At 13.45pm today BBC Radio 4 will broadcast Pen Pals. It’s a series celebrating the phenomenon of the international pen pal. When the producer approached me a year ago I chose my penpal, a pilot from Ethiopian Airlines. My father was a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines. He died in a plane crash in the early 1970’s. I love Ethiopian Airlines. I flew with Ethiopian only last week.
Incredible. Right? With all the permissions from Ethiopian Airlines in place I wrote my first Airmail letter (yes I know “Airmail” to a pilot. an air male). And then I waited and waited… and waited. Nothing. Meanwhile I was visiting Addis for some work unconnected to this. I received a message from the concierge. “Captain Yonas is here to see you.” I called my producer to let her know the bizarre situation of watiing for a letter and yet getting a call to meet the person.Meeting was not on the cards. I took the lift and met Captain Yonas Mekuria for a coffee in the bar of The Hilton Hotel.
After a long conversation it became obvious to me that this (our pen pal relationship) wasn’t going to happen. I realised that our pilots (he is a national treasure after all) have a busy workload. What a fascinating man he is though! I returned to England dejected. My dream was dashed, hijacked and then crashed into the sea. The deadlines had all passed too. So without a pilot and without Ethiopian Airlines I turned to another favourite country of mine and a boy who saved the day: A hero. To find out more listen on BBC Radio four in minutes. . It will be available to listen online for the next seven days.