A bit of background... In my 20s I moved out to Bahrain to work for Gulf Air, where I got to wear probably the most ridiculous uniform in aviation history. Sadly it seems that it was so ridiculous that no photos of it exist on t'interweb. 'Oooohhhhhh.....' I hear you groan. No, really, don't worry because my lovely friend Trish kindly let me use this one of her and her friend modelling said uniform.
What the photo doesn't show is our lovely 'winter' uniform of nylon A-line skirt and fitted jacket in a strange faecal shade of brown. We lovingly called it 'minky brown'. The summer uniform, as modelled by Trish and Susan, was marginally more attractive and, even better, in the presence of a lighted match it could put on a great firework display before melting onto your skin and causing first degree burns.
Rumour has it that the airline had approached a famous French fashion designer who produced a design for a new uniform to replace the pyjama suit, as modelled on the right, which was a standing joke among other aircrew in the 70s and 80s, then the airline nicked the design and produced their own budget version madee with more synthetic materials that your average Hollywood starlet, ideal for the hot, humid Middle Eastern climate.
But check out the hat in the new(er) uniform. The hat was our signature piece - as well as being a fire hazard. The veil was not quite long enough, or the fabric fine enough, to drape it in a chic manner and the crown was stiffened by a bit of old Cornflakes packet (almost). After a few months it would start to collapse and we would cut up the onboard safety cards and feed them into the crown to make it rigid again. I don't think the management ever quite worked out why the safety cards kept disappearing and it's not as if anyone ever really reads them anyway.
The weekend was only one and a half days long so we always played hard and one of our favourite pastimes was hiring a fishing dhow and poor unsuspecting crew and sailing out to the islands where we would spend the day water skiing (drinking), (drinking), jet skiing, (drinking) before retiring to the Yacht Club for sundowners.
|Well of course you can't actually|
waterski behing a dhow, as
I should point out at this juncture that prior to moving to Bahrain I didn't drink. An unfortunate encounter with a bottle of Martini and a Catholic priest (no, not like that... be quiet at the back!) at a party when I was 16 put me off drink for life, well most of it at least. On-board sanitation was basic, consisting as it did of a cabin strapped onto the back of the dhow with a hole in the bottom which emptied straight into the sea. You always made sure to check which way the wind was blowing before you ever used it. Many an unfortunate received an unexpected watering when some newbie had forgotten this important rule.
Come Friday, the start of the weekend, we'd load up the Eskies with cold beers, picnics and another local favourite, Drunken Watermelon.
Take one large watermelon and slice off the top.
Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make deep holes in the flesh of the watermelon
Fill holes with rum
Replace 'lid' and leave in fridge overnight to marinate and voila Drunken Watermelon
When ready hire one fishing dhow
Sail out to islands
Slice up watermelon, eat and get very drunk!
Drunken watermelon was an absolute essential to get through the onboard entertainment which usually consisted of some elderly arab gentlemen blowing on the bladder of a sheep (dead) and wailing incoherently while probably secretly plotting jihad against the immoral westerners.
I chopped up my chicken and marinated it in spices while I peeled some apples. It wasn't easy but I found that if I closed one eye it wasn't quite so hard to focus. A healthy dollop of marmalade was added I put it on the hob to start cooking. After simmering for 10 minutes it was time to add the all-important sultanas. It's an unwritten rule in the Middle East that you never add dried ingredients unless you have checked thoroughly for weevils who, along with the cockroaches, existed solely to make life interesting and usually for all the wrong reasons. On this occasion, mental function being somewhat impaired by rum, I just tipped of good measure of dried fruit into the gently bubbling curry. The sultanas appeared to be moving. I tried shutting the other eye but nothing changed. I took a closer look. The mixture was full of weevils doing the front crawl, the backstroke, even the butterfly. I vaguely thought 'Oh bugger' before the realisation dawned on me that it was the weekend so no shops were open, I had no spare ingredients with which to make another curry and I had about 10 people arriving in half an hour.
I scooped the chicken out of the saucepan and rinsed it under the tap to remove the weevils before starting the futile task of trying to scoop out the remaining ones which were now cooking gently in the curry. It soon became apparent that I was completely outnumbered so I took the decision to just stir the rest of them in and have done with it. Without the unwelcome influence of alcohol I would probably have realised that serving up a generous portion of weevils to my friends was a bit anti-social but hey, what you don't know can't harm you... can it? 'Extra protein' I told myself in order to justify my actions.
My friends arrived and, with thoughts of the unusual extra ingredient pushed firmly to the back of my mind, the curry was served - to them at least. I told them I wasn't hungry. Well what did you expect me to do? I couldn't knowingly eat weevil curry, could I?
As the last person scraped their plate clean the curry was pronounced "the best yet". "Ah, that will be my secret ingredient" I told them, smiling sweetly. To this day, they don't know just what that secret ingredient was.
So, who wants to come round for dinner then? I've got Fly Fricassee, Coq(roach) au vin or Bug Bourguignon.....
Click on any photo to enlarge it..... if you dare!
Click on any photo to enlarge it..... if you dare!