Sunday, 12 February 2012

Up in the air

Hearing the unwelcome words 'And now, in a change to some listings...' usually means that the drama you wanted to watch has been replaced by sport or that repeated time-filler, Top of the Pops 2'. BBC2 appear to be making it increasingly difficult for anyone to watch Pan Am, though I suspect any ratings for sport are higher, so drama is moved without much notice. Then again, moving everything for sport seems to be BBC policy and, as a drama fan, I dislike it. That's not to say that Pan Am is the best drama import, more that it's a relaxing way to spend an hour or so watching moving pictures with the most elegant costumes. Life 'in the air' has lost whatever glamour it might have had and isn't the subject for teenage novels any more. Though someone may decide that realism is necessary and commission a novel from the perspective of modern cabin crew.

I've been rereading the rather nice Air Hostess Ann (Pamela Hawken, 1952) this week. Unlike the Pan Am girls who fly in and out of New York looking immaculate, Ann works in the thick London fogs and is busy off-duty fixing the boiler instead of being wooed by handsome politicians. Ann is one of a series of 'career novels for girls' that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. Many are collected and prices tend to be on the high side, but Ann is reassuringly affordable. I also found another oddity I'd picked up from somewhere on my shelves set slightly earlier and published slightly later, so in the post-1945 chaos when small airlines went from boom to bust in a terrifyingly short time. Head in the Clouds (1958) is by Muriel Hanning-Lee and a rattling collection of memories of flying with celebrities, animals, students and how to cope with flights around the world that took weeks to complete with endless stops to refuel. Both Ann and Muriel earn their wings being kind, capable and good at their jobs, so not quite as dramatic as Pan Am's reliance on spies, scandal and perfect costumes.

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