Mary Bailey

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, part four.

On the 25th of December, 1928, Mary Bailey was somewhere between Cape Town and Croydon in her de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth on the return leg of a 16,000 mile journey that broke the record for longest solo flight by a woman and won her that year’s Britannia Trophy. Where she was exactly on that Christmas Day I couldn’t say without doing far more research than just reading her Wikipedia entry. Research which, spoilers, I haven’t done.

She was somewhere over (or on) Africa. The specifics don’t matter enormously. I’m using her flight as a metaphor for people being away from friends and family at Christmas time.

If you know you won’t see your nan this year because of a positive covid test, will you really draw any consolation from the fact that, unlike Mary Bailey, the odds of something going wrong over the next month that leads to you being eaten by a lion are pretty slim? Probably not. It’s not very relatable, is it, being eaten by a lion? Plus, even in your non-digested by a lion state, you still won’t see your nan.

And what if you work in a zoo? If you work at (let’s say…) Knowsley Safari Park (yeah, that’ll do) statistically you are more likely to be at least mauled by a lion over the Christmas period than Mary Bailey was in 1928. It isn’t as if Africa is swarming with lions, is it? If you randomly crashed a bi-plane plane over 1920s Africa the odds of being eaten my a lion were actually astronomically small. If you work at a safari park you might deal with lions every day. That’s just maths.

However, if you run out of petrol driving around Knowsley Safari Park (doing, I don’t know, signpost maintenance or counting the gnus or something like that) the absolute worst thing that could happen to you is having to pee into a lucozade bottle while you wait for help. Running out of fuel while flying over Africa in the 1920s would have been a far bigger deal. No mobile phones then, you see. You couldn’t just ring Kevin in security and ask him to give you a tow back to the staff car park.

I think I may have strayed a little too far from my central point here. I was trying to make a point about being apart from family. I wanted us all to think about how lucky we are today; how technology can still connect us even if a Zoom call isn’t quite the same as visiting people. Instead, most of us are thinking about lions and/or peeing into a lucozade bottle – specifically how a lucozade bottle full of pee would be very similar in appearance to a lucozade bottle full of lucozade. Especially if the person who had peed in the lucozade bottle had first drunk the lucozade.

I wanted to talk about the circle of life, of bravery and family and being apart from people we love. Instead I’m talking about the circle of vaguely sinister looking dark yellow/light orange liquids. Piss and lucozade instead of loss and aeroplanes. Sorry, Mary.