Friday, 18 April 2014

Boardingcard please

Europe, its nations and cultures continues to provide a rich source of inspiration for me and is also the thing that makes my job so varied and interesting. Selling perfume and may not be the most riveting of jobs in the world, but the fact that your customers have a completely different profile from hour to hour is.  I’m not talking about national stereo-types but every flight has its own quirks.

For example, cigarettes must be expensive in Switzerland and as it is a tax-free destination we sell lots of cigarettes during the Geneva and Basel flights. I rather like the Basel flight as there are a number of German speaking customers on it. 

During the morning we have an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, which means clear the decks and roll up your sleeves as everything must be expensive in Moscow. Wine, fine Champagne, cosmetics; basically if the Moscow flight is a bit light we won’t have a good day. It also helps to learn a few words of Russian such as Boarding card and transfer (Biljet and transit if you’re interested) I’m currently working on ‘Bon Voyage’ (Schastlivogo puti) but not managed it yet.

Being surrounded by all these nations, it is tempted to start by asking for a boarding card, but this should be avoided at all costs. There is nothing that annoys a French passenger more than being spoken to in English in their own country, so I always lead with ‘Votre card d’embarkement s’il vous plaît’ and only ask for a boarding card if you receive a look of utter panic of your passenger.

Then last there is the British quirk, like it or not you are in Europe, therefore you have to pay European union prices (not tax-free) It is best to explain this before you ring up the purchase, otherwise you end up cancelling the sale when they find out they can’t buy tax-free. Maybe it is the fact that Brits can’t buy cheap alcohol and cigarettes on their holidays to the continent that is stirring up this anti-European rhetoric. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Monday, 14 April 2014


I'm very excited by having started the edit of my second book. Steering the ship safely through the murky waters of grammar and punctuation is, like in book one, my friend Penny. I wouldn't be as flippant as to say that writing a book is easy, but everything after you finish the final chapter seems to be harder. I often talk about how hard it is to promote your book and how things are complicated by living in France (see ISBN) Today I hit another French complication.

I do all my work on an incredibly cheap Packard bell note book. I love it as it has a nice keyboard and it is so small and light that I can take it anywhere. It has been fine to do most word processing tasks but it didn't come with the full version of Microsoft Word. Word has a very nice changes tracking function which my editor used. I would just need to OK the changes and job done. My version of Word is in French, but even after much searching I could not see a way to OK anything. Penny very kindly send me the link to a help site but after more head scratching I realised that my version could not sing and dance and I would need the full version of Word to send back something she can work with.

Help was at hand as my husband's computer does have the full version and even better; it's in English which makes following the dummy guide so much easier. With my husband away at work I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. I was zipping through the red changes marking them as agreed with a click of the mouse until I hit the French snag. My husband and I both have French keyboards or AZERTY, but for some reason Word thought I was using an English or QWERTY keyboard. Hubby assured me it was possible to change it, but it wouldn't be easy to explain over the phone. I decided to carry on and after a while you get used to typing a Q when you need an A or Z when you need W etc.

Finishing the book was only the start of the journey; it is all those other skills and experiences I'm picking up in trying to get published and a readership that is proving the most challenging.

Monday, 7 April 2014


Being white, blonde haired and blue eyed, I've never expected to be on the receiving end of racism. I've sometimes heard mutterings and sighs behind me along the lines off: 'them English' but this week I had a lady very coldly asking me whether only foreigners worked here. I was dumbstruck as my Moroccan colleague and I had bend over backwards to help her with her purchases. If I feel racism, I can only imagine how bad things are for my friends and colleagues who are not white.

This leads me back to my previous blog I did on voting. I did only get to vote once and will have to wait for that free pizza a few years longer as the sitting Mayor got re-elected in the first round with 52%. I nearly bumped into Marine le Pen at Nice airport a few days before the election. Visiting the area to rally her Front National party must have paid off as they did alarmingly well in the south, polling 25% in our village.

The Côte d'Azur is a very overcrowded stretch of land; every one wants to come and live in this beautiful area that benefits from one of the best climates in Europe. With the foreign tourists come the workers that can deal with them. French is not an easy language to master and the passengers I meet on a daily basis are just relieved when I speak to them in their mother tongue and a happy passenger is one that spends; pumping lots of Euro's back into the economy. I find living and working amongst these many nationalities and cultures hugely inspiring, but sadly not every one is of this opinion.

So how do I deal with Mrs I don't like foreigners? Well I got myself registered to vote. Meanwhile I try and lead by example, treating every one with respect and courteousness. I gave her my 'I don't get what you just said there' smile and wished her a 'Bon voyage madame!'

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Not so easy

First a bit of news, I had a productive day off when it wasn't good enough to swim. I now have nearly 7 stories ready for the short story bundle and am now looking into publishing these together with some stories written by my friend Elspeth. The only snag is that Amazon KDP will not let us set up a joint account to split the royalties at source. I'm sure we'll find a way round this. Honestly, writing is the easy part, everything else that comes afterwards is bloody difficult!

Another thing that wasn't easy was getting people to read your book and do a review. I believe my book would appeal mostly to young males, not an easy target group to get to read full stop. Luckily it appealed to some female readers out there and Laura Besley has very kindly posted her review on Amazon, Goodreads and her blog. You can read it via the link below:

Working at the airport I spotted something else that used to be easy but now seems a rather complicated affair: Taking an Easyjet flight.
I haven't used Easyjet recently, but in the old days, you bought a ticket, took one item of luggage and a handluggage then you got a boarding card without a seat number and you all pilled on a quick as you could to get the best seats.
Blimey, things have changed! I now and then work in the tiny shop that oversees the easyjet gates to the UK in Terminal two. Easyjet in my view now takes just takes forever to board, they mostly start 45 to 50min before take-off. Firstly you now have to pay for hold luggage so everyone tries to get as much as possible in their hand luggage. If it is not spotted on check-in, they do catch you on boarding and the now far to big hand luggage has to go in the hold anyway. Then there is all the different types of boarders, Speedy boarder etc, it just takes forever and you now pay for the privilege to go onto the plane before the others and to select your seat. (Little secret; you all still get there at the same time!)
Easyjet is one of our biggest operators in Nice, so they must be doing something right, but the name Easyjet seems a bit ironic now.