Many moons may have passed, but in an entirely different life two countries ago, it was my job in women’s magazines that people were interested in.
It helped that at the time I was seeing someone who ‘worked in computers’. Not many people knew exactly what he did – and nor did I – so people would turn their attention to me and ask questions about working in media.
They loved hearing about the problem page I did for a health & beauty magazine. Were the problems made up? (yes, some of them!). What kind of letters were in the postbag? (some corkers!) Did readers reveal explicit details about their sex lives? (yes, eye-opening).
Then, when they found out I also worked for the Mirror newspaper, they’d be really curious about the stories I wrote. Again, were they true? How did you find those basket-weaving, identical twins who gave birth at Butlins?
I’d tell them about my baptism by fire into the world of tabloid journalism and explain how I had to find a whole class of teenaged school girls, with a willing head teacher, and persuade them to keep diet diaries for an attention-grabbing feature on osteoporosis.
The original brief was to have the girls X-rayed – but as this wasn’t ethical (not to mention entering nervous breakdown territory for me), the diet diaries were the easier option. “Just don’t mention smoking,” said the head. And I didn’t – until the article got rewritten so the intro described the schoolgirls as ‘living on crisps and cigarettes’ and the headline blared ‘Junk-food generation: Crippled by the age of 35’. Not quite the publicity the principal had in mind for her fee-paying school.
People also wanted to know about the press trips I was lucky enough to go on. Monaco, Germany, France, Prague, Portugal – the French one involving travelling by private plane to the launch of a nasal douche (a squirter the manufacturer was convinced would become as popular as toothpaste – it didn’t, not in the UK at least!) and the Monte Carlo trip accompanied by a ‘sexpert’ to report on the launch of a condom with an applicator (try keeping a straight face during *that* demonstration!).
But, as I said, this was all a long time ago. Turned out Computer Boyfriend wasn’t just working in the tech industry – he was also working on another girlfriend. We broke up. I was reunited with my teenage sweetheart, who became my DH. We moved to Florida five days after marrying and the rest is history.
Nowadays, given that my work is more of a side show, and the rest of my time is spent attempting to control and entertain two small boys, wiping bums, soothing tantrums and refereeing fights (on far less sleep than when I was working under the tightest deadline as a freelance journalist), it’s DH’s job that everyone’s interested in.
Where do you go? people ask. Do you ever have celebrities on board? (Hilary Swank, Natalie Imbruglia, Gerard Depardieu are a few he’s mentioned). Have you ever had a near crash? Seen a UFO? Isn’t it on auto-pilot the whole time? And from guys: ‘Do you get to hang out with the flight attendants at the swimming pool?’
On his most recent trip to Germany, there were even spectators when the plane came down to land – and people videoing the aircraft’s arrival and departure (the A380 has only recently started flying into Munich and is still turning heads). I’ve watched the video footage on YouTube.
Where we live there are more pilots than you can shake a control stick at, so when we’re at home, it’s all very routine, very normal. It’s when we’re mixing with people outside the aviation world that the interest is sparked. But the thing I find funny is how DH views office life. He’s only ever spent three days in an office – three days – and that was just ‘work experience’ when he was a teenager.
He watches programmes like The Office with the same fascination that I watch shows like Airline or Pan Am. Consequently, he thinks that in officedom we spend our whole time hitting on each other, photocopying body parts and hiding the stapler. When I told him that at work, someone had actually stapled my co-worker’s post-it notes together, he thought this was hilarious.
I’m quite truthful with him, pointing out the realities of office life – because don’t you think that his fantasy version of the 9-5, complete with a hot secretary in a short skirt, office cubicles and a resident prankster, is the equivalent of a cockpit kitted out with a remote control, take-away pizza, pin-up poster girl and fluffy dice?