Why does Cinderella never go to Zanzibar?
Thursday 18 November 1999
"Have you ever run your eye down the list of destinations on television holiday programmes and wondered how they got chosen?" asks Susie Maycheap. "It seems to baffle credulity, doesn't it?" (She has an endearing habit of uttering long words that sound almost as if they are used correctly.)
"I mean, you're always finding listings in the Radio Times that say: `This week Craig Brush goes surfing in Mexico and Bob Valium gets to see the lost temples of Cambodia, while Susie Maycheap goes for a weekend in Harrogate.' Yes, I always get the crap option. Now, there's nothing wrong with a weekend in Harrogate, especially as compared with staying at home, but there's a lot wrong with it as compared with a trip to Mexico or Cambodia. So why do you think lucky old Craig and Bob go to the sun, and poor old Susie goes to the frigorific north?" (Susie Maycheap has an endearing habit of uttering words that sound right, but make you want to consult a dictionary straightaway. )
Because Harrogate is cheaper?
"Well, of course it's cheaper - especially to send a film crew to - but that's not why I get sent there. Try again."
Ummm... Well, maybe because some people prefer going on hols in Britain to anywhere else? So they would be more interested in an item on Harrogate than one on Cambodia?
"Ghastly as it seems, that may well be true. But it's not why poor old Susie gets sent to Harrogate. Guess again."
We give up.
"Well, poor old Susie gets sent there to make Craig and Bob feel better."
"What you've got to remember is that almost everyone on a TV holiday programme gets sent somewhere far off and exotic. They're always in the Maldives, or the Seychelles, or Ayers Rock, or Prague. But if you're doing that every week, it soon stops being exotic and starts being a hassle. If you were in Cuba the week before last, and the Pyramids last week, it's no big deal going to Mauritius this week. So it's important to keep going by saying to yourself: `Well, at least I'm not going to Harrogate like poor old Susie!' I am used as the fall guy to make Craig and Bob feel better. And don't forget that if I weren't there, Craig and Bob might start getting jealous of each other. As it is, they can both look down on poor old Susie. I am no threat to them, am I? Emotions run high on these travel programmes, you know. Dangerously passionate. I sometimes wonder if Jill Dando wasn't done in by a colleague who... well, never mind."
Moving hastily on, I wonder whether Susie ever gets her turn on the sandy beaches and white atolls?
"No, it's always Longleat and Whitby and bargain breaks in Bedford for me. It's important that I'm always seen as Cinderella. It was Cinderella who kept the Ugly Sisters united. But when she became a threat, that's when the Ugly Sisters really got ugly. It's crucial that I'm never a threat to the stars of the show, but an object of pity who always gets the fuzzy end of the ice lolly."
(Susie Maycheap has an endearing habit of using phrases that sound as if they are from Some Like It Hot but aren't quite. )
But don't you ever want to go to Machu Picchu or Hawaii or Zanzibar?
"Certainly not," says Susie Maycheap. "I hate flying, for a start. That's why I was brought on to the programme. So that I would never be jealous of the others. The ad I answered said: `Girl wanted for work on prestigious TV holiday feature, must have fear of flying, be unable to speak foreign languages, hate foreign food and get homesick easily.' I was intrigued. I applied. And now I am a travel Cinderella."
Is that a trade description ?
"Yes," says Susie Maycheap cheerfully. "Every programme has one. Next time you see a TV programme dealing with Shanghai, Seattle and Sunderland, make a note of the person who's gone to Sunderland. She's the travel Cinderella. She may not make anyone want go to Sunderland, but by God she makes everyone else on the programme feel happy with their lot."
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