Arrival, Birmingham UK 12h30 on Saturday.
After a long flight of 16 hours we arrive in a freezing Birmingham, expecting to be met by a name holding person who would transfer us to our hotel for the next six days.
We emerge into the arrivals lounge with our luggage, to be met by many name holders, but none with our names on. Confused the little group of ten South Africans on the way to exhibit at the Birmingham Spring Fair stand around surrounded by luggage.
Then the project leader arrives.
She seems to be even more confused than we are. We wait she said.
We wait… and wait… and wait.
She phones … phones again… . and again.
We drink coffee … and more coffee…. and another.
No information, just confusion.
It is the service provider in South Africa’s fault, who didn’t organize the transfer to the hotel properly, we hear .
I hear: ” It is not my responsibility, I am only the project leader”
Arrival, Ibis Budget Hotel Birmingham city centre: 19h00.
After five and a half long hours we at last arrive at the hotel which is situated in the centre of the city, 45 minutes by car away from the exhibition hall at the NEC where we still have to set up our exhibition before 22h00 hours tonight. We are exhausted having left South Africa 24 hours before.
The hotel foyer buzzes with action. Scantily clad young girls lounge around with seemingly no purpose except showing off their bodies. It takes me a little time to realize that we are in the centre of the red light district of Birmingham and these are working ladies on duty on a Saturday night.
But no time for thinking about this, the exhibition has to be attended to. We receive our room keys. Ignoring the smell in the corridor and the stark hospital like look of the room we quickly change into warmer clothes, grab our bags and go.
The lift opens to reveal a group of girls with even less clothes on than those in the foyer I try to hide my shock and not stare at their outrageous outfits. We greet them and get into the lift.
What a sight it must have been, Two ladies over sixty, bundled into jackets and scarves, grey with fatigue and hunger. No make up left after long hours of travel, hair clinging to scalps due to rain, among young bodies with lots of make up and little clothes.
“Where are you going”, one of the young ladies ask.
“We are going to work”, we answer.
Shocked silence in the lift, Faces stare at us with knowing expressions.
Oh no. Realization dawns, they think we are going to work the streets. We have just become accidental working ladies!
Us? Two conservative Afrikaans ladies over sixty years of age? Working the streets?
We quickly correct them and explain that we are going to the NEC to set up our exhibition stall.
Once out of the lift and out of sight, we burst into laughter.
“Well I say. “Maybe we should take it as a compliment that they think we can still pull off such a feat”
Maybe they thought we looked like this underneath our warm outer clothes ?