Road to nowhere
An elderly lady phoned early one morning to ask for a last-minute, peak-date, seven-day coach holiday for two to Scotland. Wallace Arnold had two available, one for nine days and the other for seven. I relayed the details and got as far as telling her it was half-board, when she interrupted. What's that?
I explained that the cost would cover her breakfast and evening meal. What, no bed? Where do we sleep? I explained that the bed was also included in the cost.
She told me that she would not leave her telephone number, but that she'd ring back later - which indeed she did. Seven days was too long for her friend, could we do five? I managed to find exactly this and she hesitated further before saying that she and her friend would discuss it over a spot of lunch after which she'd phone again.
At 5.25pm she rang back to say that yes, they'd like to book. It had gone! She was flabbergasted. What do you mean, it's gone? I told you I'd ring back after lunch! I gritted my teeth as I explained that other people book holidays too and that the early bird catches the worm. I refrained from adding that "after lunch" had seemingly moved into the cocktail hour.
Digging dirt on the farm
Regular readers of this column may recall my rather disgruntled feelings about the portrayal of travel agents in a recent storyline in Emmerdale after which I voiced my complaints to Yorkshire TV.
This week I received a reply from the show's producer, Kieran Roberts.
Apparently Roy, (the character) had not booked his holiday through an ABTA travel agent, and it was this non-ABTA agent who had cancelled his honeymoon.
The letter stressed that it was not their intention to denigrate the travel industry. So that's a relief
Stars in our eyes
My day off was spent in a recording studio in London where I and two other travel agents were participating in a pilot TV show.
Brendan Morgan of Destinations Tailor Made Holidays, Cheshire, John Warrington of Janaway Travel, London, and I smiled ferociously in front of the cameras and perspired gently under the fierce arc lights on one of the hottest days of the year, all for the love of the travel industry(?!) and the glamour of a moment's televisual exposure! In spite of everything we all had a thoroughly enjoyable, if fatiguing, day.
We broke for a super buffet lunch which gave us a little time to get to know the producer, director, camera and lighting crews, who all had their own nuggets of advice to offer. The show's presenter, Dermott O'Leary, did his best to put us at our ease and encouraged us to relax and be ourselves. I thought he might well regret this when he discovered just how willing to be myself I was. It occurred to me that they might not have sufficient tape to accommodate my contribution!
However, for the sake of the viewer I was obliged to try to squeeze everything I wanted to say into just a few minutes. This was quite an effort and I found myself pulling cartoon faces in the bid to make several points quickly. Because there was quite a lot to get through, I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to John and Brendan. The call of the pumpkin service offered by South West Trains dragged me away, but I'd like to thank them for the laugh we had on set!
I'd also like to express my thanks to Kate and Karen of the production company for offering me this unique opportunity to be a TV star for the day.
I'm thinking of offering my services to other TV programmes. I wonder if they need a new travel agent on Coronation Street now Deirdre has left Sunliners? The whole cast of EastEnders look like they could do with a good holiday so there might be an opening there, but I think perhaps I've blown it with Emmerdale
Back to the old world
Jane, a former employee of Wessex World called in to re-acquaint herself with her former colleagues on the counter. Jane had worked in travel for five years but had decided on a career move and is now in the second year of an archaeology degree at university.
Jane considers that she is still in the people business, only her clients are dead, so they can't answer back! The only mummies she has to deal with don't want free child places and are a source of endless interest rather than infinite frustration.
I have been in travel for long enough (I must qualify as an artefact myself by now) to know that once you've survived as an agent, you can tackle anything, dead or alive.
Friends visiting for the weekend from overseas told us that they had been to see a play at the Globe theatre in London.
Their reactions to the reconstruction of Shakespeare's original theatre were mixed.
Their experience had indeed been interesting. In terms of what it represented as a living museum it's certainly a very attractive and evocative building. But what it represents in terms of theatre is much more contentious.
They described the experience as Disney meets Olde England. When I asked what they meant by this, they said that whereas Shakespearian plays staged at the Barbican or at Stratford-Upon-Avon usually challenged them, the Globe production was exactly what they had expected it to be - safe and performed in period costume.
Because of the nature of the performance space, it was also lacking the sort of inventive design concept that can usually bring a whole new layer of meaning to these wonderful works.
Prime fodder for tourists then. My friends' parting shot went along the lines that if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd certainly be exploiting the full range of technical and special effects, not performing in the open air under the Heathrow flight path!
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