Every now and then, when fatigue takes over the body, my mind spools back to the 1980s–perhaps because it was a decade-long extravagant holiday for me.
Life was carefree and rosy. I had my first sip of champagne. I learnt of caviar, and came to love it. Up from a hotel room in Cairo, I enjoyed the awe-inspiring vista of colossal pyramidal blocks of stone, rising from the golden sands of the Giza.
These luxuries, adventures, and thrills came courtesy of my father’s United Nations job. It was also during those days that I’d travel the world in world-class airlines, sitting in the section of the aircraft closest to the cockpit.
My family’s collection of little Delft Blue miniature houses began around then—at 40,000 feet above the Atlantic. One of the greatest joys of being a first-class passenger on a long-haul KLM flight—which interestingly, is the world’s oldest commercial airline—was being presented with small, dainty, ceramic replicas of old Dutch canal houses. Though of little consequence to a teetotaler, they were filled with jenever, a liqueur of juniper berries that’s a Dutch precursor to gin.
KLM rolled out its policy of presenting passengers with these souvenirs in 1952. To commemorate the anniversary of the airline’s founding, each year, on October 7, it adds a new house to the row. As of 2014, there were 94 such dwellings. These are greatly prized by collectors, valued at auctions at about $1,000.