Fine tribute, fine night
A dull, cold January was brought to life for a night when the Travel Weekly Globe Awards ceremony was held at London’s Grosvenor House hotel. As the lucky recipient of an invitation to attend, I was on that train to Waterloo quicker than you could say: ‘Tickets please’.
This year’s event was particularly special and very moving. Travel Weekly head of TWgroup events, Penny Akam, who would normally be present wearing a fabulous dress and a wide smile, tragically lost her battle with cancer last year.
To say she leaves a big gap is barely to scratch the surface of the loss now felt by those who knew her.
TWgroup publishing director Simon Ferguson announced that the Penny Akam Unsung Hero award was to be introduced as a memorial to her and lifetime vice-president Trevor Harding paid tribute to her in a touching speech accompanied by photographs of Penny with travel industry personnel at various events over the years. Boy, what a collection of frocks that girl had!
When a young person dies the cruelty of their loss is compounded by our own sense of having been cheated of our due time with them and there is little to take solace in.
I am certain however, that Penny’s family – her husband, sister and parents – who were present at the awards, will have drawn some measure of comfort to see in what high regard and how dearly loved by her friends and colleagues Penny was. In a highly emotional scene, everybody rose to their feet to applaud when her family received the award.
Having known Penny for many years, I thought the best way for me to pay my own tribute to her was to enjoy the event she had played such a big part in staging in previous years. And so I relished a lovely meal and quaffed fine wine, savouring the company of the people around me, who suddenly felt that bit more precious.
Comedian Michael McIntyre (you know the one – tan straight out of a bottle) proved a very funny compere and had us all laughing as he called the award winners and sponsors on to the stage.
Among the winners was John Hays of Hays Travel, who won the Outstanding Achievement award sponsored by Barbados Tourism Authority and presented by Petra Roach, vice-president, sales and marketing, Europe.
Petra looked stunning, while John looked chuffed with another trophy for the Hays family. What with wife Irene collecting an OBE, I imagine their mantelpiece must be near to collapse.
After the presentations, some headed for the dance floor while those of us whose high heels precluded such activity, made for the Chill and Meet Bar. The only problem was that the ones I wanted to meet were busy strutting their stuff on the dance floor.
It wasn’t long, however, before the casualties came in. Rupert Diggins, of Holiday Options, surrendered and left the boogie battlefield following a confrontation with TV and radio presenter Valerie Singleton.
“I don’t know what came over me,” he said, “but I saw her dancing with a chap and I felt compelled to interrupt.”
Rupert told me that he threw all care to the wind in his bid to get close to this TV heroine of his youth. “I was a bit overcome, so I can’t remember what I said, but I think I asked if she wanted to come outside and see one I’d made earlier… I’m sure I heard her say ‘Get down, Shep’ and I knew it was time to leave.”
It was a fun and poignant evening and I’m sure all who attended would join me in thanking those involved in its organisation.
- Travel Weekly is compiling a memory book for Penny Akam's family.
- Watch John Hays' reaction to winning the Outstanding Achievement Award
In these depraved times
Back in the office and we’re beginning to see the effects of redundancies among our clientele. One chap came in looking for a holiday for his family. “If this was Tesco, we’d be looking at your ‘value’ range,” he explained.
I found a possibility and quoted the price. “Is there anything cheaper?” He asked, “Only we’re a depraved family.”
I explained that “deprived” families should contact social services for help. Mind you, I expect they spend a fair amount of time assisting the depraved too.
Maureen Hill works at Travel Angels, Gillingham, Dorset
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