Thursday, November 18, 2010

43. The Fashion Show

Before joining the WRAF, Rachael had been a fashion model, so she decided to make a bit of money by opening a model/charm school to teach the Greek Cypriot girls how to walk, and how to develop more self confidence. I have already told you about the Greek family that lived opposite us in Nicosia: Greek Cypriot girls were heavily chaperoned and not at all liberated. Because of this school, Rachael was asked by the Greek social set to put on a big fashion show in aid of charity. Models, professional and amateur, were organised, a shipment of clothes was ordered by the owner of a local dress shop, and the hotel venue booked. We spent hours decorating the ball room with rose covered arches, beach settings with deck chairs and stuff, and it looked really lovely. It was far more interesting and attractive than just a cat walk. Children would be modelling beachwear and they were to carry buckets and spades and beach balls. A great deal of work was involved, with rehearsals, stage managing etc, but when we came to do the parade we found that the charity had overbooked and there were tables and chairs and guests sitting all over our stage settings and there was barely room to move. But it was to get worse!

The dresses were late arriving and everyone was panicking about the fittings and which model was to wear which dress. Without the dresses I had been unable to write my commentary, nor work out the order of appearance, and we were due to start in an hour!

The clothes were finally fitted and I rushed to my typewriter, only to find that the girls had taken all the labels off the clothes and so I had no information as to fabric, designer or price. Come to think of it, nor would the owner of the dress shop when he got the clothes back. I had to type something, so I asked one of the girls if she could type while dictated to her as I was getting myself ready. She agreed and sat down, only to realise that she could only type in Norwegian! Chaos and Panic reigned. One of my worst recurring nightmares used to be that I was on stage without a script and unable to remember my lines. I went down to the ballroom, sat down at my table, microphone plugged in and my nightmare became a reality. I tried to improvise. “And, here comes Barbara wearing a bright pink dress with Palliachi buttons” “Just looks at Janet’s lovely white beach bag”. Meanwhile, the models were trying to pick their way through the diners, tripping over sets that had been moved, finding the beach chairs in which they were supposed to sit had either been folded up or were being sat in, and there was nowhere to put the flipping beach balls, buckets and spades. Rachael, who was modelling, tripped and nearly fell, but cleverly turned the slip into a Charleston. Everyone started to talk and we got the slow hand-clap. Fifty years later I still cannot remember it without shuddering. Well, perhaps I laugh a bit as well!

The show happened to be taking place on the same night as some Turkish political demonstration, and outside crowds had gathered and people were shouting. We wondered if it would be safe, out in the street, for people leaving a Greek hotel. Rachael and I decided we would rather face a crowd of excitable Turks than stay inside the hotel with a crowd of hostile Greeks. Sally and Jeni had been modelling beach wear, and our main concern was getting them away to safety. We got into the Simca, roared out of the car park and arrived home a bit shaky, but safe.

Tom was assigned to counter intelligence at the time and said later, that had he known what was to happen in Cyprus he would never have sent for us. But, up until then, Cyprus was my happiest place and we were so fortunate that the real trouble did not begin until after we had left.

We were enjoying such a lovely life that I could no longer bear the unhappiness pouring from Tommy’s letters and so I flew to England to fetch him. Three other boys had been withdrawn from his boarding school that term, and I think the Head Master was worried. He proposed that, if Tommy would stay for the two remaining weeks of the term, the school would forego the following terms fees to which they were entitled. The RAF would not pay for that term if Tommy was not there, and we did not have that amount either, so I had to agree. The disappointment on his little face when I told him he had to stay for two more weeks was just awful. I asked him if he had expected to come with back with me, he did not reply but just pulled a pair of sunglasses out of his pocket. He was all ready to leave. The headmaster wanted me to find out from Tommy is he had been “bullied” but Tommy was silent on that issue. Had I but known, or even suspected ………….! He had stuck it out for over a year but, mainly because he was not interested in sport, he did not fit in. He was so happy to be back with us, and we were more than happy to see him because his flight had been changed at the last minute, and the plane on which he should have flown crashed, killing everyone on board.

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