Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mementos, Memories, The Concorde...and manners from another time...


 
The Concorde Menu: BA 172, New York-London, 7 June 1978

I have been cleaning out cupboards in preparation for the upheaval in my house in two weeks to enable the laying of new carpet. And it is amazing what I have found…I am much more of a hoarder of mementos than I realised.

In the mid 1970’s, when in my early 20’s I had what I was sure was the best job in Australia. I was the assistant to the Press Secretary to the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. I held the position between 1975 and 1979. I travelled the globe, worked ridiculous hours and loved every minute of it. To this day I am still very much a “political animal” and a news devourer.

Late last week I had a call from my old boss. We keep in touch a couple of times a year and after such a long period of time I like to think of him as a very dear friend.


The Official London Program

And then this morning when I was sorting, ruthlessly, through my cupboards I found some of the mementos of my second trip to Europe in 1978. The first had been the year before when the PM had also visited Britain and France. It was a fabulous time, staying at the Savoy Hotel in London and the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris. We worked around the clock. Travelling with a large contingent of journalists and allowing for the time differences meant that we had not only to know what they had written in the Australian press but to brief them continuously. I revelled in the pressure.

The Official Program for Paris

But the absolute highlight of the 1978 trip was the flight on the Concorde between New York and London. And I will let my letter to my parents tell the story…

The original letter, complete with smudges

7 June 1978. “Dearest all. Well, what a morning! Here we are, finally in the air, after an aborted take-off and a 3-hour delay. I wasn’t frightened at all, though, a few of the people travelling with us were, I guess because they knew what was happening – my only thought when we finally stopped, having reached a medium take-off speed of about 210 mph was that in all the fog (like pea- soup, and we were late anyway as a result of this and the heavy air traffic at Kennedy) something else might hit us – anyway of course it was all fine and here we are off again.

The other novelty is that Jackie Onassis is on the same plane and really is very stunning – very little make-up, very natural. One of our TV crews is sitting opposite her, so I went back for a look on the pretext of giving them the London programme!


The imagination runs wild on a flight like this – the captain talked us through breaking the sound barrier at Mach 1 and at the moment at 51,000 foot and 1300 mph (?) we are at 1.95 Mach and still accelerating to get through Mach 2 which will take us to about 60,000 ft and 1350 mph – amazing isn’t it? The PM went up to the cockpit for the passing of Mach 1 and for us down the back we could really feel the “reheat” on one side and then the other as we hit supersonic speed: all very exciting…”

When I read this letter, which my mother had kept for all those years until her death in 1991, I was immediately transported back to the plane, its cramped and tiny seats but its sublime service and utterly sophisticated menu and the way that all of us were completely overwhelmed by the ultimate experience of its day.
The Concorde  menu, fashionably 1978

Our memories are there to be shared, I think. My daughter and her partner are coming back home for the weekend for a wedding and I just know she and I will sit down, with a glass of champagne, and have “girls time” going back over the bits and pieces of the life that I had before I was even married.

So perhaps the enforced clean out of long forgotten boxes will yield more delights…I hope so!


2 comments:

  1. Gosh! Prime Minister, Concorde (although delayed..., nothing new), menus, Hôtel Crillon, Jacky Onassis...what an amazing experience for a young woman! Now, you can't smoke on board, you may lie down if you are lucky enough not to travel on Misery Class and you eat ordinary food. And Concorde is out of order. And your memories are vivid.

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  2. Yes, Tintin, how our lives and the world have changed. The menu includes cigars!~ do we wish for these old times? Yes, sometimes I do wish to be carefree and less influenced by "political correctness".Thank you for your comment.

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