Posted in Family, Travel

Flight of Fancy: A Cautionary Tale for the Summer Holidays

If you’re off travelling this summer, be careful who you sit next to on the plane. You never know where it might lead. Here’s a cautionary tale from my pre-Hawkesbury days.

Geneva Bound

Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) with Jet d'Eau, Geneva...
Sailing close to the wind on Lake Geneva (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my 20s, I worked as a journalist for a trade magazine in London, often travelling abroad on business. When going somewhere new, I always tried to add in a day’s holiday for sightseeing. One Sunday on a flight to Geneva, I opened the novel I’d brought with me: Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago.

“Oh!” said the middle-aged businessman next to me. “What a coincidence! I’ve got that book in my bag too.”

So began a long conversation that lasted till we touched down and ended with us arranging to share a boat trip around Lake Geneva that afternoon. He seemed pleasant enough, and after all, we had something in common – Dr Zhivago.

The sun was shining, it was a glorious trip, and we followed it up with a drink in a bar, where he asked if I’d join him for dinner. All of a sudden, I started hearing what he was saying as if through the ears of my fiancé back in London, who would certainly not have viewed this man as a platonic friend with no ulterior motive.

I made a transparent excuse and declined. The man gave me a wry smile, we shook hands (our only physical contact all day) and parted forever.

Falling to Earth

Doctor Zhivago
The enigma of Doctor Zhivago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Only later that evening, alone in my hotel room, did I begin to wonder whether I’d been hoodwinked. Had I just been the victim of a well-practised chat-up line, an opening gambit honed by years of business trips? Suddenly I realised: I never had seen his copy of Dr Zhivago. I suspect now it didn’t exist. And I never did tell my fiancé.

So, wherever you’re going for your holidays this summer, have fun, take care –  and don’t talk to any strange men!

Boris Pasternak during the First Congress of S...
I blame you, Boris Pasternak (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you enjoyed this post, you might like these other tales of troubled travel:

Travelling Light – how to cope with your husband’s packing deficiences

Have SatNav, Will Travel (Less)  – skirting danger on the roads of Bristol

Nous Sommes En Panne – The Tale of Our Luxembourg Camper Van Crisis

With thanks to intrepid traveller and writer Laura Zera, whose call for stories of interesting people met on planes triggered this long-suppressed memory. Laura writes a fabulous travel blog too: This post also appears in the July 2013 edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News.

11 thoughts on “Flight of Fancy: A Cautionary Tale for the Summer Holidays

  1. Debbie, I’m surprised at you for sounding so wimpy! Just teasing 😉 My take is that not only does it give one a laugh to be chatted up on a plane (unless he’s really ghastly, and it didn’t sound as though he was), but being a writer it’s a marvellous way for a hero and heroine to meet. I can even see it as a film. Meg Ryan being furious because she realises she never saw the evidence. Hero has to confess. They have a row. Then get back together somehow with sloppy ending. What more can you ask of a flight?

    1. I was very young and green in those days, you understand! If it happened again now, I wouldn’t mind at all (got a buzz out of being called “young lady” by a VERY old man whom I’d helped up some steps yesterday!) And yes, such things are a gift to writers – I confess that this anecdote will be morphing into a short story in my imminent new collection, “Travel Size”, 20 tales inspired by travel dilemmas! I shall now picture my heroine as Meg Ryan… 🙂

  2. Think the best of people. No-one can chat you up unless you want to be chatted. There is no danger and it sounds as if it made the trip enjoyable.

  3. Glad I could get the memory wheel turning and thank you for giving me credit! I really think this ranks as the perfect (as in, flattering) encounter with a stranger because you got to indulge in his attention but then you deployed your exit strategy at precisely the right time. Good job! 😉

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