I quickly discovered that there is something about wearing a uniform, which seems to alter one’s personality, one instantly becomes part of a team and actually it also made one feel very important indeed.
Mind you looks can be a little misleading because I seemed to be whizzing round, in circles most of the time, hopefully though looking as if I knew what I was doing, at least some of the time! Some hopes, but it was worth a try!!
It took a while to settle, as it was such a different working environment, from the staid office set-ups that had been my norm, but I gradually got the hang of things. In most offices there is usually little room for maneuver, once inside the door one was usually tethered to the desk for the duration.
Here I was able to wander around to my heart’s content and nobody seemed to bat an eye lid, the freedom suited me admirably!
On one particular jaunt I discovered that there were enormous kitchens in the basement, where Albert Abella’s chefs prepared meals for the in-flight catering. Actually, that all sounds so grand, as there were so few planes arriving and departing they too were not exactly overworked and their menus were only as exotic as the produce available in the local markets allowed.
My goodness, on occasions Chefie must have had a fearful headache wondering just what he was going to be able conjure up with the meager vituals he had at his disposal. He sure was a master of invention!
In those days Gourmet airline meals were not normally on the agenda, one ate to live not live to eat. Actually, if my recall is correct BOAC were always reluctant to upload food from Dubai catering in those far off days, maybe they thought their passengers might have landed up eating a communal mutton grab!
And the terrifying spectacle of watching one lucky passenger being offered one of the most sort after delicacies known to man, yes, one of the animal’s eyeballs is too much to even contemplate, not sure who would have had a fainting fit first! – Only joking, or am I?
Once the ice had been broken and I had become acquainted with chefie and his crew it was amazing what little treats found there way back to our Offices, via little old me. Actually, the whole tenor of the place reminded me of the Three Musketeers, all for one and one for all, except there were many more than three!
I could never figure out who d’Artagnan might have been, but surely I could have been caste as Maid Marion, oh what fun it was turning out to be. Actually, on occasions it boarded on the farcical and before you ask, no eyeballs, ever found there way to the Office unless they were in disguise! Now there’s a thought!
No morning was the same, as our office was the staging post for a caste of thousands, with Pilots and their Engineers passing through to either deliver or collect onward flight plans. Then there were the marvelous Officers from RAF Masirah who visited Dubai on a weekly basis, bursting into the tiny office, like spit fires, their handlebar moustaches twitching hither and yon. It went without saying that their visits caused utter mayhem and, yes, they all wanted coffee too!
Initially, it was all a little bemusing but after a month or two I was caught up in this mysterious web entitled the airline business. The boys from RAF Masirah would bound in looking for fun as they were usually in Dubai for a little R and R.
Masirah is an Island off the Coast of Oman in the Indian Ocean and at that time was a staging post for Military Aircraft flying East, hence the deployment of Military personnel. To say the least the Island was somewhat off the beaten track and the boys, I think, felt that they had been plonked into the deep blue yonder, hence their delight at the thought of being let loose in Dubai for a couple of days.
Normally, their first question was, when is the next VClO due in for a stop over, they were oh so subtle, I don’t think. This was a coded question to find out if there might, just might be a few air hostesses floating about the place to be swept up by these ‘gallant gentlemen’!
I was, of course, getting to know the boys too and invariably would invite them to drop into the apartment for sun downers or what ever. Consequently, it was not unusual for Mike to return to find the apartment invaded by lots of handsome strangers, mind you he soon got used to these surprises!
As our apartment was slap in the centre of Deira it was turning into a ‘downtown staging post’ and soon began taking on a personality of it’s own – One of the reasons for this was that naturally they all knew they would receive a warm welcome and also, in those days there were few coffee shops, bars etc., where one could take refuge from the steaming heat, except, yes right first time, Apartment 6O3.
Since in those early days we had no radio or television listening to the antics of these chaps was the next best thing, a sort of carry-on show, always to be continued with each episode being more hair rising than the last
We were also being visited by the BOAC boys who flew freighters from London to Hong Kong via Dubai, as these were regular flights, they too became part of the family. Quite often they could be spied walking down the road from the hotel to the apartment lugging yet another piece of furniture I had asked them to buy inHong Kong, camphor chests were a great favorite. We have them in every shape and size!! And then there were the gold watches!
If it was not the odd trinket from Hong Kong, it was a little something from Marks and Spencer’s, as long as the labels were cut out! Yes, in those days it was a fate worse than death to arrive at the Airport with even the smallest M and S label lurking in one’s luggage, how times have changed.! We were always quite terrified of being rumbled.
They now have numerous Marks and Spencer stores in Dubai, is that progress, or is it progress, yes, times have most definitely changed!
Everything now seemed to have a purpose because I was occupied, all was rosy in my world, and Mike’s too, at long last he didn’t have to worry about me, well not too much!
I was working in the morning then sailing most afternoons, some days venturing under the Garoud Bridge and way down to where the Municipality Building was eventually constructed.. It was a wonderful feeling, total freedom, with the sun on my back and the wind in my hair who, could have wished for anything more.
By now I knew most of the boys at the Sailing Club and also when a VClO was over nighting I became acquainted with these crews too or more to the point they all knew me. It was lots of fun and as time went by we became good chums.
I looked forward to these visits immensely, mind you it was hard to imagine that it was only a few months ago that I had been, oh so lost and lonely, bereft of any company at all. It had taken these boys and girls, passing through to far off places to restore my equilibrium. The were heaven sent!
To the uninitiated Airports are mysterious places and to operate and function safely it takes many different groups of people.
One such group being, IAL, International Air radio, these boys operated the control tower, consequently were responsible for the safe landing and departure of all planes, a very important job indeed. Now I was part of this fraternity I discovered that they were seasoned ex-pats who travelled the world guiding planes safely in and out of airports from here to Timbuktu.
Their work was very exacting and once off duty they sure loved to party. We soon earned our stripes but had a lot of catching up to do, as these parties were very different from the genteel little drinks parties we were used too in leafy Surrey. Would you believe there was not a glass of sherry in sight!
We were also rubbing shoulders with the boys from the Military Fraternity in Sharjah, many being involved in covert operations. There were, the TOS boys, the chaps from the Scots Guards doing 6 month stints, and of course, the RAF boys, yes it was boys, boys, and more boys! Coffee mornings and little ladies lunches were but a distant memory, what a change of life style! The understatement of the year!!
Time and time again it was brought home to one that. adaptability was definitely the name of the game. and the motto had to be ‘give it a whirl shirl’, or if you can’t beat them join them. A valuable lesson had been learned – It was called survival.
I hope you have had fun reading another of my ‘Tales’ Look forward to catching up with you again on l4th April, when Essay 33 will be posted.