Moss Moss and Sons: travel experts
I like to think of myself as some sort of free spirit or at least a wandering soul always on the look out for adventure. I remember when "India Jones and the Lost Ark" was first released, I contacted my solicitor and asked them to make sure that this story was not based on any of the adventures that I had had in Mexico, India, Mongolia and Finchley. There were glaring similarities between the dusty Ford character and the rough and ready Beamer that was familiar to the public, and authorities alike, in these far foreign lands. I hasten to add that the letter we received back from Spielberg and his cohorts was short and to the point: and that is, legally, how much more I can on the subject.
I never used to organise my travel arrangements, I would simply jump on board a boat in Liverpool, Southampton or Amsterdam and head where-ever they took me. The fact that I once jumped on board a boat that took me to Birkenhead, a mere stones throw of a journey across the Mersey, did not deny me one of the greatest adventures that I have ever had. However, I am considering writing a hardback novel about it, "From Birkenhead to Bidston - an indecent adventure", so I shall not bore you with the details here.
In these past years I have grown accustomed to using an independent travel agent called Moss Moss and Son in Childwall, Liverpool. It may be a bit of a trek from my current home, but it is always worth the journey. Moss Moss, who himself admits that he was such a handsome baby that they named him twice, is a fantastic man. Although slightly full of himself (he is hardly handsome these days, in fact, his name - Moss Moss - is due to the births registrar being slightly deaf and his dad having to repeat the surname) he is at least honest enough to admit that some companies charge the world for a meal that you wouldn't accept in a motorway cafÈ and a seat that is smaller than a bench seat in a flash sports car. He gets you the deals with his array of contacts all over the world. They all have names like Tone the Turk, Ivan the Iranian, Phylis the Philipino or Frank the Argentine. They can get first class on any carrier as well as the cheapest economy seat (or in some cases floor space) with any one willing to accept a payment of sorts.
Jumping off the bus outside the shop I always get this enormous sense of excitement as I look at the window. Above the large glass frontage, are the words 'Moss Moss and So's' (the 'N' has been missing for years) in a bold non-serif font that gives the company an air of trust and respectability. The large three dimensional letters were a yellow once, but, like a leaf in autumn, they are slowly going golden and brown. This doesn't look bad, but more like one of those collectable books that you find in the library: it makes them look well worn, well used, well kept and, more importantly, well preserved.
The window below is cleaned three times a week and has had the same display in it for years. A three foot long model of a jumbo jet that is balanced at a precarious angle on it's stand looks like it is about to rise and fly straight out of the right hand side of the window. It's once bleached white surface and livery now yellowed and faded. A black, hand drawn, line beneath the nose of the jet gives it the look of a very happy plane, although the plastic sticky tape that holds the left engine on to the wing never inspires even the most experienced of travellers. Next to the plane stands a group of men who are standing in a line like they are about to face a free-kick from some fearsome footballer. If it wasn't for their blazers, bold coloured wife beater vests, khaki shorts down to their knees and smiles that look like grimaces you could have mistaken them for footballers. According to Moss Moss, all these men are locals to Barbados who always look after his favoured clients. They weren't there when I went, but I suppose they have to holiday too. On the far left of the window stands an example of how some would say air-hostesses should look. There was once a complaint about the low cut tops that these particular members of the Swedish cabin crew were wearing. On closer inspection, you can see that their blouses have been added, by carefully cut paper, at a later date (if you catch the right time of day, you'll be able to see through the thin paper and witness three of the only topless cabin crew ever to flown from London to Malta via Sweden). Beneath these cut outs and models is a home made beach created with builders quality sand and fading deep blue crepe paper. The dust moves, just as sand would I guess, in the eddies of heat that a window of that size can create no matter what the weather. A solid wooden divider stands behind the cut-outs that comes only to waist height. You can see right into the shop if you look hard enough, but this is made difficult by two halogen floodlights that shine out of the window like two suns from an alien planet. I once asked Moss Moss why he had two suns in the window and he simply said it was two for one and that the joiner had fitted both in the front when he wanted then to put out in the back yard. Apparently, the joiner didn't work in the rain so installed them inside. In winter they act like mini-heaters and in summer like grills for any meats or sausages.
Moss Moss would always greet you with wide open arms and a smile straight from the salesman's handbook. His cream shirts always rolled up to the elbow on the sleeves to give the impression of hard work (he even has water in a spray can to give added drops of perspiration to his forehead and darken the material under his arms) and the tail of his shirt slightly hanging out. His trousers he wears loose, while his shoes are always immaculately polished. I like that in a shop man, something my dad always drummed into me. He wasn't tall, but he looked powerful and he was able to cradle two phones on either side of his neck while his hands would either type away into his "discount' calculator or write down flight numbers with the Parker pen he got with another insurance policy.
He would sit behind his huge grey and metal desk where you wanted to go and then he would lean back in one of those comfortable recliners, press his fingers together above his chest and pretend to think of the cheapest way he could get you there. Once you knew him, he would let you know that certain pass words would get you certain discounts. "I'll get you a girl for tonight" was always used when you wanted at least 25% knocked off the normal price of the airfare. He once told me that the passwords for getting free accommodation for a fortnight in Brazil were "I'll let you sleep with both my sisters", but I couldn't do it (I don't have two sisters). He would phone people all around the world by dialling three digits repeatedly into the phone. I often wondered if he actually spoke to anyone, but the tickets/vouchers/keys to a car would always turn up when arranged. I felt guilty doubting him sometimes, but when he always asked for cash and didn't give you receipts ("on my word" he would always say). Whatever some people thought, he always got you where you wanted to be.
I haven't been to Moss Moss and Sons in a while now. I can organise trips away through my management or over the internet. I sometimes feel lonely and as if I am taking some huge risk sending my credit card details over the web, but - looking back - it is better than handing a brown paper bag of untraceable tenners to Moss Moss through the special drawer in his desk. As you left the shop he would always shout, "Happy Holidays! If I am not here when you get back it is only because I got so jealous that I followed you out there!" A good man.