We all need a Betty in our lives
Although I loved the chemistry between air stewardess Sapphire Montrose and Marco Cavarelli, her boss, I knew the novel needed more characters and an injection of humour to make it come to life. I’d initially focused on just the two characters, like a category romance, (think Mills and Boon) but that style of writing wasn’t for me, so I broke open the Pringles and poured an early lunchtime gin to help me brainstorm. (I was on holiday at the time, so it was allowed!)
I dug into the memories of my flying days and finally, after a few more gins, had a lightbulb moment and realised that what my novel needed was a Betty.
Mills and Boon forever!
Betty was the cleaner/unofficial agony aunt who pushed her trolley piled high with ‘stuff’, around Stansted Airport. She worked there for over thirty years, doling out sage advice to anyone who needed it, as she endlessly buffed the bannisters and mopped the floors. Every crew member, male or female knew Betty. We were her brood of ‘angsty’ workers desperate to talk about our failing love lives and our work woes. Betty would be guaranteed to put the kettle on and lend a willing ear.
She had a big heart and a huge personality bound up in her five foot nothing frame, and I knew that I could do Betty proud if I included her in my airline story. I turned to social media to ask my old flying colleagues what stories they had to tell about Betty, who, I was pretty sure, was still doing the rounds. Unsurprisingly, I was deluged by airline stories from people all happy to share their Betty moments: Betty embroidering initials on hankies for Christmas presents, Betty crocheting a yellow cardigan for the imminent birth of a baby, Betty comforting a pilot who was in tears because his wife was about to leave him. Betty not knowing what to do with a stash of booze miniatures she’d found stuffed in a carrier bag, not wanting to get anyone in trouble.
So many Betty stories.
If the title of my novel could convey for one moment, one particular magic star, that star would be Betty.
So I wrote about Betty the way I remembered her and hoped she’d like my interpretation of her personality. But when I tried to contact her, I discovered that, very sadly, dear old Betty had passed away just a year beforehand and her husband followed her a few months later.
There will never be another Betty but she will live on in our hearts and, I suspect the Betty stories will be resurrected for years to come, when the old stalwarts pick up their drinks and prepare to reminisce about the ‘good old days of flying.’
Betty’s remains now reside in church in a small village called Thaxted in Essex and I heard she was specifically buried under the Stansted flight path so she could always be up to date on the comings and goings of the aircraft and its occupants. How lovely is that?
RIP Betty Young – you will always be a star.
The Magic of Stars is available on Amazon as an ebook. http://amzn.to/2rPd0jo