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As Interim Moodie Report Bureaus go, this one may rank as one of the most wintry. Hard to think that just a week ago I was gazing out over crystal clear Caribbean waters in the Bahamas.

Now I’m looking out the window from my room at the Airport Hotel Budapest. It’s 1 degree outside and the snow is coming down. Pretty, oh so pretty. Cold, oh so cold.

I’m here to attend the Budapest Airport Awards, to be held tonight before an audience of around 300 guests including airport executives, business partners (aviation and non-aviation), government officials, local press and yours truly as the sole representative of the travel retail media.

It’s an honour to be here as Budapest Airport (pictured below in its winter cloak) recognises the contributions of its partners in 2014, the airport’s biggest retail marketing year ever, and a hugely successful one in terms of various Trinity campaigns and promotions, as well as award nominations.

With that success in mind the airport has this year expanded its annual Aviation Awards to now include retail and landside partners, renaming them the Budapest Airport Annual Awards.

The event will be held tonight in the Terminal 1 Event Center, formerly of course a thriving air terminal. That was before 2012 and the fateful collapse of national carrier Malev.


How the airport company and its concessionaires (particularly its key partner Gebr Heinemann) have responded since is, I think, a definitive case study on how to respond to crisis. And arguably the term crisis is an understatement. Today I interviewed Budapest Airport Chief Commercial Officer Kam Jandu and Heinemann Hungary Managing Director Fritz Janach and listened with fascination as they told me about that day, around three years ago, when overnight the airport lost about 40% of its passenger base (including most of the big retail spenders, the transit travellers) as Malev was grounded.


Faced by commercial disaster at both airport shareholder and concessionaire level, Budapest Airport realised the key to survival lay in a rare combination of prudence (costs had to be shed) and creativity. A new concession structure was struck with Heinemann (including a risk/reward-driven profit share component to the airport and an extended agreement until 2025) and a concerted promotional campaign to drive commercial revenues put in place.

Whereas so many airports have talked the talk on the Trinity concept, Budapest Airport has walked it. Last year they and Heinemann ran about 15 ‘Trinity Promotions’ (the airport’s term, not mine) driving around 1 million Euros in sales, of which – listen to this – about 40% was incremental. Those perennial naysayers who say ‘Trinity doesn’t work’ should visit Budapest.

The airport offered significant concourse space free of charge, manpower, communication (heavy social and digital media support, airport signage), marketing expertise and, most of all, total commitment. The results speak for themselves.

Equally impressively, most of those promotions drove awareness and sales of Hungarian products, a strong focus for airport and concessionaire. Expect more of the same this year, with some international brands involved too. I’ll bring you the full story soon but first I have an awards dinner to attend. If I can make it through the snow.



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Friday: It feels like a scene out of Groundhog Day. Suddenly I’m back at Miami International Airport, filling in a five-hour gap before my flight home to London.

Straight off the 30 minute flight from Nassau (goodbye beautiful Bahamas) and there’s the same rather disappointing Bacardi Mojito bar that I saw a few days back, the same Islander Bar & Grill where I first tried Conch Fritters (to be left in the shade by those I discovered in Nassau) and the pretty desolate atmosphere of the end-gates at Miami International.


After a quick ride on the excellent intra-airport train, I’ve jumped off early to fill a five-hour wait for my Heathrow connection at the American Airlines-run Admiral’s Club lounge. This would, shall we say, not rank as one of the finer airport lounges in the world. And in saying that I am being polite, only because the staff, Carlos and Melissa, try so hard.

I only wish Travel Food Services and Performa (Gate Gourmet), which together run the common usage lounge at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s new Terminal 2, which I wrote about in a recent Blog, could take over this operation. They would revolutionise the (currently non-existent) customer experience.

Whereas my Admiral’s Lounge experience starts like this:

“I’ll have a beer please, Samuel Adams [the name of the beer not the bartender].”

“Certainly Sir.” Melissa [definitely not a Samuel] pours me a draught beer.

“That’ll be US$7 please.”

“Really? I have to pay? In the lounge? But I’m flying Business Class on your airline.”

“Yes, the Bud Light is complimentary Sir but you have to pay for the other beers.”

The Bud may be but I don’t feel too complimentary. I’m not sure why that information was not supplied before I ordered the beer but decide not to grizzle as Melissa is friendly, fast and no doubt doing a tough job. But that doesn’t make the practice right. I go and find a quiet spot in one of airport world’s more disheartening lounges. The WiFi doesn’t work. Other passengers are making the same complaint. I move to several different locations. No luck. What was that I said in my keynote speech at the OTG conference a day earlier about the glamour of travel?

Demoralised I go back to the bar where Melissa is doing her best to maintain her equilibrium in the face of some ignorant boors from the Midwest. Before I order, I ask Carlos about the wine offering. He volunteers that the house wine, a Trinity Oaks Californian Chardonnay, is free – everything else is chargeable. Better.

Trinity oaks

I’m not in the mood for Chardonnay but I decide to try it, drawn of course by its name. Heck, maybe I’ll drink too many and end up conducting my own Trinity Forum, interviewing my fellow passengers live at an airport bar. Some say I talk to the trees anyway.

Actually the wine’s ok, though its sweet woodiness certainly lives up to the Trinity Oaks billing. I reckon at least three giant sequoias have gone into this one.

I order a Cheese Quesadilla (below), served with sour cream, pico de gallo and a mountain full of tri-coloured tortilla chips. It’s tasty but just too much. America is in the grip of an obesity epidemic (you think I exaggerate? Then try this super-sized portion of information: Obesity rates have more than doubled in America adults and children since the 1970s and over two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese) but doesn’t appear to realise that the size of its restaurant servings is a major contributor.


I watch a very large woman from Wisconsin (I overhear her phone conversation) munching on a healthy salad. Or it would be a healthy salad if the plate didn’t contain enough to feed a family of four. Make that eight. She finishes the lot.

I turn my attentions instead to food & drink of a different, better kind, and reflect on a brilliant few days at the OTG meeting in Nassau. It culminated at a gala dinner on Thursday night where many of the reasons for OTG’s spectacular rise over the past two decades were there for all to see.

Founder & CEO Rick Blatstein is a class act. He’s a showman but at the same time a pragmatist, an astute businessman and, above all, an innovator. Every major airport in the world could do with a Rick Blatstein-run food & beverage (or even retail) outlet. He and OTG bring innovation, energy and sheer (in the good sense) chutzpah.

OTG rick

At the dinner  (above) he roamed the room, singling out various OTG crew members from around North America and presenting them with gifts for epitomising the OTG spirit. It was inspirational and in an odd way moving. His children, Justin and Samantha (below), both heavily involved in the business, also spoke – a chip and chipette off the old block respectively. Both got it just right – Justin supercharged, pumped, driven; Samantha buoyant, ebullient, infectiously enthusiastic.

OTG Samantha and Justin

People may think otherwise but it’s actually not easy for kids to come into a business, let alone advance to senior roles. Respect is hard-won – and should be. As their proud father noted in introducing and thanking them, the two Blatstein offspring have truly earned their place in the company, a company incidentally that has in the space of a few years (OTG opened its first airport concession in 1994) moved from a kind of cheeky maverick newcomer status to a major force within (and influence on) the North American airport food & beverage scene.

Family companies at such points of transformation – from small to large; from tolerated newcomer to serious rival – can go in several directions. Some sell (often with fatal consequences); some struggle with their new-found status and lose hold of the very values that got them to where they were in the first place; and some seem to know exactly when and how to manage the growth process, resourcing properly and not trying to hit every target out there.

OTG strikes me as such a player.  US business writer Jim Collins wrote an acclaimed book about successful company transitions called ‘Good to Great’. It addresses a single question: can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? Rick Blatstein uses the phrase ‘Good to Great’ a lot. As he does the term ‘OTG Experience’. Put the two together and what do you get? A great OTG experience. And that is increasingly what the house that Rick built is delivering.

noodle bar

[OTG's amazing new Ramen bar Kaedama by Shoushin Yanaur, planned in conjunction with United Airlines at Newark Liberty Terminal C]

OTG experience

Footnote, Tuesday: What a wonderful shop the Britto store (below) is at Miami International Airport. It features the work of Romero Britto, the world-renowned, Brazilian artist whose artwork has been displayed around the globe, in museums, on cars and on (Absolut) vodka bottles. The store offers prints, souvenirs, clothes and other collectibles featuring Britto’s artistic creations at popular prices. I just love the brilliant colours, the zest, the exuberance, the sheer… joy of Britto. I bought several items and on a bleak London morning as I finish this Blog, just looking at them is cheering me up entirely.




The Duty Free Americas store was also pretty good but if you wonder why airport food generally has a low place in public affection  then signs like the one below might explain it. It reads: “Airport good food… three words you don’t often see together.” It’s positioned outside La Carreta Cuban Kitchen (below) and besides the fact that I wouldn’t say the food looks spectacularly good to me (nor the décor), I really do question why an airport restaurateur would perpetuate a long-time negative stereotype about food & beverage.






In fairness the outlet has been rated highly by Conde Naste Traveller but so have many other airport restaurants. So let’s not go singling ourselves out for glory while damning our competitors and the reputation of the sector, ok?

In my keynote speech at the OTG conference last week, I criticised how airports and their restaurateurs often communicate with passengers, notably in terms of signage that is anything but appetising. I include some examples below, the top two from Hong Kong International Airport pointing to an SSP Food Court, in which I can’t tell if the man with the chopsticks and rice is eating or throwing up (but I sure as heck know that it doesn’t make me hungry) and the others are from Nathan’s at Miami International Airport.


HKIA bad sign 1

I talked about the obesity issue (now a major problem in the UK as well). I just wonder when the day will arrive that the food & beverage sector may have to play its role in countering the problem? It surely won’t with signs like these. I’m sure the meals are popular and hey the super-sized burger below looks tasty. But it’s just so big. Restaurateurs will respond that they are just catering to (lots of) public taste, that travellers will complain if servings are less. They may be right.



Oh dear. Already I’m missing the fresh simplicity of the Nassau street food, served from shacks on the waterfront (below). And I’m missing little Nassau Airport, a tidy and efficient facility with the marvellously reassuring sign in the middle of the airside concourse that “the farthest gate is only three minutes away”. Oh for a simpler, less super-sized world.


Nassau food 1

Nassau food 2

Nassau food final



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OTG judging panel

If you think the contestants on TV’s MasterChef are under pressure, you want to attend the OTG ‘Iron Chef’ competition at the airport restaurateur’s annual Business Partner Trade Show (currently on in Nassau, the Bahamas, and to which I gave the keynote address at the day one conference).

Like the American television series of the same name, OTG’s twist on the Iron Chef theme involves a cook-off under time pressure. But whereas the TV version involves two chefs going head-to-head over one hour, this one was fought out between teams from OTG’s various airport restaurants, who had just 15 minutes to select their ingredients (including a secret component, pork loin, hidden from view till the last second), decide on their dish, cook it and present it plated to the four-person judging panel. Not only that, they also had to produce a world-class burger in the same time frame.

“No pressure then,” as OTG Founder & CEO Rick Blatstein told them.

OTG reveal

[Gird your loins: As the chefs and guests look on, the ingredients are shown on the table with the secret component, pork loin, still hidden]

I was privileged to be one of the judges – surely the only foodie judge in the world expected to sample six culinary concoctions and six burgers in around five minutes frenzied assessment time who doesn’t have a stomach…

OTG ready set cook

[Grab and go: 15 minutes and counting...]

“Eat slowly,” my doctors told me after my operation in 2010. For a few minutes in culinary wonderland I had to dispense with that advice, sampling each and every delight while judging them on criteria such as presentation, taste and creativity.

While all this cooking and tasting was going on, four OTG mixologists were shaking (and stirring) things up  in the simultaneous ‘Iron Bartender’ competition, where once more they had to use a secret ingredient.

OTG cocktail

OTG cocktail 2

Once the chefs and mixologists were under starting orders, all hell broke loose, beginning with a rush to the ingredients (ranging from Yucca to Vermont chocolate for the dishes; agave to Bourbon for the cocktails) and then the beginning of the great creative process.

Watching the six cooking teams squeezed on to the stage, I remarked to Rick Blatstein that it must be difficult working in such space constraints. “No, this is the biggest kitchen space they’ll ever work in!” he replied, reminding me of the very real physical limits on cooking in most airport restaurants.

OTG newark

OTG better pan

What followed was an exemplary example of team work. I got up real close and personal with all six teams, taking in the marvellous aromas, watching in wonder the skill and flair of a series of individuals who all worked in perfect, mostly silent, harmony, sometimes with the odd joke piercing the pressure bubble. “Five minutes to go Chefs!” barked the compere. This was pressure cooker stuff, made all the more intense by being watched in an open kitchen by a big crowd of enthralled guests.


OTG team moore

OTG team dca

The results were a thing of wonder. There’s a whole lot of creativity, class and commitment out there in the OTG network. Little wonder that the company has taken the airport foodie world by storm in recent years with its commitment to innovation, investment and new technology. Team McCormick from Washington DCA was judged the ultimate winner for a brilliantly presented, glorious tasting main dish and a burger that just melted in the mouth. But it was a close-run thing and any one of the offers would have graced any high-quality downtown restaurant.

OTG macmurarry 3

I chose a light, jammy MacMurray Pinot Noir (owned by Gallo) from the Russian River Valley to accompany the dishes (perfect with the pork and a good Pinot always works with a rare to medium-rare burger). But just a sip or two into it, I was forced to change choice of tipple as four incredibly varied (one’s glass was presented in a sock) technicolour cocktails were presented to me. Another (pictured below) even came in a single steel container with a straw for each judge and an accompanying iPhone so that the judges could order another  (OTG is the pioneer of using iPads in gate rooms to order meals for delivery).

OTG great cocktail

The winning cocktail (below) from a young mixologist wunderkind called Theo Lieberman contained agave and grated cinnamon and rates as one of the best cocktails I have tried in years.

OTG winning cocktail

OTG barman

OTG with winning chefs

[Cooking up a storm: With the winning chefs]

Like a top-class cocktail, my working life as a travel retail Publisher has many elements. Yesterday here they all came together to perfection, leaving me stirred not shaken, alive to the magic power of possibility. In the evening I dined at the wonderfully named Poop Deck in Nassau, where I dined out on the balcony (tasted a bit woody, frankly) and ate the biggest, best-cooked snapper (reminds me of an joke about Hannibal Lector eating a photographer but let’s not go there) of my life, washed down with a glass or three of chilled KWV Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa – an irresistible combination. Life simply doesn’t get much better.

Well… hold on… take a look below at the view from The Moodie Report Interim Nassau Bureau. Correction. Life just did.



OTG arm meeting

[Digital signage: There were plenty of other events going on yesterday at the Atlantis Royal. Deciding I might be too squeamish for the American Association for Hand Surgery's 'joint meeting', I  headed instead for the OTG show, which was handy enough]

OTG sign


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bahama view

There are worse views, considerably so, than the one I woke up to at The Moodie Report Interim Bureau in Nassau, the Bahamas this morning.

I’m staying at The Cove Atlantis and while it’s a pretty modest 22 degrees here today, that’s a whole lot warmer than the bitter 3 degrees I left behind in London.

I’m here to deliver a keynote address at US airport restaurateur and retailer OTG’s annual  business partners meeting, which kicks off tomorrow morning, culminating in a gala event on Thursday night.

I flew in via Miami International Airport and thanks to a delayed onwards flight to Nassau had the chance to view some of the food & beverage offer at the Florida gateway. As always with US airports, there’s a lot of it (in outlet as well as portion terms) but the quality fluctuates wildly.

Wanting to stay reasonably close to my gate I opted for the pretty basic Islander Bar & Grill, where the food was fresh, fulsome and fair value. I chose a bowl of Bahamian Conch Fritters washed down with a nice chilled Kalik Gold beer from the Bahamas to get my taste buds prepared for the treats that await over the next few days. Even a starter size of fritters was way bigger than I had expected but who’s complaining? Anyway, I didn’t want to be a Conchientious objector.

miami food

miami bar

I’ll tell you more about my Bahamian rhapsody in a future Blog because this one I want to dedicate to another airport, Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s new Terminal 2 (pictured below).

Take a bow airport operator GVK. Take a bow Performa (Gate Gourmet) and Travel Food Services, who together run a brilliant common-use passenger lounge (more of that in a moment) on behalf of GVK and take a bow DFS and Flemingo for a duty free and general retail offer of a quality that you couldn’t possibly have dreamed of even five years ago in Mumbai.

Mumbai Departure concourse rsz

As mentioned in an earlier Blog, I was in Mumbai to attend the wedding of Travel Food Services Chairman Sunil Kapur’s younger son Karan. Flying out in the wee small hours of the morning, I left myself plenty of time to experience the much-acclaimed T2, a facility I had last seen during its advanced building stages when I moderated the pre-tender concessionaires’ meeting a couple of years back.

Mumbai roof rsz

["Look up. A thousand white peacocks are in the sky" - the stunning 'artitechtural' magnificence of  the new terminal's ceiling]

Mumbai t2 dfs

[A lovely panoramic view of the splendid DFS/Flemingo duty free offer]

Mumbai t2 dfs 3

Mumbai t2 dfs 4

mumbai t2 dfs 5

Mumbai T2 dfs 2

mumbai t2 dfs 7

Mumbai t2 dfs 6

Mumbai t2 dfs 8

Mumbai t2 dfs 9

Mumbai t2 dfs 11

mumbai t2 dfs 10

Alas I didn’t get much of a chance to see the retail or (public) food & beverage offer as I spent so much time enjoying the world’s first luxury common-passenger lounge, which opened in November.

It really is impressive (look out for a feature in coming weeks). The 30,000sq ft
lounge is spread across two levels and can hold up to 440 guests at a time. Its
features include concierge services, a smoking zone, extensive (and excellent) food & beverage of course, a bar, a luxury spa, shower and relaxation areas, a library and a business centre.

Fashion designer Sandeep Khosla and architect Alfaz Miller designed the
space based on a concept by Softroom Architects, with gold and silver themes
complemented by Jali screens, chandeliers and a glass peacock installation.

The business model is very interesting indeed and is being closely monitored by companies developing terminals elsewhere (and by airlines). Essentially the common usage concept means that airlines can offer a luxurious lounge experience to their premium passengers on a ‘pay per use’ concept, meaning no upfront investments and lower operating costs for airlines.

At the time of the opening, GVK Founder, Chairman and Managing Director Dr. GVK Reddy said: “The lounge reflects a kaleidoscopic vision of the dreams of India and the pulse of Mumbai, and is themed to give the travellers a blend of world-class local ambiences at the airport.”

Accompanied by Sunil Kapur (who with trademark generosity of spirit came to the airport to meet me after midnight just a day after what was must have been a truly exhausting ‘big fat Indian wedding) and Performa Managing Director Beat Ehlers, I toured the three sections of the lounge. The first-class section sits on the second level and provides à la carte dining, individual spa treatments and multi-lingual service staff. In premium class travellers have access to an exclusive lounge environment and 170 seats, as well as a buffet area equipped  with a juice bar and whisky lounge. The business-class section seats 270 and has access to a variety of international dishes in the buffet area.

I can testify to the quality of the food and wine offer. Over a chilled flute of Veuve Clicquot and a couple of exquisite light bites delivered to us personally by the Chef, I perused the menus and discussed the concept with Sunil and Beat. The First Class wine list was… well, first class, ranging from Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (one of six top whites) to the outstanding Marchesi Antinori Chianta Classico Riserva.

Bombay lounge 2

Bombay Chef

Then there’s the cuisine: a classic Khandvi platter with more twists than Elvis Presley in his prime; pan fried Kerala Queen scallops (pictured above); I can still taste the subtle spice of the coconut, tomato and coriander flavours); Lamb Purdah Biryani and much, much more. It’s the only airport lounge in the world with a Tandoori oven and it’s got much more to offer besides.

Mumbai t2 dfs food

Bombay lounge

Mumbai T2 dfs food 2








“It’s been a challenge to get everything right but it is good – now we want to be great,” Sunil told me. “We want to be known as one of the great airport lounges. From ambience to design, from service to food to hygiene… we’ve changed the rules of the [airport lounge] game.”

Mumbai gate lounge

They certainly have. Look out for my feature, coming soon, where I’ll explore this fascinating concept further – and also take a look at T2′s astonishing, magnificent (I promise you the superlatives are justified) Art Wall programme (below), which is displayed on an 18 meter high wall that runs through the terminal for three kilometres.

Mumbai art

At the time the programme was unveiled, curator curator Rajeev Sethi told The Wall Street Journal India, “Art must be brought into the public domain. The airport will receive far more visitors in one year than all the galleries and museums across India combined receive in even five years.”

Now isn’t that some vision? I can’t wait to explore the subject matter further (I am interviewing Karthi Gajendran, President Projects, who played a key role in conceptualising and executing the Art Wall program).

It’s stunning. A giant masterpiece. My only regret was that my experience of it was so cursory. But then how can you resist the GVK Lounge’s pan-fried Kerala scallops and an ice-cold glass of Veuve Clicquot? Only my own Bahamian Rhapsody could have drawn me away.


[Bahamian Lobster & Crab Cakes (left) with Arawak Conch Fritters on the balcony of The Moodie Report Interim Bureau at The Cove Atlantis...]


[... oops, almost forgot the main ingredient. All washed down with a cool Kalik Gold beer from the Bahamas, of course]




One Response to “From a Mumbai masterpiece to a Bahamian rhapsody”

  1. Iain Forrest says:

    Love the article on Mumbai and totally agree it is an all-round tremendous offering in a spectacular new airport, but only the Duty Free shops are operated by DFS/Flemingo partnership. The Fashion and specialty shops as you exit Duty Free (that you kindly show in one of your photos) are operated by the Dufry/Nuance team in India, so maybe a little credit for them as well ;-)

    best regards
    Iain Forrest
    DCOO Dufry Middle East & India

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‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
“Come in,” he said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

- Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm (with a mild edit)

You’ll excuse the blurred image (the photographer had the camera on the wrong setting) but I think you’ll agree it’s worth reproducing.

It’s of me yesterday with Professor David Cunningham, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Head of the Gastrointestinal Unit at The Royal Marsden Hospital in London’s Fulham Road. Professor Cunningham is the man who saved my life four years ago after I developed stomach cancer. The man who gave me shelter from the storm.

I revere this gentle yet tough, dry-witted Scot and am still in awe of him every time we meet. I know this may sound silly but when he put his arm around me (pictured) I felt safe. Our first meeting back in 2010 was a very different affair. Then I felt anything but safe. Back then the storm was raging. There was no small talk. It was all about business. The business of survival.

Next week I’m due to speak at food & beverage operator OTG’s annual partners’ conference in the Bahamas (yes, I get all the bad breaks, I know). Chairman Rick Blatstein has long been a great supporter of The Moodie Report and The Foodie Report, always agreeing to speak at our events (and being a star turn every time) so when he asked me to give a keynote address at his own conference, I readily agreed.

As thanks, and as I had not requested a fee, Rick kindly offered to make a donation to a charity of my choice. Given that I was about to attend the Royal Marsden for my six-monthly check-up, its in-house charity seemed a natural choice.

The Royal Marsden is a world-leading cancer centre specialising in cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education. Every penny donated to its research arm is well spent. The Royal Marsden’s work has included some of the most pioneering, breakthrough studies into the disease and saved countless lives. Mine included.

In late 2013  The Moodie Report Foundation presented a cheque for £124,000 (US$202,000) to Professor Cunningham to fund a vital cancer research study into genetic sequencing. Yesterday’s cheque for US$2,500 was not in the same league yet was once again hugely appreciated by him. “It all helps enormously,” he told me. “Please do not under-rate any donation.”


[With Jaclyn Wampler of Moodie International Switzerland and Professor David Cunningham in December 2013]

He also told me something else. Four-and-a-half years on from that sombre day of 9 June 2010 when my life changed forever, I was once more “all clear”. “One more blood test in six months and we’ll ship you out of here,” he said warmly (at five years you become a statistic, a ‘survivor’).

It was good news of course but you don’t feel euphoria at the Marsden. Ever. You don’t whoop and holler when you get outside. You feel relief and you feel blessed. And as you walk out through the waiting room and along the corridors and you look into other patients’ and families’ faces you feel empathy. For everyone in this place is here for one reason, because of cancer, a bully of a disease, an epidemic of our times.

Some are being diagnosed, some are being treated (with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery). Some are being told they are dying. Some, like me, are being told they are making it or have made it through the storm.

I always take a deep breath as I walk down the stairs outside the Marsden (pictured below). I look back and I invariably take a photo. I look up towards the windows of the wards where I battled for my life that far-off winter ago. I think of the gruelling sights I saw; the ravaging treatment I and many others went through, are going through; the fear I felt; the loneliness of waking in the dark alone; the young, wonderful Irish nurse called Louise Cusack who held my hand for half an hour in the middle of the night while I sobbed big large, gulping tears and told her in my morphine-ridden confusion that I knew I was dying; and, not least, the care, love and friendship I encountered.

To this day, I find it easier to write about the experience than to talk about it. Yet I am glad that I have the thoughts I describe above. Because it means I will never, can never, forget, and will always strive to help the fight against this disease.


I know that others are going through that whole gamut of experiences right now. The storm is blowing full-force. If there is a god (and I don’t know any longer whether there is in this damn, troubled, mean-spirited, greedy and often evil world), I thank him and I pray that others too will be delivered.

Two good men and true that I know well in travel retail are just embarking on roads that will be long and difficult, but which will ultimately lead to safety. The good care they are receiving will be directly linked to the research work being conducted by The Royal Marsden and numerous other wonderful institutes around the world. Cancer is being beaten, more and more often. It can and will be defeated entirely. The battle against the beast has turned irrevocably in mankind’s favour. Further funding will ensure that the whole war is eventually won and that all will one day receive shelter from this terrible storm.

[If this Blog resonates with you, perhaps you would donate to The Royal Marsden Charity by clicking on this link or to another research institution or cancer cause.]

One Response to “Come in he said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

  1. Liz Woodland-Griggs says:

    I am so glad that you are(nearly) a “survivor”. I hope both good men and true that are embarking on their own journey will feel just as blessed in four years too.

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mumbai day 2 sign

mumbai day 3 awaiting bridemumbai day 3 arun and karanMumbdai day 3 AK on horsemumbai day 3 crowds and mrs kapur

They don’t come much bigger. Or much fatter. I’m talking weddings. Indian weddings. And I’m still trying to take in everything I have seen over the past three days.

Firstly some context. Mumbai-based Travel Food Services is not only India’s largest airport food & beverage operator but its Chairman Sunil Kapur is also one of the country’s most successful restuarateurs.

His food empire is a combination of own brands and franchises, including The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Spaghetti Kitchen, Gelato Italiano, Noodle Bar, Penne, Spoon and Bombay Blue, Copper Chimney, Blue Sea and Café by the Beach. More recently Travel Food Services entered into a joint venture with Gate Gourmet under the TFS-Gate brand name,  developing F&B onboard services for carriers as well as a high-class passenger lounge operation at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, which I will be testing out later today.

In airports, Travel Food Services runs a combination of proprietary, national and international F&B brands, including KFC, Domino’s Pizza, Cafe Coffee Day, Nirula’s, Cafeccino and Haagen Dazs.

mumbai day 3 venue panorama

Mumbai day 3 panorama late

mumbai day 3 lights at night

[The grounds of the Royal Western India Turf Club were turned into a magnificently lit garden-like setting]

With all that foodie heritage it’s little surprise that the wedding of Sunil’s younger son Karan over the past few days to the beautiful Vidhi has been a feast of the senses – wonderful food, of course, reflecting the magnificent diversity, flavours and wonder of Indian cuisine but also the senses of smell, of colour, of joy, of friendship, of love.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to this extraordinary occasion, played out to guests over three enthralling days (including the Sangeet and Mehendi pre-wedding ritual evenings), hosted with a warmth that would make the fieriest Indian curry seem tepid. It will live long in my memory, like the ever-lingering taste of a chicken bharta from Sunil Kapur’s Copper Chimney restaurant. The pictures below capture just some of the spirit of an unforgettable, very big, very fat Indian wedding.

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mumbai day 3 bride and groom (2)

mumbai day 3 bride and groom

mumbai day 3 bride

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Mumbai day 3 mm with ak, gf and dag

[Karan Kapur's older brother Varun, Martin Moodie, Grant Fleming of LS travel retail ASPAC and Lagardère Services Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dag Rasmussen] 

mumbai day 3 kapur men

[Father and sons: Varun, Karan and Sunil Kapur]

mm arun and karan

[Varun Kapur, Karan Kapur and Martin Moodie]

Mumbai wedding day stage better

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mumbai day 3 show 4

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mumbai day 3 show

mumbai day 3 turban first

[So much scalp, so little cloth... Martin Moodie tests the art (and stock levels) of a Mumbai turban master]

Mumbai day 3 turban mm

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[The Mehendi dinner on the eve of the wedding saw a thrillingly diverse array of Mumbai street food served]

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Mumbai day 2 bus

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Mumbai day 2 colours

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[David and Ann King]

Mumbai day 2 lanterns

Mumbai day 2 umbrellas

Mumbai day 2

martin and neelu

[Neelu Kapur, mother of the groom, and Martin Moodie]

martin and sunil

[Sunil Kapur and Martin Moodie]

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Mumbai header 2

Mumbai is on alert. Terrorist alert. Mers alert. Ebola alert. But mostly, alas, the former.

The signs at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport tell their own story. So does the heavy armed police presence; the exclusion of meeters & greeters from the terminal; and the barrier-studded road into the airport.

Mumbai ebola

Mumbai mers

Yesterday cleaning staff at the airport noticed some threatening words scribbled in a men’s toilet in the new Terminal 2, alluding to a terror strike by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this Saturday. “The writing is on the wall: Stay alert”, was the resultant headline in today’s Hindustan Times.

Mumbai header 1

The airport was already on alert following hijack threats made against national carrier Air India in New Delhi last week.

Mumbai df passports

[Passport checks outside the DFS/Flemingo duty free Arrivals store]

The Australian government has issued a security advisory for travel to India and particularly Mumbai. “Information of mid-December 2014 indicates that militants may be planning attacks against upmarket hotels in Mumbai,” it warned. “We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in India overall because of the high threat of terrorist activity.”

The people and authorities of this magnificent city have the right to be jumpy. It’s just over three years since the terrorist atrocities committed by Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba occurred, killing 164 people and wounding over 300.

Yesterday’s shocking attack on the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (front page news here alongside the Mumbai threats) just adds to the general mood of unease.  Security in the city is at an all-time high. It needs to be. We live in times of casual barbarity, where slaughter of the innocent, allegedly in the name of God, has become commonplace.

Mumbai headlines

We must all say “Je suis Charlie” – the cry of defiance that has gone viral all around the world in condemnation of the Paris massacre and in defence of free speech.

je suis charlie 4

Footnote: On a more positive note, I am here (along with many people from the airport food & beverage and retail sectors) to celebrate the wedding of Karan Kapur, son of Travel Food Services Chairman Sunil Kapur and his wife Neelu, to Vidhi Chopra. It promises to be a spectacular three-day affair of colour, exuberance and joy – a welcome antidote to the darkness of so much of today’s world.

Mumbai wedding invites

The panoramic view (below) from my room at The Four Seasons underlines the old cliche of there being two Indias. While guests here reside and dine in five-star splendour, just metres away tenement apartments and shanty towns full of rickety dwellings with flat, rusting corrugated iron roofs sprawl out endlessly into the vast morasse of India’s most populous city.


Mumbai view 1

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2, meanwhile, is a wonderful new facility, though now’s not the best time to visit it. The huge and Flemingo/DFS Arrivals shop (what a contrast to the Mumbai stores of a few years back) was doing roaring business when I flew in earlier today, though I’m sure it would do even better if international passengers such as me armed with Indian Rupees were allowed to spend them (bizarrely only Indians can use the national currency). I’ve not seen passport checks in front of a duty free shop before either. That may be related to the current security tensions.

But you know, none of that seems to matter much right now. Je suis Charlie.

mumbai df chivas car

mumbai df liquor

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Mumbai df frags

mumbai airport

mumbai street food


One Response to “Mumbai on red alert as the world says “Je suis Charlie””

  1. paul t says:

    thanks for the Mumbai duty free photos etc
    with over 50000sq feet of retailing in Mumbai more and more Indians are buying duty free in India, in and out bound

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We closed out 2015 with the story of a real-life cat burglar, a feline fiend that ate its way through US$1,100 of gourmet fish products at Vladivostok Airport’s duty free shop – well in excess of his purrsonal allowance.

Now word reaches The Moodie Blog of an equally talented animal, a beagle by the highly appropriate name of Sherlock that is allegedly (see my disclaimer below) employed by KLM in the airline’s lost & found department.

More mature readers (that’s presuming anyone who has read this far has any element of maturity at all) will remember Walt Disney’s Beagle Boys, a group of fictional characters who were always trying to rob Scrooge McDuck of his riches.


Well Sherlock is a very different type of Beagle boy, one whose job is to sniff out lost phones and other items and reunite them with their owners, who presumably think that he’s a New Foundland. [A disclaimer: The story of Sherlock may not be  true, alas - see the extremely sad response of reader John Watson at the foot of this Blog who clearly wouldn't recognise satire even if Sherlock personally reunited him with his long lost sense of humour].


My question is this. Where has Sherlock been all my life? As I wrote in a previous Blog, I’m someone who during my travels has lost around 22 cell phones; numerous blackberries (probably a few strawberries and blueberries along the way); countless (and I do mean countless) chargers, adaptors and headphones; two passports; a briefcase (appropriately, only briefly); half a dozen or so tape recorders; I estimate around five dozen pairs of spectacles (two over Christmas alone); many duty free purchases (I believe in giving back to our industry) and believe it or not at least a dozen shirts (do not ask).

If every airport and airline employed a Sherlock, all this angst could have been avoided. As the video on this page reveals, Sherlock is proving a highly pawpular and much-loved staff member. He’s talented too – a Beagle-eyed detective who has found numerous phones, timepieces (in his spare time Sherlock moonlights as a watch dog) and other items since he took on the job and gained a new leash of life.

An orphan (he never knew his Paw) affectionately nicknamed K9LM, Sherlock homes in on lost property,  constantly hounding his airline colleagues for more work and even once collaring a petty thief in the airport barking lot.

“Even when he feels a little ruff, Sherlock always turns up to work,” an airline source tells The Moodie Blog. “Last week his master, called Ken, was off work with the flu but that didn’t stop Sherlock from being here on time. Ken ill coughing is nothing to a dog as tough as him.

“After work we like to reward him with a biscuit washed down with a little bowl of whine, normally a good Burgundy from the Côte de Bone. We find that the perfect way to hush puppy after a long day.”

There is, it seems, no end to Sherlock’s talents. We’re not sure whether to believe this but apparently he can even howl along to the tune of Toccata and Fugue in D minor for Organ, though his Bach is reputed to be much worse than his bite.

Such an inspiring tale (and the rest of Sherlock is pretty impressive too). Perhaps the World Health Organization (WHO) could sponsor a scheme so that hounds such as Sherlock could be employed to sniff out Ebola carriers (and even chase terrierists) at airports worldwide to limit the disease’s spread. Certainly that would be a case of WHO let the dogs out?

2 Responses to “Sherlock homes in on Schiphol lost property”

  1. John Watson says:

    This story is:

    - Not new, it is at least from September
    - Not true. Please check http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/25/klms-iphone-sniffing-beagle-is-not-real/

    I hope the rest of the posts on this website are more thoroughly researched than this one.

  2. Helen Pawson says:

    Mrs Earley needs to get you a Sherlock travel companion.

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Two days into 2015 and I’m in my first airport departures lounge of the year. What took me so long? Heck, there’s only 357 travel retail shopping days left to Christmas.

This is my first airport experience of 2015 but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I’m sipping on a Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling, a brilliantly refreshing send-off before my first long-haul flight of the year, albeit on a personal rather than business trip. Plenty of the latter to follow in coming weeks.

Which airport am I in? Let’s just say the Wifi password is Qantas88, not a bad little clue.

It’s going to be a heck of a year, I just know it. Stay with me on this Blog, I’ve got plenty in store for you. Welcome to a brand new year in the greatest industry of all, travel retail.

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Well I guess I can’t let the criminal deeds of a Siberian cat burglar be my last contribution for 2014 so I’ll sign off The Moodie Blog here, the 101st of the year.

Tonight,  like many of you, starting not long from now in my native New Zealand, I’ll be signing off one year and welcoming in another.

Tonight, like many of you, I’ll reach out to those I care about via the words of the perennially poignant Robbie Burns classic Auld Lang Syne:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And days o’ lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear 
For auld lang syne, 
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet 
For auld lang syne!

And, like many of you, as I sing I’ll think not just of those with me and close to me in spirit but of those who have passed, family and friends, down the years. And this year, in particular, I will raise a glass to two of my comrades in travel retail who have big battles to deal with  in  2015, health battles, in fact, that will test them sorely but from which they will ultimately emerge triumphant.

The little-known fourth verse seems to express those emotions best:

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere, 
And gie’s a hand o’ thine, 
And we’ll tak a right guid willie-waught 
For auld lang syne!

In modern English (but who really needs that?) it reads as:

And there is a hand, my trusty friend, 
And give us a hand of yours, 
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale) 
For times gone by!

Robbie Burns poses his opening lines (Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?) as a question but I think it’s merely rhetorical because there can only be only one answer. Naw, naw, naw (No, no and no again).

Thank you to all my acquaintances, auld and new, in travel retail, for being with me on the journey that was 2014. I look forward to joining you all again next year.

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