It must have come as quite a shock, then, to Miss Nora Ellis, 65, also of Northampton, to discover that she was considered insufficiently carefree to travel with Mr Blunt's company. Advised by her GP that she was a bit depressed and needed a holiday - her first for 15 years - Miss Ellis booked on to a week-long break to Llandudno, costing a princely pounds 275. But one day she received a telephone call from Carefree, telling her that her booking had been rejected. "They said that I might get into a mood on the coach and upset the other passengers," said Miss Ellis. "It's just not fair."
She has a point: it is rare for companies to insist on clients who match their corporate image or company title. Far and Wide brochures may take you anywhere, but they don't expect you to be both tall and fat. Ugly Britons may vacation in Florence with Italian Dreams - one does not have to be flashing-eyed and raven-haired. Corsican Affair is not the exclusive company for randy Ajaccians, Caribbean Expressions does not require grimaces Grenada-style, and Nomad Travel advises customers to leave their goats at home. Perhaps poor, wretched Miss Ellis should have tried booking with Travelbag.
PR aside, however, it would surely hurt a great deal to be told that you are too miserable to go to Llandudno. It is conceivable that one might be too vivacious to go to Llandudno, too effervescent perhaps - that one might be in danger of disturbing its graveyard tranquillity by talking too loudly about French literature when walking along the promenade. But too miserable! When challenged on his decision Mr Blunt was anything but forthcoming, sheltering discreetly behind the company's right to refuse applicants, "when we feel it is in the interests of the group as a whole". So we have yet to discover how Miss Ellis was to accomplish the singular feat of depressing the coast of North Wales.
By coincidence, Miss Ellis's sad story has appeared in the same week as that of a 20-year-old would-be bank clerk, who also recently felt the lash of rejection. This young woman has claimed at an industrial tribunal that she was turned down for a job with National Westminster Bank (an estimable institution with whom I run several overdrafts and loan accounts), on the grounds both of race and size. As she points out, with an IQ of 172, it could scarcely be on the grounds of intelligence (although I doubt whether she would be welcome in Llandudno). And sure enough the accompanying photographs depict a pleasant-looking and very substantial woman of mixed race.
The other thing massively in the young lady's favour is her name: Ms Anoushka De La Banque. Now, there are many appellations that would suit being in lights above a teller's station, or inscribed on one of those triangular nameplates: Fred Money, Anne Cash, Roxanne Coin, or Bill Fold to name a few. But Anoushka De La Banque is right up there with the best - only Monsieur le Comte Bureau de Change could be better. Although I suppose she might find herself pestered by the kind of male customer who would always be asking, with a horrid leer, just how she pronounced "banque."
Whatever the facts turn out to be in Ms De La Banque's case, I sympathise with both her and Nora Ellis. One woman felt that she was just right for the NatWest and the other that she was sufficiently jolly for Llandudno. Both were turned down, spurned. And as I read their stories, my mind went back three decades to pre-adolescent football on Hampstead Heath, and a painfully skinny and maladroit little boy. There were usually sufficient players for six or seven a side, and the two acknowledged best footballers - guys who could run with the gazelles and kick like broncos - took it in turns to pick the teams, starting with the most athletic and ending, as always, with Skinny. Skinny loved soccer, but could not play it; the repeated rejection making him ever less confident and able.
Gentle reader, I was Skinny. Nora, Anoushka - I know how you feel.
Miles Kington is on holidayReuse content