And so it was, that I had to go to London again.
It was the week of the 30th birthday of Virgin Atlantic and the launch of the airline’s new uniform- specially designed by Vivienne Westwood, and BellaNaija had been invited.
And as it often times happens when I have to catch a morning flight, I spend the night before sleepless and restless, not falling asleep until an hour to the time I had to sprint out of my house and into the taxi of my favourite taxi-man; Baba Hakeem who loved to converse with me in his native dialect about anything and everything.
He had jokingly called me an Ijebu woman after I had screamed about being asked to pay N6,000 to the airport.
It had rained that morning. Barely 7 a.m, and the airport was bustling with activities and people. Going through the regular motions at the Nigerian airport had become routine. Check bags, Check-in, receive boarding pass, pat-down, the two-or-three questions by immigration, passport-check, pat-down, passport-check again, long walk to the terminal gate, passport-check, pat-down again (this one made me cringe and hop away in barely masked discomfort. The powers that be really need to train our airport officials on how to serve a pat-down that didn’t leave the recipient feeling abused). Then finally the bag-check by the boarding gate, check boarding pass and finalmente! We were on the plane.
I didn’t realize how thoroughly I had lusted for those Virgin Atlantic seats-that-turn into beds until I was seated on the seat-that-turned-into-a-bed. As soon as the fasten seat belt sign had been turned off, I quickly munched on the shrimp cocktail starter and some fruit, and stretched my long Urhobo legs very very well, and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
Please don’t judge me o, walahi I had big plans of eating everything on that menu for ALL OF US, but as you know man proposes and God disposes. Hehehheheeeee! I ordered the food but the lack of sleep the night before must have gotten to me as I slept so hard that by the time I woke up, all I could have was tangerine and tea.
Still. It was a beautiful flight. I continued the flexing of my toes (for ALL OF US) and watched some Chinese movie called Unbeatable.
There really was no time to do anything but race to the venue from the airport as soon as I landed!
The invitation said, “Glam as You Can” and I confess I mulled over what to wear for a bit. I had packed several options for that one night (typical female), and wondered if the Londoners would interpret “Glam as you can” the same way a Nigerian would, and show up in a long billowy gown and lotsa shiny trinkets. They did not. Short cocktail dresses, jumpsuits, some jeans, some blazers, some heels.
Boy, was I glad I did not wear my long billowy dress and shiny trinket! Thanks to the advice of my best friend, who sent someone to pick me up from the airport, and hurriedly had me change out of my airport clothes (in her office) and helped me glue on my false lashes (even though I complained that they looked like wedding hand-fans aka abebe) – I was finally ready to go out there and conquer the world– and witness/catalogue this historical collaboration and celebrate with Virgin Atlantic like a reputable member of the press.
Which I did – for ALL OF US.
It was such an amazing night.
It had everything that an educative yet entertaining event should have. Powerful people, great speeches, fashion, lights, musical performances, networking opportunities, the unveiling of the new uniforms and lots of positive energy (really important, this one). I mean- Richard Branson, Vivienne Westwood, Kelis, and many other notable celebrities and VIPs were present.
Fashion & Music
It was such an eclectic mix of fashionable people, I have to say. There were people in costumes, men in drag, impeccably well dressed women, well groomed men, and those Captains in those clean-cut burgundy military styled uniforms (in fact, please pour cold water on me- I keep fainting at the memories).
The women were hot too, but na the one wey consign me I see o. I saw a guy with hair so long, Rapunzel would have gone green and would’ve refused to say hi (Okay, I exaggerate, but you get the gist). And trust, a few people turned up completely dressed down in face-caps and slippers! But who cared? We all jiggy-ed to the vibes of great music and of course went wild when the band Blondie took center stage for an electrifying performance!
It was over too soon. Don’t worry I represented Nigeria well and barely drank alcohol as I am allergic to most kinds anyways. I retired to my hotel room, and ordered a brown sandwich which I thought was unusually dry, but I sucked it up and ate. I knew I would need my strength for the next day. It was training day at the Virgin Atlantic Base in Crawley.
The Next Day
My first regret was packing all of those clothes, and the realization that I would have to log one suitcase, one lap-top bag and two handbags out of my room and to the black cab downstairs. The greater horror was that I would have to be entirely responsible for them through the journey from London to Crawley, there really was only so much the bell-man and taxi driver could do. I mean who in their right mind packs 8 outfits and 5 pairs of shoes and 2 slippers for a one-day trip? I’ll tell you who- this woman. If I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the day, I would have let my mind rip me a thorough one. It was well needed.
The train ride to Crawley was largely uneventful. I chatted with my travel companions for a bit and wondered about what to expect at The Base.
It was nothing like I expected. I mean it was better. The interior designer in me was delighted to be in such an aesthetically harmonious interior, while the adventurer in me was itching for the fun stuff to begin. And by fun stuff- I meant “Do we get to jump out of a plane?!” Delicious! I wondered if we would get parachutes or something. The child in me was already dancing etighi at the rough play I would surely have in the next hours (or so I thought). My itinerary said- “safety training”, “lunch”, “grooming and uniform training”. So with glee carefully hidden underneath a cool exterior and adorned in an LIIBER-LONDON sundress, a hat and sun-shades, I knew I was ready.
We were taken into the training facility of the base. This was where all Virgin Atlantic crew members were trained and educated on the brand ethics. The airline officials who gave us this tour were very thorough. They showed us different pods that represented various sections of their planes and the services they offered. There was an Upper class cabin, the Premium Economy cabin, and the Economy cabin. And then we had an Emergency-evacuation training, complete with the sound effects and all. I mean, I knew that I was just in a pod that looked an air plane interior, but when our hosts started simulating the panic of an evacuation, I felt my pulse quicken. Instinct, I guess.
And then the safety part. Just in case something went wrong and you did in fact have to jump out of a plane. From the exit doors, there was a huge slide that also doubled as a raft (just in case the gods decide that was your day to fall out of a plane and land into water). I have to tell you, theadventurer in me quickly abandoned me mid-way through the slide down, and left me alone to deal with the deep churn of primal panic that gripped me deep in my belly and spread out through my whole being- and then finally out of me in a piercing scream! I hadn’t screamed like that since I twisted the bone of my right leg in and on itself during sports-hour in boarding house. I guess I shall not be sliding again anytime soon.
And then it was time for lunch. I ate slowly and let my mind wander idly. Observing people is an unconscious, yet a necessary hobby of mine as a painter- and so I watched the people with whom I was sharing that moment. I wondered what it must be like- working here. Everyone seemed so… relaxed, dressed-down, happy, smiley. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Life is really too short to spend doing a job you hate. But it was what it was. GRAND TOPIC FOR ANOTHER DAY.
And then it was time for the final segment of the training- “Grooming and Uniform training”. I especially liked this part, because it showed me just how seriously the Virgin brand takes its image, and the effort, work and thought that goes into creating the various looks for their flight attendants. The team of stylists, beauticians, make-up artists that put in time and effort to create looks that are quick, classic, effortlessly achieved and elegant is just amazing. For sure, I will be applying some of those quick and easy tips to my red-carpet looks.
There were three make-overs, two of them of Virgin Atlantic staff, and the last was of one of us- an Asian television presenter. The first staff was the model for about a dozen quick coiffures to chignons, to pin-ups and different modern variations to these classic hairstyles. The second staff got a make-up and uniform makeover, and the last girl (who was one of us) got a total Virgin Atlantic style make over.
Here’s an exclusive look of Virgin Atlantic’s brand new Vivienne Westwood custom-designed uniforms!
Somehow, it was 4pm, and it was all over. Just like that, my 24 hours with Virgin Atlantic was coming to an end. My companions and I stopped for a quick tea and biscuits, and then we took our bags from the locker room and headed to the airport.
Where we were ushered gracefully into the breathtakingly beautiful Upper Class lounge, where I commenced to eat all the delicious food I forgot to eat on the plane (Yes now, I ate it for all of us). Except carbs. I didn’t eat any carbs. It was just one of those days I didn’t desire the heavy carby stuff. If you eat clean for a while, you begin to NOT desire certain things as much as you used to.
And then it was 10:30pm, and then it was time to leave London for Lagos. I had had a memorable 24 hours with Virgin Atlantic, and I felt honoured for the privilege of the new memories I had just acquired. I knew I was going to sleep soon… Ahhhhhhhh, but this seat-that-turns-into-a-bed is just absolutely worth it… And did I mention Virgin Atlantic has no “First Class”? This thing called Upper Class is even better. You pay Business Class fees for First Class luxury.
“Definitely better…” This was my last thought as I drifted into the blissful world of dreams, rainbows and unicorns.
Soon, I would be in Lagos. The place I call home…
Visit www.virgin-atlantic.com for your booking!