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High-flying feline and other tales from 30,000 feet in the air

PEOPLE often say they'd love to write a book. I advise them to write about what they know. If you've a family, then you've book in you. Everybody's family is mad, right?

If you've worked in an office, then you've plenty of stories to tell. If you've dated anybody besides your spouse, you've probably a book in you too. People like to read about ordinary people.

I'm lucky in that I've worked a variety of jobs. I headed a ladies fashion department, worked as a receptionist in a record company, as a waitress, nanny, and I even operated a ride in Funderland!

But while I drew inspiration from many of these, pretty much short-lived professions, one big source of inspiration is my air hostessing days. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and seriously, you could not make up half the stuff I saw jetting around the world. I think I could write 10 airline books!

Somebody once asked me what my funniest airline story was. I told her the one about the cat. Not many people know the one about the cat. Obviously, when I was working for the airline, nobody knew about my cat story because I loved my job and didn't wish to be fired.

Anyway, it was a good few years ago. I was working on a Fokker 50 propeller plane to France, and the luggage hold was at the back of the plane. Sometimes we'd store extra stuff in there too. So when I ran out of drinks, I checked the hold to see if I could locate some extras.

To my amazement I saw a little cat in there, in his cat cage. Now, I'm a cat lover and my heart melted at the sight of him all on his own in the dark. I took pity on him and slipped him some ham off the leftover sandwiches.

When the cat didn't eat the ham, I panicked. What if the owner complained when they saw the meat? Tentatively, I opened the cage door to retrieve the ham.

Well, the cat darted out of the cage at full speed and ran hell for leather down the aisle until he located the owner and jumped up on her knee. Nobody was more shocked than I was!

After much grovelling, I took the cat back to its cage, and luckily nobody reported the incident. I'm sure some passengers probably thought they were dreaming.


But there's often misunderstandings on planes. And sometimes, unlike the cat story, they don't have happy endings.

I remember one fellow chatting to me on a flight to Kerry. It was very late on New Year's Eve, and he was in good form. He told me he'd organised a surprise party for his girlfriend and all her family and friends. He was going to propose. At midnight. In Galway.

I looked at my watch. It was 11pm. "How are you going to get to Galway?" I asked, confused.

Then seeing the horror in his eyes, I gently told him we were heading for Kerry. So, in effect, he was going to miss his own engagement party.

"Oh, the poor guy," my friend said when I relayed the story. "What happened in the end?"

"No idea. It's not like we were ever going to stay in touch."