Heading down Memory Lane with Proust in my slipstream

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It’s Autumn here, going on November
I view the leaves in all their splendour
Is it déjà vu, I just can’t remember
I stop a while and take in the scene

I stop a while and ask a stranger
Is this the place that was once called Memory Lane
I don’t know where I am or what I’m after
I’m stuck here again back on Memory Lane

– Memory Lane, Van Morrison

I have cited the great Van the man’s words before in this Blog and once again as the days and nights cool – though here in Hong Kong and not in London where I spent all my years between 1987 and 2020 – their implicit nostalgia rings true for me.

November is, in fact, almost in my slipstream, as I head back on the road – in fact, onto many roads – between now and year-end.

Tomorrow, it’s a short flight to Singapore Changi for a transit to Etihad Airways and onto Abu Dhabi International Airport for a welcome chance to visit the new and by all accounts magnificent Terminal A.

Besides meeting the airport leadership – including Managing Director and Interim Chief Executive Officer Elena Sorlini and Chief Commercial Officer Maureen Bannerman – I’ll be chatting with all the concessionaires across duty free, other retail, food & beverage and advertising. It’s a packed programme that will offer a rare and rich insight into what makes a great airport tick operationally and commercially.

Abu Dhabi International Airport Terminal A, a modern-day wonder of the airport world, is now in full swing {Photo above, Abu Dhabi Airports; below, Lagardère Travel Retail}

After that it will be a short 80-minute drive up to Dubai where the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup takes place (my business partner Dermot Davitt, a two-times tournament winner, will be playing rather than me, any golfing prowess I once had long ago consigned to memory lane).

Next weekend I’ll return to Abu Dhabi International Airport as a regular passenger rather than as a guest for my homebound trip to Hong Kong, a chance to tour Terminal A at leisure. In the blink of an eye it will be December and a full-on schedule embracing Macau (DFS Masters of Time); Kansai for the opening of the new-look Terminal 1 international departures area; and separate trips to Doha and Dubai before my final leg of 2023 (appropriate as I may be on my last legs) to London.

(Above and below) Dubai Duty Free in the mid-1980s

1985: His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, ex-UK Consul General Jolyon Kay, Colm McLoughlin and wife Breeda 
Click on the cover to open our recent special publication to mark the 40th anniversary of Dubai Duty Free

In Dubai’s case, my visit that month will be to report on the travel retailer’s 40th anniversary celebrations on 20 December. What a day (and night) that will be. Can it really be four full decades since Dubai Duty Free was born? To think I’ve been reporting on the company – under the fine leadership of Colm McLoughlin since day 1 in 1983 – for 36 years is both a sobering and enriching thought.

During those 36 years, I must have written the equivalent of War and Peace on Dubai Duty Free (our website shows 5,149 separate stories that refer to the emirate, most I would guess focused on its world-famous travel retailer).

However, if I think about all the features, news stories and interviews I have written down those same years, then Tolstoy’s tome gives way to Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu – the longest book in the world, according to Guiness World Records.

Proust’s work contains some 1.3 million words, the epic high-society narration of the central character’s (Marcel) growing up and falling in love in late 19th century and 20th century France. The title, literally ‘In search of lost time’, was first translated into English as Remembrance of Things Past. Van Morrison inherited some literary tradition, did he not?

Not all my 36 years in travel have been at The Moodie Davitt Report. The first 15 were at Impact International (two) and Duty-Free News International (13). During the ensuing 21 years, I have written 10,539 articles on our website (out of 60,981 published to date). Some short (let’s say 300-400 words), many much longer, such as works I published or completed over the past two days – a 2,657-word interview with Penfold Global Director – Global Travel Michael Jackson and a 4,276-word conversation with the simply wonderful Blanca Juti, Chief Corporate Affairs and Engagement Officer at L’Oréal Groupe (look out for it, coming soon, it just may be my all-time favourite piece).

With Michael Jackson on the Penfolds boat during the TFWA World Exhibition last month. Michael’s personal story, told here, is a rollicking adventure yarn as well as a business story.

So let’s say an average of, what, 600 words? That takes us to 6,323,400 in total. Then throw in all our eZine and Magazine features (all by definition lengthier) over the past 21 years, only some of which also appear on ‘the website that never sleeps’ and this Blog that has been running (a bit like me) since 234 September 2006 and we must be nearly 9 million. Heck, it’s not only (most of) November in my slipstream, it’s Proust. There we are again, back on memory lane.

What a privilege it is to meet people such as L’Oréal Groupe’s Blanca Juti in what I call my passion rather than my job. Look out for my interview with Blanca on ‘The Essentiality of Beauty’, coming soon.
Back then I had to explain what a Blog was…
“Give passengers a sense of fun, highlight some irresistible offers, make duty free a consumer’s haven, not just another sign-ridden obstacle course on the way to the gate.” – My first Blog from 17 years ago


  • Martin ,

    What an unmatchable career. You inspired and empowered the Travel Retail world like no other.

    Your knowledge of this industry is simply amazing. That, with your commitment to share this amongst your peers and readers alike, make you a unique asset to us all.

    With cognisance of your importance, any aspiration to retire will be met with howls of outrage and a petition to your wife to return you to the keyboard immediately.

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