaching for self-tanning cream. The difference in the colour of their skin did strike me as a bit strange but as they told me their story, the reason for it became clear.

He is an expat who had emigrated to Australia many years before. She is English and, a very, very long time ago, they were childhood sweethearts. Separated by his national service with the army, the two went their own ways and married new partners.

In both cases the marriage failed and, in a spookily symmetrical pattern, both had gone on to marry a second time only for their new spouses to die, leaving them alone once more.

By chance, the chap’s sister bumped into his former sweetheart and they’d chatted about what had happened with the passing of time. Later, the sister called her brother in Australia to tell him of the fateful meeting and in the blink of an eye he’d re-established contact with his ex and invited her over to Australia.

The trip had been a heady mix of nostalgia and rediscovered feelings and they both knew that they were destined to be together. Thus they were in our shop in pursuit of a one-way ticket back to Australia in April, by which time the sale of the lady’s house should have been completed. Talk about whirlwind – the Met Office couldn’t have forecast this.

The old lady asked if it would be possible for them to sit together on the aircraft as her new man had already booked his seat from Australia. I spoke to Nicola at Travel 2 who said she would request it but the flight was already heavily booked. I suggested she do her best.

I would pity anyone who comes between the two of them now and if they were to hold hands across the aisle, it would make for a troublesome in-flight service.

Nicola took heed and found them two seats on the side. Love wins every time.

Putting us in the picture

On the subject of love, yet another couple came in this week to show us their wedding photographs. I fixed my mouth in the appropriate upward mode and prepared to murmur with delight. As with the many weddings we organise in Asian destinations, the photos were dominated by the noble elephant, decorated with flowers heralding the arrival of the bride.

I scrutinised the photo for obvious problems but the elephant appeared clean and tidy with no sign of having been caught short. I confessed I couldn’t see a problem.

She pointed to the man leading the elephant. “Just look at the state of him. He looks rough. His shorts are too big, his knees are grubby and his legs look like pipe cleaners,” she continued, apparently oblivious to the effects of poverty and malnourishment.

“Could you tell the people concerned that the elephant keepers should look the part for weddings, otherwise they’ll spoil our photographs.”

I told her that I’d pass on her comments and suggested she use Photoshop to eliminate the offending poor person and replace him with someone more fitting David Attenborough perhaps, or Johnny Morris.

“I don’t think you’re taking this seriously,” she said, “Johnny Morris is dead.” I bit my lip.

Roger the squash dodger

Triton head of sales Roger Cross called in to update us on the enhanced Triton search programme.

The last time I saw Roger he was working for Cosmos and he’d invited all the members of my office to a game of squash. I reminded him of this and asked if he still played.

Roger admitted that he was carrying a little more weight than he’d like these days, at which our Angela’s ears pricked up. She’s lost over two stone living life the Gillian McKeith way and was only too eager to share some top diet tips.

I told him to give up the beer and crisps for squash and nuts. Play more squash, eat more nuts!

Maureen Hill works at Wessex World Travel, Gillingham, Dorset


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