When I moved from technical to creative writing, my original aim was to write about my travel experiences. My first book was going to be called A Broad Abroad. Somehow, fiction got in the way and eight years on, that book is still unwritten. However, I did make copious notes – and I thought I would share some of them in this year’s monthly travel pieces.
I began my career as an international production project manager back in the late 1980s with a trip to Latin America, taking in Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. I was nominally the lead person in a team of three, but as the other two members were older, more experienced – and male – I guess they were humouring me, rather than taking me too seriously. Since it was my first overseas trip, my boss came along too. But despite or maybe because of this, I was determined to demonstrate my maturity and professionalism.
Day One saw us in Montevideo, preparing to visit a small local factory that was making drugs under contract to the large multinational for whom we worked. It’s a long time ago, and I have no idea which hotel we were staying in, but I vividly remember the dining room. Dark wood paneling, crisp white linen, old-fashioned silver-plate cutlery, a hushed atmosphere in which our slightly loud English voices seemed out of place – and an elderly waiter in evening dress and white gloves.
This was long before the breakfast buffet bar that graces most hotels these days, and we sat waiting to give our orders. But first there was the ritual of checking the room numbers. The waiter moved slowly around the table: my boss gave his room number; my two colleagues likewise. Then it was my turn: he stared at me for a long moment, taking in (I assumed) my smart new business suit and air of professional, liberated business woman playing with the grown-ups. Then he turned to my three companions and asked which one of them I was sharing a room with! Exit my self-confidence stage left, accompanied by the smirks of my team members!
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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