Memories of a BEA Stewardess

Viscount flight to Jersey

By Anne Woods….

Le Chignon Francaise

It was a quick very early morning Jersey and I thought to myself this has to be a Chignon Day – quick and dirty! Otherwise I won’t be checking in on time! There seemed to be road works everywhere and Chignontherefore diversions. After a long circuitous drive from central London to Heathrow I managed to check in on time much to my surprise. I kept wondering when the heck are we ever going to have this wonderful M4 Motorway the government kept promising us?

The Chief Steward was Tim Fitz, a lovely guy, gay of course, very smart and everything had to be perfect and in its place at all times. He was also Irish, trying desperately to sound English, and upper crust English at that, but most of the time not quite managing it. So you get the picture …….. Perfection was required at all times if possible!

Many of our passengers on the Jersey/Guernsey routes were regular businessmen flying to and fro on financial business in off-shore Jersey. The holidaymakers did not appear until July/August, during the warmer months. It was a busy route and as such we were usually full.  So far so good. We arrived in Jersey on time, everything was going to plan. The Jersey airport is built very close to the sea and therefore it can be very windy. On this particular day it can only be described as gale force. The Captain had to park into the wind and to top it all it was pouring with rain as usual. It was time to open the door……..

Viscount aircraft

On the Viscount aircraft the passenger door was on the port side and that was the door I had to open in order for the passengers to exit. I knew I would have to put my full weight against the door in order to get it open. So I reached up to find the leather strap I needed to hang onto, hoping beyond hope, that the leather strap was still firmly attached to the fuselage and had not deteriorated too much, so I opened the various levers, and then started to push the door so that the door would finally lay flat against the fuselage on the outside. I was very slim in those days but I miraculously finally managed it. I could see the ground engineer, out of the corner of my eye, covered in his bright yellow southwester, trying to keep the elements at bay, and I knew that I just had to get this door open, as he was waiting to push the steps up to the fuselage, I could feel the passengers lining up impatiently behind me wanting to make a quick getaway.

Seagulls

Suddenly I felt something lift/give/different. I automatically looked up and, to my horror of horrors, I found my trusted Chignon was fast disappearing into the beak of one of the millions of  screaming seagulls, disappearing over the top of the aircraft never to be seen again I thought. The seagulls were always plentiful but today there appeared to be hoards of them, and on this day, they really let rip fighting for ownership of my Chignon. Panic struck!  Was my face red!

My first exiting passenger who saw the whole palaver, and heard me saying “Oh my God”  had the biggest grin on his face, which I could quite happily have wiped off. The remaining passengers seemed to be looking at me very oddly. I could only imagine why,  I must have looked a complete and utter mess, with all my long hair hanging down and hair clips and pins hanging down in all directions. Let me put it this way – I would not have been a contender for Miss BEA 1967 that was for sure.

Anne - Cabin Crew
Anne Woods – BEA Stewardess

Finally all the passengers were gone and I could now dash into the loo and try to do a repair job, but before I could do so Tim came mincing down the aircraft and said …..“Anne what have you done to your” .….. “Do not say it I said  through clenched teeth,”– those damn seagulls I’m going to shoot the bloody lot of em!  Has anyone got a gun handy and with that the cockpit door opened and the Captain said “new hairstyle Anne?” and then the First Officer appeared to see what all the commotion was about and, at the same time, the Ground Engineer appeared at the top of the steps and said to me in his Cockney Accent, with a grin on his face “Does this belong to you Darlin?”  “Oh my God, where did you find it?”  Well it’s like this. “A seagull dropped it on the Starboard side over the propellers didn’ee and it’s been racing around ‘ell for leather in the propellers“.  I can tell ya it frightened me to death.”  I looked at it in horror. “So what am I supposed to do with this now?”  “I don’t know darlin that’s your problem!”  With that, roars of laughter went up. However I was the only one that wasn’t laughing!! I never did manage to get my trusted Chignon untangled. I hope that damn seagull met a very painful end.  It was not one of my best BEA days!