Maureen: 'Susan Boyle effect' leaves West Lothian besieged

Maureen: 'Susan Boyle effect' leaves West Lothian besieged

Maureen Hill is a regular columnist for Travel Weekly and works at Wessex World Travel, Gillingham, DorsetWest Lothian besieged

It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? Who’d have thought that a village in the industrial heart of West Lothian would be hosting gangs of Americans, Canadians and nationals from across the English-speaking world? For that is what has happened to the former mining town of Blackburn as a result of the ‘Susan Boyle effect’.

Following the appearance of the image-unconscious Scottish singer on Britain’s Got Talent during which she challenged the prejudices of judges and audience alike, her highly unexpected singing performance has drawn the interest of millions.

Not only has she become a YouTube sensation, but she has garnered the support of American stars Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and has been invited on Oprah’s show.

As a result, media from around the world have descended upon the Scottish home of the wild-haired showstopper and local businesses are reaping the benefits.

Celebrity spotting is a pastime we are accustomed to; in these parts, die-hard Madonna fans posed as ramblers and strode across land adjacent to hers in the hope of glimpsing her riding with hounds or strangling a squirrel or some such country pursuit.

I wonder if Blackburn will become a similar mecca for the global fans of Miss Boyle? Watch those local bed and breakfast prices rise!

Premier league spotting

Talking of celeb spotting, Dave Kneale, of Premier Holidays called in. Dave is one half of the industry’s ‘celeb’ couple; he is Becks while Northern rep Victoria is his Posh. If you’ve been reading your emails, you’ll know of the competition that’s been running to spot this pair about their business.

Location has become part of the fun, it seems. Recently, a Harrogate tea shop was the setting for a shot of Victoria and the lucky agent from Birmingham whose eagle eyes spotted her, won a bottle of bubbly. So when Victoria visited Anfield she asked the football club if she could be photographed in the grounds.

“For sure,” said the groundsman, “I’ll take the photo myself if you just go and stand next to the statue of Bill Shankly.”

“Who’s Bill Shankly?” She asked. I won’t tell you the chap’s reply, but suffice it to say she was lucky to get out of Liverpool in one piece!

“Don’t I win anything for spotting you sitting in my office?” I asked Dave. He told me that you only score with Victoria – sounds like something Beckham himself
would say!

The amazing A380

Also passing through this week was JTA’s Jason Nagel, recently returned from Dubai. We all know there’s nothing a chap likes better than planes, trains and automobiles, and Jason is no exception.

While I was keen to know how business had been for the company, Jason was keener still to rave on about his trip aboard the Airbus A380. Superlatives were liberally scattered around descriptions of the suites, which offer every couple a double bed. Yes, it looks as though the mile high club is no longer the exclusive establishment
it once was.

Better still was the shower cubicle, which has a five-minute limit on water. According to Jason it can accommodate five people; the trouble was, he couldn’t find another four to share it with...

What would you do?

Oh dear. You may recall the occasions on which I have written about the misadventures of one of our elderly clients who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

To date he has made his way home in his slippers from Germany after missing the return coach, and in Dublin he sparked a missing persons search when he got hopelessly lost.

He called this week and our hearts were in our mouths.
 
“I want to go up the Suez Canal,” he told Rick, “I’ve been watching Death on the Nile and I fancy a trip to Egypt.”

Rick sourced availability and prices for a single. When he rang back, the old boy was shocked at the cost. Rick explained that travelling alone cost more because of the single room supplement.

“But I sleep in a double bed at home and it’s no extra…” came the reply. Rick promised to investigate further and put the phone down hoping he’d forget the enterprise.

A couple of hours later, I picked up the phone. Same man. “Do you know, I’ve been watching Death on the Nile and I’d like to go to Egypt.”

Modern dilemma: Do I book him and warn the operator even though I feel uneasy about him travelling or do I let him book with another agent who won’t know his history but who will be happy to take his cash?

Maureen Hill works at Travel Angels in Gillingham, Dorset

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