Episode 28: Tui Story

“Good morning, welcome to the Hotel Blah-de-blah, I’m your TUI team leader and my job here is to make sure you all have a fantastic holiday here in Fuengirola”

And so the welcome speech begins, again.  I’m sat watching from the sidelines, smiling like a Madame Tussaud’s waxwork and trying not to spill the complimentary Orange Juice down my blouse.  There are six of us clad in Blue, awaiting our introduction alongside the Blanket Trip representative sporting a canary yellow ensemble whom I fear may be nodding off before our team leader even reaches the merits as to why you need to book your trips with us as opposed to the half price bucket shop down the road.

Our TUI Team

I look around the room. The average age of the clientele is around 93 and there’s no guarantee all of them will make it to the end of the 50 minute speech.  The air conditioning unit wheezes into life and jolts awake several elderly patrons, reminding them that they are on holiday and need to stay conscious for at least some of their pensioner’s vacation.

I catch the eye of one of the entertainments team and we wink at each other in unison. These youngsters are the glue that holds the hotel together, performing west end worthy shows in the evening after a day of interacting with the guests in various activities around the pool.  They know the score; all of them have been hired following extensive auditions in the UK to ensure everyone has a great time onsite.   Scores for the hotel must remain high because if they chose to do another season with Tui, their next curtain call could be in Florida as opposed to Fuengirola.  Point’s makes prizes; the constant carrot dangled in front the TUI employee’s nose.

I’m sure when they applied for the roles; wide eyed and fresh out of drama school they didn’t envisage a day of shuffleboard and French boules adorning their crispy white untarnished CV but this is the reality of most actors worlds and like all professionals, they rise to the occasion with a smile and a caffeine laden drink.

I look up towards the ceiling and wipe sweat off my menopausal brow.  The meeting is well into its stride.  Pickpockets and prickly heat have been touched upon, train timetables are being hastily noted down on welcome packs and we are rapidly heading towards the bread and butter of the speech, excursions.

I think back to the past month and try and remember which inland adventures I have attended, each one morphing into the next.  Museums, mosques, mountains, information overload.   Sitting on a coach at 8am each morning, watching the younger reps vomit into their rucksacks after an alcohol fuelled outing the night before.  Patting their inexperienced backs and trying to keep them away from the incredibly young area manager who joined us each day on the tours.  Fighting the desire to yell ‘I’ve got cheese in my fridge older than you’ whenever he pointed out an obvious fact regarding how we were expected to behave in front of the paying guests also on the tour.

“And now Paula is going to come up and tell you about Romantic Ronda! Gentleman, you can go to sleep now”.

My name breaks through the deluge of memories and drags me back into reality.  I stand up and brush invisible crumbs of my skirt and head over to the rostrum and smile encouragingly towards my ever deflating audience.  All these people who sit before me have come for a nice holiday and not to listen to middle aged reps wax lyrical on how they should spend their money.  With this in mind I take a deep breath and perform a short comedy monologue on Riotous Ronda and then return to my seat, applause rings around the room as the team leader brings the meeting to a close.

Dragging my Tablet out of the bag I fire it up and stand at the table nearest to exit awaiting the arrival of any guests that fancy spending their hard earned cash on a trip to Morocco or Marbella.

Barbary Macaque – Gibralter

An elderly lady pushes her way through the ever decreasing crowd and waves a shaky finger in my direction

“Jane Macdonald, that’s who you remind me off, I bloody love her on that cruise programme”

Smiling I lean down and whisper conspiratorially “It’s a shame I haven’t got her money.  Now, can I interest you in a nice day trip to see the apes in Gibralter?”

To be continued… Episode 29

 A New Wife in the Sun is available for proof reading, wedding speeches, radio presenting and anything that involves not having to smile at people for any amount of time.

Episode 27: Banger Management

8 months  later…..

“No seriously, does my arse really look like a giant blue beach ball in this TUI uniform?”

My husband, always grateful that the subject matter isn’t about doing any more unnecessary DIY in the apartment turns towards me and looks me carefully up and down

“It’s definitely more flattering than the yellow one you wore last year on that bed promotion thing you did.  Anyway, stop preening or you’ll be late on your first day. Have you charged the tablet up and downloaded all those Apps?”

I nod nervously.  Me and technology aren’t the closest of allies. I can work out Face Book, E mails and how to buy crap on Amazon but apart from that I’m useless.  My palms start to sweat with the thought of a thousand unhappy tourists staring at me while I jab helplessly at a computer screen that insists on saying ‘no!’

Looking into the mirror I smooth down the man made fibers and hoist the Rep bag over my shoulder. Amongst all the truly talented bilingual candidates, 51 year old me was offered the position of part time representative for TUI in one of the biggest hotels in Fuengirola and I was not going to let my larger than average posterior put me off my new career.

“Right, I’m off then, see you after you finish work at the Theatre” and I happily head downstairs to my trusty Vespa.

Within ten minutes I’m standing uncertainly outside the entrance of the hotel. I had worked the same place last season, but that was promoting free blanket trips to elderly people but this season I was the face of TUI.  The buck stops with me.  Painting a smile on my heavily made up face I march through the front door and spot my Team leader lounging on the sofa, writing out welcome packs.

Clearing my throat I hold out my hand and become the person I know the company wants me to be.

“Hello, I’m Paula; I’m your part time team mem….”

“Whoa  whoa whoa…Part time? Part time? I need a full time rep here, this just isn’t on!” and with my hand left hanging in mid air he grabs his works phone and marches past me through the front door and out of sight into the street.

This wasn’t exactly the reaction I had been hoping for so I stand uncertainly by the desk, fingering the various flyers and looking at the airport departure board for divine inspiration.

“Oh hello, can you help me?” an elderly voice cuts through my reverie

Pasting a smile upon my lips I turn around to see a lady of about 90 years old sporting a tiny fluorescent bikini and wearing the brightest pink lipstick (albeit mainly on her teeth) that I have ever seen.

“I appear to have lost my husband. I sent him down to get me a sausage over half an hour ago and he’s not returned to the room. They ran out of sausages yesterday, I had to have bacon, I don’t like bacon, to be honest, I don’t really like sausages but I don’t like to queue for an omelet”

Placing a look of concern on my face I nod in sympathy but before I have chance to solve this modern day dilemma  I see my colleague march back in through the front door, anger etched into his olive skin.

“Er….. This lady appears to have lost her husband on the way to the buffet breakfast; he went for a sausage and hasn’t been seen since.”  I smile beseechingly for help from my mentor; I’m not yet au-fait with the protocol of missing OAP’s, or the lack of reformed Pork if I’m honest.

“Have you looked in the lift Mrs. P? He was in there yesterday morning wasn’t he? Talking to the chambermaid on the 14th floor about the benefits of Aloe Vera?’”

The guest looked confused and then realization dawned like the early morning sun through heavily advancing hazy clouds.

“Oh so he was, I’ll go and have a look for him up there, I do hope my sausage hasn’t gone cold though….”  and off she wanders, mumbling to herself about pork products and wayward husbands.

I turn to my colleague who has resumed his position on the sofa and take a deep breath

“Look, I don’t know what you were expecting but I can promise you this, I’ll work hard and the guests will love me.  Surely it’s better to have a really good part timer than an utterly rubbish full time one?”

He looks at me through narrowed eyes then takes a deep breath of resignation.

“Those welcome packs won’t fill themselves”

Smiling to myself I lift the mountain of leaflets from the table, salute with a cheeky grin and get to work.  

To be continued… Episode 28

A New Wife in the Sun is available for proof reading, wedding speeches, radio presenting and anything that involves not having to smile at people for any amount of time.

Episode 26: Divan Intervention

“What on earth is a blanket trip and who in their right mind needs blankets?  It’s almost 30 degrees out there and it’s not even 8am!”

Blotting the sweat which is trickling at an unhealthy speed down into my cleavage, I explain once again to my confused husband what my latest form of employment actually is.

“It’s not just blankets, its mattresses too and they are all made from the best Marino wool that ewe can buy.  Anyway, I’m more than happy for you to find me my dream job, just as I found you YOURS in the theatre!” and I slam the door behind me and head for the stairs.

Unfortunately my dramatic exit is cut short when I tentatively have to reopen the door to retrieve my forgotten helmet and then slam it for a second time.

Mumbling to myself, I gingerly place my buttocks on the already blisteringly hot moped seat and head towards my latest form of employment.

I’d spotted the job advertised online a couple of weeks earlier and it sounded relatively easy.  All you were required to do was stand in a hotel foyer and book people onto free locals excursions.  The only catch being before you reached the chosen destination; a detour was made to watch a well presented sales pitch led by two charismatic women in a factory outlet in Malaga.  All this was made more enticing by the fact there wasn’t actually any hard sell on the beds and coffee and cake was provided along with a glass of sherry.

 The promoters were so passionate about the products I was almost swayed to purchase a mattress and a pair of wool innersoles myself but then remembered I needed neither and in all honesty, had no money left for such frivolity.  But several pensioners did purchase the products and the mood was good humored as we left the factory and headed towards Mijas village for the complimentary day out.

A car horn suddenly beeps loudly behind me and I realize that the traffic light has changed from Red to Green.  Within minutes I am parked outside my local hotel and straighten my crumpled blouse before heading into the embrace of the air conditioned building.

“Blanket trips anyone? Free trip to a Ranch afterwards, tapas and drinks included…plus a free stallion if you can fit it in your hand luggage” I smile at the elderly guests making their way to breakfast.  Some look at me as if I’m trying to sell them funeral plans but others happily sign up with the promise that the sales pitch in the factory isn’t hard and the coach is air conditioned.  Every signature on the sheet contributes towards my pay along with the knowledge that I will start Tour Guiding on the coach once a position becomes available.

 The morning finally draws to a close and I pack up my clipboard along with my sales pitch and head home, stopping en route to pick up some fresh bread from the Panaderia.

Opening the apartment door I immediately hear the voice of my son yelling into his Xbox alongside the dulcet tones of Jeremy Clarkson omitting from the lounge.  Placing the still warm rolls on the counter I await confirmation of my return but I wait alone, technology taking precedent over human contact.

As I stand forlornly by the vibrating fridge I am struck by the realization that my son isn’t suddenly going to start playing in the streets with the local Spanish children, he’s almost a teenager and the online forums are now his virtual playground. My husband quite happily works in a local theatre; he isn’t ever going to be the next Bill Gates.  He enjoys lighting the luvvies and in his spare time watching middle aged men drive fast cars and talk crap and get paid millions to wax lyrical about Ford Mustangs.

Retracing my steps, I pick up my keys and retreat back to the front door.  But blocking my path is the one family member that’s always pleased to see me, Brian the ever hopeful.  Shaking in anticipation he reaches up to me with his dirty paws and looks me in the eye, happy in the knowledge that he has a warm bed to sleep in, food in his bowl every night and most importantly, people that love him.

“Maybe we should all be more like you Brian, grateful for what we have’ I whisper to my furry companion and he replies by gratefully licking my nose.  Picking up his lead we head outside into the fresh air and away from the internal noise.  Moving to Spain was my dream and the reality of the situation isn’t easy.  Work is vastly underpaid, families still argue, the language is a barrier but the one thing that there is here in abundance is sunshine and cheap wine, and that brightens even the darkest of moods.

“Fancy a sausage sandwich?” I enquire to my four legged friend and he replies with a wag off his tail. Smiling to myself I cross the road and head into the shade, just another expat strolling the avenue whilst trying her best to find a new life in the sun.

Paula is taking a break from Blogging for the summer but will be back in the autumn.

To be continued… Episode 27

 A New Wife in the Sun is available for proof reading, wedding speeches, radio presenting and anything that involves not having to smile at people for any amount of time.

Episode 25: Peters and Me

‘No dahhhling  you have to chase Billy around the table THREE times, swing left, punch right and then have a cigarette.  Make notes in your script if you can’t remember’ yells the director

‘But… but you told me yesterday to do it the other way round?’ I shout uncertainly into the dazzling spotlight but my reply is met with a deafening silence so I wander back into the wings and join the other cast members who are sat laughing at the confused look etched onto my weary face.

‘Don’t worry, that’s what he does’ whispers the elder of my onstage sons ‘he changes his mind and then blames us.  Don’t waste time questioning it.  He’s been directing here for over 30 years and he isn’t going to change’

Sighing with resignation I reach down for my script, erase all my previous notes and scrawl my new ones onto the rapidly disintegrating paper.  Looking out onto the stage I see the young male lead circling the stage with his imaginary kestrel and wonder, not for the first time why I put myself through this unpaid torture.

From a very early age I required verification that I was indeed, different.  I would perform comedy sketches to strangers on the tram after our weekly shop at ‘Quick Save’.  My mum would struggle up several flights of stairs as I gave my rendition of ‘Paper Roses’ to anyone that would listen and after a particularly torturous trip on the 11c bus to exchange some Hoover parts, she finally decided to give someone else’s ears a bashing and entered me into a local talent show hosted by Uncle Peter Webster.

This legendary seaside show was the highlight of the Blackpool summer season. Hundreds of proud parents would watch the fruit of their loins destroy some harmonious melody or tap dance themselves off the stage.  The winner being decided by the audience members so the more family you coerce with the promise of Dandelion and Burdock and Pork scratchings, the better.

Unfortunately, if you were entered in a heat with an Irish child you may as well just cut your losses and head home with your stick of consolation Rock.  So many siblings attended the show they had to sit on each other’s laps and fists would fly if “Baby Connors’” tuneless horn-Pipe rendition wasn’t met with adoring applause from the surrounding parties.

The highly desired prizes lined the glistening stage, sat in untouchable supremacy.  Dolls houses and giant teddy bears fought for dominance while eager faces stood staring whilst wringing sticky fingers, their dreams held in a stranger’s hand, awaiting their names to be called from the wings.

It was on a summers afternoon in 1972 that my 5 year old skinny and confident self  marched onto the stage and sang ‘Where’s your mama gone’ to a packed audience and amazingly, chirpy chirpy cheep cheeped my way to first prize which was a shock even to me as I was sure the blind 7 year old piano player would pip me to the post with his Liberace tribute act.

Deafening applause greeted my return to the stage and I briefly caught the shocked but proud look on my mother’s face, no doubt imaging her future self having to trail to auditions in the wind and rain with her very own Lena Zavaroni incarnate doing vocal exercises on the last bus to Bispham.

Uncle Peter Webster held out his hand to take mine for our bows but I bypassed the smiling compare and headed straight towards the row of gleaming prizes. Without hesitation I clutched A giant purple doll to my chest which was almost the same height as me and yelled ‘look mum I’ve won’ into the audience.  Laughter surrounded us and from that moment on I knew I was never going to be normal.

A rapid prod in the back brought me out of my 1970’s reverie and I was dragged back into a world where strangers were no longer called uncle and dolls that yelled ‘Mama’ when tipped forward have been eagerly replaced with technology and greed.

‘Mum, can I have a few Euros; I’m not in this next scene and I’m FAMISHED and I remembered ALL my lines, unlike you’, my son says with a cheeky smile

Reaching into my pocket I drag out whatever change I have and watch my boy, all gangly 12 years of him confidently run out of the door, not a care in this world, adamant that a future onstage is where his heart lies.

Stretching and reaching for my script I catch sight of myself in the mirror.  My mother’s eyes look back at me and I realize now, I’m in the same situation as she was all those years ago, a parent with a child who holds dreams of stardom in their hearts.

‘Act 1 beginners to stage please, beginners to stage’

Brushing my wilting beehive back from my aging brow, I paint a frown onto my working class face and do what I do best, pretend to be somebody else.

To be continued – Episode 26

 A New Wife in the Sun is available for proof reading, wedding speeches, radio presenting and anything that involves not having to smile at people for any amount of time.