Tales, Truths & Tirades – 11 August 2016


The RMS St. Helena is one of only two ocean-going vessels in the world still to carry the distinguished title of Royal Mail Ship. Two years ago, my friend Deon and I had the privilege of travelling on this magical dual-purpose cargo/passenger vessel to the remote island of St. Helena. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience.
Amongst our fellow passengers were two retired American air hostesses, Betty and Heidi, whom we got to know quite well. To say that they were “well-travelled” is an understatement. There was hardly a place in the world they had not been to while working for TWA.
When we arrived back in Cape Town and were saying our last goodbyes, they mentioned that they would like to come and visit Deon and I at some stage in future. “Great,” we replied, knowing that it would never happen. But we had misjudged them. A few months ago, out of the blue, Betty and Heidi made contact and before we could say “St. Helena”, they arrived in Bloemfontein.
We had a wonderful time. What a difference positive, sparkling, fun-loving people can make. It really feels as if we’ve known them for a lifetime. And the stories they tell are priceless. Heidi was once, on a flight between Boston and New York, asked out on a date by Robert Kennedy. Her response: “I don’t go out with married men!”
Betty remembered how Yul Brynner had come up to her late one night in the first class section of the plane where she was preparing drinks. “I want to ask you a big favour,” he whispered. She could feel her knees wobble. “Anything,” she whispered back. “Do you have an aspirin for me?” asked Yul. She also recounted a deeply moving conversation with Arthur Rubinstein one night, when he told her of his failed suicide attempt and how grateful he was that his life was saved.
All too soon their visit was over. But we will see them again. Life is too short not to cherish these kinds of friendships.
Albé Grobbelaar