They say familiarity breeds contempt but I think for me now that I knew what to expect on a daily basis, my life seemed so very much easier. I wasn’t constantly worrying and wondering and saying to myself, what if fate hadn’t intervened, would I have been any happier in that green and pleasant land from which I had been catapulted, Yes, I had now quietly come to terms with living in this sandy place, so no more tears!
Now there were no more real anxious moments, there seemed to be a constant buzz in the air. Yes, at long last, this place that we now call home beckoned us into it’s fold with her little finger saying, please enjoy, I know outwardly I don’t have too much to offer but be patient and you will be rewarded.
Yes, I was already feeling upbeat, especially when I took a quiet look at my super dooper uniform which was laid out on the bed in the spare room, realizing that it was mine and that I would soon be all togged up in it and ready for the off. Now that is an amazement in itself!
The apartment was running well and Ali was now quite an accomplished cook especially at producing Sunday type lunches. Why is it that we British always stick so rigidly to our tried and tested menu’s, is it because we are so set in our ways, or because our tuck is so jolly good.
It was now approaching the middle of September and all the fleers, away from the summer inferno, had returned and the party whirl was being cranked up. We were all eager to share our summer stories, with who ever would listen, and most definitely try and out do each other, yes, that’s girls for you! We were eager to show off our new purchases, which were waiting to be paraded around town as soon as the next gilt edged invitation had been received.
It was now the eve of my debut as a Ground Hostess at the Airport and I was excited and anxious in equal measure. In all honesty it had seemed like a good idea at the time but how was I ever going to morph into a BOAC girl overnight, think I was getting a touch of the jitters.
To say the least, I was somewhat nervous that morning, all fingers and thumbs whilst trying to dress and once I had accomplished the task I didn’t recognise the person staring at me in the mirror, what a transformation!
I was dressed in the turquoise shift dress, black stocking, navy shoes, together with the airhostess type hat perched on my head which I had given instructions to not to fall off, as it would most certainly ruin the picture! Would you believe, I was even clutching a little pair of white gloves, and last but not least the regulation handbag slung over my shoulder. Yes, looking back at me from the mirror that morning was a poster picture of an airline hostess in the early seventies and it was me, wonders will never cease!
I was ready for the off, this was it, there was no turning back! My wonderful bright orange Beetle awaited me, now all I had to do was summons the lift. Mohammed, the Genitor’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he spied me alighting from the lift I would also imagine that most of the deckhands from the Dhows across the road must have almost fallen into the creek, never before having seen such an apparition, attired as I was, ever before in their lives.
It only took minutes to get to the airport passing the clocktower rounderbout as I went. It would be very hard to imagine now, but I think there were possibly only about 6 other cars in the vast car park, now that was Dubai Airport in l971!!
I gingerly climbed the steps, walked across the concourse to the BOAC Office – Now I really have to paint the picture here, in those far off days, the actual traffic that went through the airport was minimal, BOAC only operated 3 passenger flights per week from London sometimes disgorging fewer than lO passengers. Consequently, the concourse was usually nie on deserted, and only managed a little spark when BOAC were operating to London and MEA to Beirut, yes it’s so very hard to imagine, I know!
I gingerly knocked on the door, which was opened by the BOAC Airport Manager, whom I had not met. He was enormous, formidable and sported a beard which was slightly reddish in colour. This office over which he presided was where all aircraft movements that were operated or looked after by BOAC were managed, I was to discover that this little room was the logistical ‘power house’ of BOAC’s operation in Dubai.
He was ably assisted by two or three young trainees on secondment from London and now he had me too, oh my goodness, he, I and the airport didn’t know what they were in for.
The trainees were responsible for writing up flight plans for onward journeys, which entailed calculating the amount of fuel to be put on board, once various elements had been taken into account, which obviously included wind speed, weather conditions en route and the weight being carried on board, an exacting task.
I was shown my desk, which took centre stage; there was definitely no hiding place here. I proceeded to try and make myself at home, my goodness it was so very different from any offices I had previously worked in. For a start we were all in uniform, the boys, looking very smart in theirs, which consisted of black trousers and white shirts, whilst the Station Manager sporting gold epaulets on his shirt which denoted his seniority.
I was introduced, my duties explained, which didn’t seem too onerous, making coffee and then making more coffee, logging all the Stats which were filed about incoming and outgoing flights, but it was patiently obvious I was going to have to get used to the office banter. Yes, I was normally the only girl about at this time of day and I had to quickly adjust to being the butt of many a little joke or jibe, one of the boys I had to become pronto, if I was to survive! Was I up to it? You bet!
OK, the first day was a little daunting but the second was mind-blowing, I had to be in early as this was the morning I had sole charge of making sure arriving and departing passengers were looked after. My instructions were to meet the flight from Bombay look after the disembarking passengers and as the plane was London bound look after the onward passengers as well. How does one meet a flight, somebody please help me?
I was in a blind panic, more so when I saw the VC10 taxiing in, I actually nearly died of fright. I was positioned at the arrivals gate, rigid with fear, watched the doors of the aircraft open and the passengers disembark they then seemed to gallop up the whirligig towards me, I almost bolted! I somehow gathered my very scattered wits, smiled sweetly collected their disembarkation cards, and then made sure they were united with their luggage,
This first task was accomplished with no mishaps but I then had to dash off to my next. assignment, but had forgotten what that was! This was a little like playing blind mans bluff, but who was blind and who was bluffing!!
Oh yes, I know it’s to go to check- in, so off I dashed but once there had no clue as to what I was meant to do. It was very clear to me that I only had a couple of options stand there like a ninny or smile sweetly and talk about the weather, as the sun always shines in Dubai that was not too difficult!
Thank goodness I was not alone and found that check-in was ably manned by super chaps from DNATA, Dubai National Air Travel Agency, who were extremely capable and did all the important stuff, so I was saved. Which on that first terrifying morning was a good thing because I have my doubts that if I had had anything to do with this operation, these unsuspecting people would probably never have seen their luggage again
They were lucky too as there was only one plane on the ground at the time, otherwise who knows where they might have landed up!! Now you will be wondering just how many passengers I might have had to assist it felt like a caste of thousands because I was so nervous but possibly ten or maybe less.
As previously mentioned not too many people had reason to visit Dubai in those early days in the seventies. In reality it was an extremely exclusive club and on reflection we were the founder members.
My goodness how Topsey has grown!
Please be minded to leave a comment.
My next Essay will be posted on l7th March, 2015