It’s not for nothing that we Brits are renowned for our diplomacy. Admittedly, we’ve probably started as many wars as we’ve avoided, but engaging the enemy in dialogue has generally been the first line of attack, as a client of ours will testify.
He and his partner recently returned from Zanzibar and called in to tell me what a wonderful time they’d had at the chic Fundu Lagoon resort on Pemba Island.
I was thrilled for them. In the precious few idle moments I have in my life, I fantasise visiting this place, having first fallen for its charms when I attended a fashion launch at the Groucho Club in London some years ago.
Owner of the Fundu Lagoon, and fashion designer, Ellis Flyte, had us all transfixed with photos of the resort, complete with its achingly stylish accessories and specially designed beach wear.
I imagine that a stay there would be like walking through the pages of a high-end glossy magazine and the next best thing to going myself was to recommend it to my clients when they asked for a suggestion for a relaxing winter break.
Everything lived up to expectations and the pair couldn’t have been happier with their island paradise. All that changed however, with the arrival of a tempestuous French couple.
All dark hair and charcoal eyeliner in the manner of a Francois Truffaut film, the mademoiselle was clearly at odds with her ‘homme’ from the start. The pair took their frustration out on the waiters and other staff in the resort, and continually bickered in front of other guests.
In the English way, most of the other guests did a bit of eye rolling and tutting from behind their paperbacks, but, as my client justifiably said, when you’ve paid a working man’s salary for a sunset in the Indian Ocean, the last thing you want is streams of invective and the lobbing of room keys to spoil it.
The British bulldog in him sprang into action and he approached the Frenchman, politely suggesting that the couple take their argument to the privacy of their own room. The response, a sneer and a gallic shrug, failed to cut any ice.
“Before you pretend that you haven’t understood me,” our unwilling marriage counsellor said, “let me tell you that I heard you speak English at the bar, so I suggest you don’t bother and I would like to remind you that the French and the English have been fighting each other for seven hundred years and you haven’t won yet!”
The Frenchman softened, apologised and extended his hand. It might not have been quite the ‘entente cordiale’, but peace was restored to paradise and my client was treated to free drinks!
It’s not often I’m stuck for an answer, but I was well and truly foxed by an old codger this week. He explained that he had family in the USA and wanted to see them ‘before it’s too late.’
“Not a problem,” I replied, “where do they live in America?”
“Florida,” he said.
“And when would you like to go?” I asked, fingers poised to tap in his request.
“Whoa, steady!” He said, “I should say that I don’t want to go by plane.”
“Ok,” I said, “you can always cruise there.”
“Oh, no,” he said emphatically, “I don’t want to cross the sea.”
I looked at him. “Well then, how do you want to get there?” I said, “Because I believe NASA have still got some minor problems to fix on their Star Trek teleportation device and none of the operators are using magic carpets yet.”
“I thought you’d be able to fix it,” said the old boy.
“I might be old and blonde, but I’m not Jimmy Saville!” I smiled. I told him to have a proper think and come back when he was ready.
Carpets, magic or otherwise, seemed to be the theme of that day however, as later on in the afternoon, a lady client called in to thank me for some quotes I’d given her for a summer holiday.
“We’ve decided not to go, after all,” she said. “We’re going to buy a new carpet for the lounge instead. My husband says it’s a better investment. A good carpet last years, but a tan fades in a couple of weeks.”
I tried to smile through the pain, but the thought of losing out to a wool mix shag pile made that difficult. I felt nauseous. Heart burn, I wondered? Or carpet burn?
Maureen Hill works for Travel Angels in Gillingham, Dorset
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