Like most people I’ve always known that if I fell off my bike I’d need to get back on it and the quicker the better; that whole concept is a sort of unspoken rule in life for not accepting failure or that something has beaten you. Getting back on a bike is one thing but getting back into an aircraft for a third flight after two dodgy ones in a row is something else – especially if you are the superstitious type. Clearly Carol wasn’t because even after her recent experiences she was not about to pass up the chance of a Naval Wives Trip to Fez, Morocco and was one of the first to put her name (and mine) down.
(1977 Carol in blue and white top smiling boarding Yogi Bear)
When the big day came there was about twenty of us waiting at the airport looking over at what was affectionately known (to Naval personnel and their families) as ‘Yogi Bear’. Whether it was true or not I’m unsure but back in 1977 it was said that Gibraltar Airline consisted of just one plane emblazoned ‘GIBAIR’ which is why it was given that (typically Naval) nickname ‘Yogi Bear’. As we all stood admiring our plane – and tried to guess its (considerable) age – our Captain suddenly came into view wobbling and tripping his way across the tarmac as though he’d had one too many. No, I’m sure he hadn’t…he just looked like he had…didn’t he?
I can’t admit to Morocco being my favourite destination because as mentioned earlier (in these memoirs) I’ve had far too many negative experiences on the African continent; but Carol didn’t have my history, she loved the place, needed a real pick me up and so a trip to Fez was exactly ‘what the doctor ordered’. Even though I wasn’t especially looking forward to the trip I was very relieved when (after rattling its way down the runway) our eccentric looking Captain managed to lift the plane off the ground into the air.
Landing in Fez was one of those memories that has seared itself into my psyche and not something I’ll ever forget in a long time. The runway resembled nothing short of a ploughed field which is exactly what it felt like landing in; as we hit the ground and then continued on for a further couple of hundred yards it was though we were all being given a smacked backside before being allowed off. When we finally did get off we had to walk through a couple of hundred yards of donkey muck to get to the entrance of what later transpired to be the Medina (walled city). I wouldn’t have minded the donkey muck so much if I had been wearing wellington boots but I was wearing my ‘million-milers’ (moccasins) which sadly had to hit the dustbin at the end of the day.
(1977 Tanned leather drying in the sun. Fez tannery)
Spending the day in the Medina was a magical experience in many ways, the snake charmers, the tiny passages and ancient buildings coupled with the smells, sounds, and market trading of exotic spices and goods transported me back centuries into the past; it was almost as though time had stood still.
(1977 Transported centuries back into the past as though time had stood still)
Fez is famous for its leather tanneries and so naturally we visited those to see the processes; Fez is also known for its hand woven rugs and carpets although what I found quite disturbing was that very small children were employed in making them. We were shown the children’s sleeping quarters and told they were well looked after and given several hours of education a day too but as a parent that didn’t ease my concerns. I’ve never felt it was my place to judge the culture or traditions of others and I’ve come across very young child workers before in the Far East but having said that I am absolutely against it and don’t buy any goods made by them. Although my own childhood was far from rosy seeing children in situations like that actually made me reassess my lot.
(1977 Me outside the Royal Palace, Fez, Morocco)
(1977 Carol in the Medina, Fez, Morocco)
On a high note one of the high lights of my day was having my photo taken outside the Royal Palace; to me that was really cool. But the best thing was really that Carol had once again had a fabulous experience in Morocco that she still cherishes to this day and it came at a time she really needed that lift.
Such a lovely blog.The photos are brilliant.
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Alan Dixon said:
Thankyou Sandra. Very retro the photos – almost faded away – but so real of the day forty years ago