Discuss longhaul
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Crabby Crew Blog <$BlogRSDURL$>

Travel is the most private of pleasures. There is no greater bore than the travel bore. We do not in the least want to hear what he has seen... (Vita Sackville West).

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Further evidence of the perils of blogging: A cursory check of my emails whilst I was in Chicago yesterday revealed a message from the good Mr Tom de Waal, see four posts back, who, much to my chagrin has routed-out this blog and read my description of our recent encounter on the way to Detroit. Since then I have not had time to update you all regarding the fact that the previous post to this one slandered the man by accusing him of not replying to my email (he did, a while ago now) but worse, he has of course now read my unguarded and candid description of his personal and physical charms and is most amused but possibly flattered (?) at being called handsome and famous. (Well, that's what he says). Obviously my street cred is now in utter tatters. I hold up my hands and say it is a fair cop gov and may his wife forgive me.

Other news: Life has been so action-packed that several trips have gone past unblogged which is a pity as now you will never get to hear about the stinking gloop incident on the way back from Lagos. A flight that was goddam awful in many ways apart from getting covered in the aforementioned substance which bore every resemblance to a male excretion but which turned out to be merely a large and rotting crustacean destined for a cooking pot. (When I say large, think as long as your forearm, out of the shell and inadequately wrapped in a couple of flimsy plastic bags. It dripped slime onto a blameless individual who had the misfortune to sit beneath it for takeoff and then took the best part of 45 minutes to become eradicated from the surroundings across which it managed to spread like some form of biological warfare. The smell of excretion lingered on however and the cloths we used to mop it all up blocked up one of the toilets for the rest of the night. Be aware, if a Nigerian ever offers you snail for tea, it is not the little tasty garlicy ones you will get in France, OK?).

Lagos hadn't improved since my first visit where there were power cuts, armed escorts to and from the airport, green mambas at the bottom of the hotel garden, malarial mozzies on the rampage and filthy bedrooms with lethal electical sockets for the crew, but it was all less of a shock this time so I bore up. One new aspect of travelling to this illustrious destination occurred when we tried to leave however. Despite being the fifth largest oil producer in the world Nigeria had run out of aircraft fuel. Bit of a snag that, so we only managed to get as far as Accra with what we had left in the tanks but there the good Ghanaians managed to stock us up enough to get us home. All in a day's work when in Africa these little hitches.

Suffice to say, when the wheels finally touched down at LHR, one highly vocal lady in my cabin was compelled to shout out "Praise De Looorrrrrrdd!" to which the entire complement of her fellow passengers echoed "HALLELUJA!!!!!!" - a sentiment I could not have summed up better myself.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

In a further coincidence relating to the blog before last (concerning the unlikely meeting with Tom de Waal), I was browsing the Radio 4 website intending to listen to the Home Truths Tribute Programme for John Peel and espied right below the HT link under "Editor's Choice" a programme called Crimean Voices presented by the very same Tom de Waal. It is part of a series of programmes he's doing so you can still catch him. Obviously he is a multi-talented, much-in-demand kind of guy which perhaps explains why he hasn't yet replied to my email. Or maybe I was right and the sight of a blogging air-stewardess weilding a camera was just too too gut-wrenchingly embarrassing for words and he has decided to cut me.

Still, the Home Truths tribute is well worth listening too. I add my name to the thousands of others who have assumed the weeds of national mourning in the good Mr Peel's honour. A man I'd have liked to meet.

Monday, November 01, 2004

This web-based world is becoming, if not actually disturbing, at least increasingly surreal. First of all. Sean and Stuart both sent me reports from the BBC website about a "flight attendant" in the States who has just been suspended from her job due to recording the details of her working life on a blog in much the same way I do (although I don't think I have yet posed with my uniform riding quite so high up my legs). I have idly wondered what my employers would make of my hobby and been unsure as to the answer. I can only hope that should it ever come to their attention WHICH I SINCERELY HOPE IT DOES NOT, SO NO OUTING ME OK?! - they will find it innocent enough and not drag me in for a disciplinary or worse. It would be excrutiatingly embarrassing to be held to account for the past nine month's worth of scribblings not to mention bloody awful to lose my job which I like! Anyway, with this in mind, please be careful who you tell about this site.

It seems as if I may be doomed to web-notoriety without the help of self-incriminating writing though. You may well be incredulous when you hear what has just happened to me in Japan. This is what I mean by increasingly surreal. It is just about the oddest thing that has happened to me at work so far.

We went to Narita on Wednesday last week for a four-day trip, giving us a clear day in which to look around the locality and I teamed up with a colleague called Orsi from Hungary and set out with her on a lovely Japanese Autumn morning to explore the nearby Buddhist temple. It was all very pleasant, the sun shone, the leaves were turning red and yellow and we wandered about among the paths and round the lakes in the temple grounds, both of us trying to get good shots with our respective cameras, when we came across a lone Japanese man who smiled at us. Being friendly types we smiled back and then, seemingly innocently enough, the lone man asked whether we would like him to take a picture of us both with our cameras. I wasn't really that fussed as who needs the help of the incompetant photographers of this world in this age of self-timers? However, so as not to be rude we handed over our little digital boxes and smiled in the time-honoured sickly fashion.

But then, the lone man asked, somewhat shyly, whether we would mind if he took a photo of us with his own camera. Well, this was a little odd of course, but we felt it was a fair exchange and you know what the Japanese are like about taking pictures. I mean, they'll take millions of shots of any old thing wont they, so we thought we just seemed a bit exotic, not being from round those parts and that this man had little else going on with his day.

However, it was not just one photograph he wanted. After we obligingly posed together and then separately and then with a different background behind us and then did it all over again so he could take the same shots with a different camera, not only was I getting a bit bored but I was also thinking, how long until he says could we remove our t-shirts please?

What we didn't know was that this man had been there and done this before and persistance and persuasion were his stock-in-trade . Before we could think of any good reasons for a hasty departure he had gently talked us into going down to a nearby lake, a renowned beauty spot, just so that he could take one or two extra shots where the light was better. Rather grudgingly we trundled off with him and spent the next forty-five minutes posing like a couple of beauty queens under his directions and half finding it amusing, half ludicrous to have been hijacked by this portrait enthusiast who was so keen for live models that a couple of jet-lagged and frankly past their prime examples of femalehood were of this much interest to him.

In the end, after I was becoming almost rude in my efforts to get Orsi to forget this lark and retreat from the park with me to somewhere more fun, the lone man must have realised we needed further convincing that his intentions were good and he whipped out some previous examples of his work. Cunningly they were all of entirely wholesome subjects, swans, trees, his grandchildren, everyone fully-clothed and all amazing quality. Both of us were finally impressed with the man's skill, enough to agree that we would hang around for an hour while he got one of the films developed so that we could take some of the pictures away as a thank you and souvenir of our cooperation in the name of art.

We also learnt that our new friend was called Takuji and that he was a retired engineer who used to work at Narita airport. This made us feel a bit better, I don't know why. Anyway, this is going to sound like we were mad fools, but we agreed to accompany Takuji in his car to the camera shop and then to a restaurant for a Japanese lunch. I know, I know, but how many rules had we already broken in terms of doing things your mother warned you against? We had already muttered to each other about finding ourselves on the internet, our heads superimposed onto cavorting naked forms engaged in unspeakable acts, but really even that thought didn't particularly bother us. The chances of us or anyone we knew ever seeing such pictures seemed remote and unimportant in the great scheme of things.

So, off we went, installed in the back seat of Takuji's swish Japanese car and we were indeed treated to a slap-up lunch and an impromptu shopping trip into the bargain, before being returned to the photo shop where the moment of truth awaited us. And........OK, the pictures are a bit cheesy and I would never stand the way I was asked to for a friend's camera - very girly - not me at all, but we both did look a lot better in them than we normally do in photos and somehow the fact the on our body clocks it was 3am hadn't really detracted from their quality. In truth I have to admit we were pleased with how we had turned out and Takuji kindly bought us two distictly naff Japanese snap-shot albums in which to take our copies home. He also asked us whether we would mind him putting us on his website and we concurred.

So, all's well that ends well you think? We were certainly restored to our hotel in one piece all right and looked back on our odd afternoon with some affection and humour but then half an hour ago before writing any of this I decided to check out Takuji's site to see if we had made the grade. It was hard to get into it at first and instead I kept coming across references to it on other men's websites. Here are some direct quotes which made me feel slightly uneasy:

"Slightly less traditional images are presented by Takuji Kuwana, amateur photographer and Narita Airport employee, in his heartwarming collection of fligh attendant photographs. Featuring international stewardesses, his photos are shot in the shampoo-advertisement school of feminine beauty. The pathos is undeniable; amiable airport worker Takuji meets demure flight attendant, he offers to snap a few portraits, and together they lose themselves in the kinetic thrill of world-class fashion photography. Watch as flight attendants gaze pensively, wink coyly, smile coquettishly, and giggle at some unknown whimsical thought. The numbing sterility of airport work, the draining transience of a flight attendant’s life, all washed away in the white-hot glare of a Nikon flashbulb. This is the stuff of literature, or at least really good daytime television."

My God. pretty nauseating stuff right? And......

"Takuji Kuwana's flight attendant photographs There is something truly bizarre about this, but that's got to be a good thing, right? Takuji is an amateur photographer who also works at Narita Airport. Apparently, when a suitably photogenic flight attendant steps off the plane, Takuji manages to get her to pose for shots that are just waiting for a perfume logo at the bottom This is numbingly enchanting stuff, but I don't know if Takuji knows it..."

Double yuk and vomit! I really think Takuji is quite an innocent man - he certainly never gave us cause for alarm, but these revolting chauvenisitic remarks I find quite creepy. Serves us right? Hmmm. I'm not sure. Anyway, Orsi and I have indeed attained the heights of feminine beaty required for Takuji's collection. Look at it and laugh. What else can you do? Little did I know that we were just two more victims among God knows how many other gullible airline crew accosted in parks or on runways. You live and learn. At least he hasn't put our names or which airline. Here's the URL.


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