Slow coach saves the day
I travelled to London by National Express coach on Tuesday to attend the Association of Women Travel Executives' Summer Ball at the Hurlingham Club.
We picked a very warm day to travel and I have nothing but admiration for the coach driver who's cool, collected manner took the heat out of a difficult situation.
The journey had gone well until we reached Chiswick, west London. At that point it was as if someone had frozen the whole scene for posterity, everything stopped. Cars, lorries, taxis and coaches. Total gridlock.
Foreign visitors who had joined the coach at Heathrow, presumably after long air journeys, were amazed at the static British traffic.
By now the chap in the seat in front of me became quite agitated - gridlock was obviously a new experience for him - and he demonstrated his new-found frustration by flailing his arms around wildly, muttering and sighing. It was the first time I've come across coach rage!
Other passengers began to panic as they realised they weren't going to make their various connections at Victoria.
However, the coach driver calmly explained tohis head office that he was stuck in horrendous traffic and requested they hold back the connecting coaches.
This timely move placated the very hot and bothered passengers and I sat back and marvelled at the driver's serenity and the fact he still had it in him to smile.
I would have to say that John Prescott and Tony Blair should consider taking the coach and get a feel for London's real traffic problem - when you're speeding past using police lanes you miss out on the truth of the matter!
Too much wining and dining
The prestigious Hurlingham Club proved a most agreeable venue for the AWTE Summer Ball. A soft, scented breeze drifted over the terrace as champagne glasses chinked together in a very civilised setting.
The founder member of the club, Joan Richardson, was present along with the new chairwoman, Josiane Laitfi.
The club now has 226 active members, 20 associates and, together with a delegation of overseas honourary associate members, represents a formidable group of women.
I felt very privileged to have been invited by Bales Worldwide to such an prestigious event and keenly took my place between Emirates' sales manager Ema Smith and Air Canada's promotions manager Sue Davies.
ARTAC's general manager Chris Fyfe was also seated on our table and took his seat somewhat apprehensively between Sue and our host, Mandy Nickerson. "Do I have to sit here?" he jokingly asked Mandy. "Only the last time I sat by you, your dinner ended up in my lap!"
These words came back to me as halfway through the meal a nervous waitress spilt some red wine, splattering both Mandy and Chris.
The poor waitress looked most distressed by her mistake but Mandy reassured her she had worked as a waitress in her youth and made worse mistakes.
Chris, who had not even flinched throughout the entire incident, continued to talk to Sue but looked up to now see Mandy pouring a fresh glass of wine.
Mandy apologised for the shower he'd just received, only to be told: "I thought you'd spat at me! But it's nice to see you've dressed up for your waitressing role," he said, pointing to Mandy's glittering attire.
While on the subject of food and drink, Chris then remarked to Ema and I that where other companies might leave small boxes of Thorntons or Bendicks chocolates for their guests, only Mandy could come up with a bar of Yorkie with a Bales wrap around it as a table gift! It's this sort of idiosyncratic behaviour we so appreciate!
Flushed with success
Dinner was a lively affair as was the nearby ladies' cloakroom. I learned long ago that the ladies' loo at any travel function is certainly the only place to be if you need to find out what's really happening in the industry.
True to form, I met Jacqui Griffin of Queensland Tourism over the washbasins. Jacqui and Ros Pittendreigh have been working very hard to produce the information package for the ABTA Convention in Queensland this November.
Jacqui was keen to know whether delegates would be interested in a fact sheet recommending restaurants, clubs and pubs in all price ranges and found the ladies' the perfect survey area!
I told her it sounded like a great idea and said she should include the pie floater stands for the really hard-up!
As I prepared to rejoin the event, I heard a fabulous whistled rendition of The Girl from Ipanema emanating from behind a closed door.
The mystery whistler turned out to be Barbara from Argyle Recruitment.
It didn't take too long before she had all visitors to the powder room whistling a jolly medley of tunes including Waltzing Matilda.
Sisters are doing it...
Back at the ball a prize draw and dancing followed the delicious meal and helped draw another successful annual ball to a swinging close.
It was a super event that demonstrated the collective success of women in the industry. Women's achievements are rarely recognised in this man's world, but this evening hinted that our time will soon come!
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