I get public transport to work. It’s just easier after a long haul flight than trying to drive while you have been awake for 28 hours. I always have luggage with me and sometimes I have to battle with the stairs. It amazes me that I am pushed and shoved by commuters like a pack if wild animals trying to over take me. I never expect help carrying my luggage as it’s my responsibility. However, I am shocked at how little it is offered.; And when it is, nine times out of ten it is a female. It always makes me smile as it is such a kind thought to slow down your day to help a stranger. Rarely do I accept as it’s my own fault if I have shopped to much and my case is heavy! This has increased my awareness of strangers needing my help. I often see women struggling with pushchairs down the stairs while swarms of men push by. I will always offer to help, as little kindness can go a long way.
It’s nice to see female chivalry is not dead.
As stated before, One of the things I love about my job is the access it gives me to the world, This makes for great shopping! There is one place above all that I get excited about for the pleasures of this indulgent hobby. There is a place that feels me with so much happiness on the flight over, I smile even more than usually for the whole 12 hour flight (I know I did not think that was possible.) On this flight I was filled to the brim with excitement for arriving that I could not even sleep on crew rest!
What was it giving me such a thrill you ask?
I know it sounds simple but if you’re ever in China taking a trip to a fabric market is one of the most exciting and overwhelming things you can do.
Now some may question that this seems a little far fetch that something so simple can be responsible for so much pleasure. Let me expand.
As you approach the building of the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market, you at first seem a little disappointed and wonder if you have actually come to the right place. A taxi will drop you off on a corner underneath a bridge. As soon as you step out of the car and before your feet touch the ground street sellers with jewellery and interesting local food will start calling at you ‘try for you’ or ‘special price for you.’ Take a look behind them up towards the sky. You will see a monstrosity of a glass concrete building that looks it was approved by a 1970s local british council; the beauty lies within.
Step inside and you have 4 floors of possibilities with rainbows of colours and every type of silk, cotton, linen, chiffon, and wools beyond your imagination. You will find luxurious blends of cashmere wool with the finest blends and the softest brushed cotton. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I enter this place of wonder. First of all, I am blinded by the array of colours and patterns. I smile with all my body at all the possibilities of the new creation for my wardrobe. I spend over an hour just sensing fabrics and searching for the one fabric that speaks to me, lures me in.
I can easily get carried away here and spend hours in a mountain of fabrics as each one ignites all my senses. I have to make a decision about which two garments I am going to create. I have to limit myself to two pieces each time otherwise I will get carried away. Today it was a beautiful spring coat and a cute blouse, I wanted to find a smooth fine silk blend for my spring coat and a light blue chiffon for my blouse. I struck gold when I was searching on the second floor and came across a beautiful light purple in a silk cotton blend that felt like the finest feathers when draped across my skin. My heart was racing and I felt giddy with excitement as I imagined the finished garment. The same stall had the perfect blue chiffon and was so finely woven it was fit queen.
I haggled with the lady for a while over price. Sketched my ideas; Tape measure out; Shook on a deal.
Skipping out of the building, feeling like the 5-year-old child who had just spent her pocket-money in the sweet shop, back into the smog that is Shanghai.
Have you ever been to America and asked where the toilets are? In the UK this a perfectly normal question you would ask in a restaurant, not the case over the pond. This is the simple question of where you can go to relieve yourself; as the say in Nigeria. I know! I know! I was shocked the first time I was working a flight to Lagos and a very tall man approached me and asked:
“Excuse me, where can I relieve myself?”
Yet, I did get the gist of what he was asking me even though I had never heard the expression before, so I was able to point him in the right direction. This was not the case when I asked a waitress in New York:
“Excuse me, where is the toilet?”
The reaction I received was a befuddled face staring at me for a prolonged moment, like I had spoken in Double Dutch. After a delayed pause she eventually responded:
“What did you say?”
The question was repeated and received the same response. I tried the question for a third time. Now I started to doubt my own language skills. Am I talking Double Dutch? She then responded:
“I’m sorry ma’am but I do not understand what you are saying.”
Now I had to change my tactic, I am at the stage when I am dancing up and down trying to contain myself. How else can I word this question? Then the penny drops:
“Where is the bathroom?”
“Oh! It’s upstairs”
Phew! I was sorted.
Another entertaining lost in translation phase is a bacon sandwich! This causes my American customers the greatest perplexities. For some reason, some people can just not understand the concept of bacon roll, sarnie, bap, sandwich, cob. Even when the ingredients are broken down and explained they still do not understand! I have even physically brought a bacon sandwich to one of my customers to try for breakfast. It was a very glamorous lady who had been very successful in the world of marketing. I placed it on her table and watch in amazement as she analysed what I had laid in front of her. She then announced:
“I not sure what it is, but I’ll try it”
I have found myself in many situations across the world where I am lost in translation or misunderstandings between cultures occur. They are entertaining and expected, especially when there is a language barrier. Yet I feel a confusion as to why it happens when two countries speak the same language. I understand when there is confusion between myself and my Japanese customers with my pigeon Japanese. Though it seems to occur more between myself and the Americans. The waitress and I both speak English so why the confusion? If she had asked me where the elevator was I would have understood her meaning even though I use the word lift. I would not be offended if I travelled to Spain and a local did not understand my native tongue, so why does it bother me when I travel to the USA? Dialect and cultural differences can be so diverse even when a common language is shared. This even happens closer to home. I have a lots of Irish friends and till this day I still do not understand their meaning of the noun ‘yolk’. I suppose this makes for a rich and interesting world. I may mock people for their lack of understanding of a bacon roll yet I am sure someone in the Philippines would mock me for my lack of comprehension for eating fish eyes (a delicacies in the Philippines, one I have never been brave enough to try.)
After years of flying to the states I now find myself accommodating to their dialect. I ask where is the bathroom or May I have the check, even when I am in the UK. Something my boyfriend mocks me for. If I ask him if he knows where the bathroom is, the usual rejoinder is:
“Are you going to have a bath here?”
“Lets fly way up to the clouds
Away from the maddening crowds”
So the old song goes! I have to disagree. After years of flying I can confirm the maddening crowds are up in the clouds too! There is no escaping them. With the worlds largest passenger jet now capable of holding 853 people, the clouds are no longer a tranquil place!
This is a blog about the stories that you do not get to hear. The good, the bad and the ugly! This is my story of life in the skies and about some amazing people I have met and some bizarre situations I have found myself in!
I do really love my job and one of the best things about it is the access it gives me to the world. I am based in London yet I do my weekly shop in New York, have my tailor in China and have my manicures in a luxury spa in South Africa. I will be giving you lots of great and up to date recommendations of what to do at destinations! So keep reading and enjoy.