How MM became the monocled mutineer

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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Conundrum. What do you do when your eyesight is poor and you break your only set of glasses just before you are due to give a major speech?

In fact let’s qualify both the breakage and the speech. In my case the right ‘wing’ had fallen off (maybe in solidarity with the US Presidential election result), leaving me with a perfectly functional set of glasses other than their fatal incapacity to remain on my face given the slightest movement.

And the speech. That was to an audience of some 300 Chinese millionaires and leading brand and media executives at the hugely impressive Luxury in China summit in Shanghai on Friday. In front of an audience of luxury and fashion aficionados, how would the ‘one wing’ approach go down?

Perhaps I could suggest it was the new and modern monacle-type method of wearing spectacles that was sweeping through Europe? Perhaps I could argue that my initials MM actually stood for Monocled Mutineer as in the BBC series from the 1980s?

But as I practiced reading my speech in my hotel room, the tendency of the glasses in question to lurch dramatically down my head whenever I moved proved a major distraction. If that was my reaction what would the audience make of it?

In the end there was only one solution. Rather than make a true spectacle of myself, it was a matter of printing out the speech in 28 point script and doing my best. As for any impromptu commentary on my powerpoint, that was strictly out. Read the slides? Heck I could barely make out the monitor.

Readers will be relieved, as I was, that I made it through the speech with no mishaps, finding the stage, the podium and the speech (in the right order) with no mishaps. Lesson learned though. As with one’s laptop, always ensure a back-up.

[Addressing the audience, sans glasses, in Shanghai]

Monacle still in place (I’ve had several strange looks from the cabin crew who are too polite to comment) I’m now filing this Blog on my Virgin Atlantic Airways flight back to London. Why don’t they sell reading glasses in the inflight catalogue, surely they would do well?

With uncanny predictability I once again woke from my early flight slumbers just as we were flying over Novosibirsk (located in southwest Siberia and Russia’s third-largest city, population 1,473,754 when I last checked on my to Shanghai but probably a few hundred higher now).

When I complete my travel retail career I am unsure whether to call my memoirs ‘Free of duty at last’ or ‘Night sky over Novosibirsk’, so often have I flown this route to and from North Asia.

I just wandered down to the Virgin bar which is packed with a large celtic contingent in great form who look as though they may have been there since take-off and seem determined to remain there for the duration (there’s only another six hours to go).  

I’m not a big fan of these onboard bars which can become  macho, intimidating and tiresome places but there’s an amiable bunch there tonight. I spoke to Claire the brilliant Virgin Atlantic hostess who may have drawn the short straw in getting bar duty (but still didn’t forget to prompt me to buy my duty free) and asked how she copes with the demands of such a job. After all, having to play the straight role while a bunch of businessmen (in my experiences the clientele in these onboard bars are overwhelmingly male) get progressively merry (and sometimes leery) over a couple of continents can’t be too much fun surely?

“It’s ok,” she said, “it all depends on the people. And anyway, when I get home my young baby will be there waiting for me. That keeps it all in perspective.”

That’s what I call a sorted woman. Tonight’s crowd is good. But I bet it’s not the same all the time. Spare a thought please for the staff whenever and wherever you travel, whether they be in the sky, in your hotel, or your restaurant of choice. I have seen some in this industry, who forget that they are being served by human beings, not objects. Never forget the privilege you have. Never forget the small courtesies, which actually represent big courtesies for those on the end of them.

I was reminded of that arrogance in the past few days via an overwhelmingly exaggerated and rudely put complaint from a luxury goods brand about a recent Moodie publication. I won’t name them now (let’s wait for ‘Night sky over Novosibirsk’) but let’s just say the values that really count in life are too easily distorted by a few (thankfully a very few) in our industry who wrongly equate the term ‘luxury’ with ‘superiority’ and who put a capital P in pomposity.  Such executives might like to remember that for millions of people in this world ‘luxury’ means a glass of water or the faint prospect of decent medical care or education for their children.

Frankly, the travel retail channel would be a better, and certainly more humane, place without such overblown values and suffocating self-importance.

Excuse the rant. But I see so many good values in this industry, that in my old age I can’t be bothered to pander to those who represent the opposite. It’s enough to turn me into the monocled mutineer.

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