February 28th, 1989
Night flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (JED) to London Heathrow (LHR)
Went to the beach club again today because, as females, our options outside the confines of the hotel are extremely limited. Whenever we leave the hotel we have to be covered and the hotel provides us with an Abaya, but the one that was left in my room was too short and I had to get a longer one.
I guess, depending on what part of the world you’re in, the covering might also be called a burka, burqua or even a chador. The irony of going to the beach club dressed in an Abaya was not lost on me. Needless to say, once we’re there we can take it off.
Just like yesterday, it was sweltering again but I didn’t swim. I sat under an umbrella with Meryl and when she dozed off I thought about how nice it would be to at least try and cool down in the water, although yesterday when I went sailing, the water temperature felt far from refreshing.
I got to thinking about my weight and how I always want to be thinner then somehow forget about it the minute I see food! It really does feel like a vicious cycle and it feels like time to stop and actually do something about it. My weight has stayed at just under nine stone for the longest time, but I’d love to weigh much less.
A few of the more senior crew asked Meryl and I if we’d like to go to the souk (market) with them. Alan said if we decided to go, we’d have to cover our faces. Just before the shuttle bus dropped us off, Marilyn (economy purser) helped Meryl and I cover our faces and I really didn’t like how it felt. Most of the women here have their entire face covered with either a mesh piece of material built into the Abaya or a metal faceplate separate to the covering. According to Marilyn, even with our faces covered, the locals know we’re Westerners by the way we walk.
The souk was filled with incredible smells and all kinds of food items for sale as well as jewelry and rugs. Meryl whispered to me that she hated the atmosphere and begged me not to leave her side. Meandering through the male dominated market was quite an experience to say the least.
As soon as we got back on the shuttle bus Meryl said she was relieved to be going back to the hotel and had no desire ever to return to the souk! When she uncovered her face she looked quite pale so I asked if she was ok. She said she felt a bit sick, but I think she was just reacting to everything we had just seen.
Managed to have some quiet time in my lovely, air conditioned room and watched ‘The Mosquito Coast.’ I may have drooled slightly (understatement) over River Phoenix.
Call time comes an hour before pick up and I wonder how long it will take before I get used to not saying “hello,” when I pick up the automated call. Pick up is when our crew gathers in the lobby before boarding the crew bus that takes us to the airport.
It’s interesting that once in uniform we’re not required to be covered whilst going to and from the airport. There was a delay to our boarding because of some issue with paperwork but we still managed to take off on time. Meryl and I sat on the flight deck for take off and this time we knew the drill and needed no instruction. We’re invited back to the flight deck when we land at LHR, which will be in about three hours from now.
We only have forty-eight passengers on this flight and I’m working in economy tonight. Even managing to get some crew rest and already had a little snooze before I started writing this. The crew rest area on the TriStar is a row of seats at the rear of the aircraft, with a curtain you can pull around the seats for privacy. But, even with the curtain pulled, passengers still manage to find us and ask for things!
February 27th, 1989
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
My 22nd Birthday!
Only got back to my room a short while ago after a very nice evening in the hotel restaurant with most of the crew. Typically on my birthday I wouldn’t drink tea and water with dinner but our options are somewhat limited here. Everyone sang happy birthday and I had the most delicious cake that apparently Meryl and Alan organized.
At nine this morning, after a very restless night, I met Meryl and most of our crew in the lobby. I expected to zonk out last night as soon as my head hit the pillow, but instead I tossed and turned and didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time. Of course half an hour before it was time to get up, I felt sleepy but didn’t want to miss meeting the others as planned. I don’t know if it was because of the excitement of the flight or being alone in a hotel room in a strange country but hopefully tonight will be better.
Within a second of going from the heavily air-conditioned lobby to the outside this morning, I thought I was going to melt. The heat hit me full on and I couldn’t wait to get on the shuttle bus. It’s amusing to think that just last month in Florida, I was on bad terms with air conditioning! Now it really is my new best friend.
All I saw on the drive to the beach club was a huge, open landscape, with some buildings that appeared clustered together every few miles or so. I had no expectation of the beach club and was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was.
The club was filled with airline crew from not only British Airways, but also Lufthansa, as well as a few expats who appeared eager to discuss anything remotely British. One English woman Meryl and I talked to told us she was “dying to know what was happening in Eastenders.” She was very disappointed to learn that neither Meryl nor I watch much tv at home. Her husband Bill joined us and felt the need to explain in great detail why they’re living in Jeddah (money!) Meryl and I excused ourselves and later laughed when we spotted them deep in conversation with Alan, our CSD.
The heat intensified as the day wore on and I wanted to jump in the water but I’m much too self-conscious about how I look in a swimsuit, so I sat under the umbrella with Meryl. She’s really thin, so I don’t know why she didn’t go swimming.
Andrew, the flight engineer on our crew, came over with a bottle of water.
“I hear you’re the birthday girl.”
“Happy Birthday,” he said, filling our glasses with chilled water. “I’m sorry this is all I can offer in celebration.”
The three of us clinked our glasses together and said, “Cheers.”
“Would either of you like to go sailing?” he asked.
Meryl said, “No thank you,” and looked at me.
The thought of being out on the water if not actually in it sounded appealing so I said I would.
“Great. Have you sailed before?” he asked.
“That’s ok. I’ll help you. They sell hats inside, you should probably grab one and make sure you use plenty of suntan lotion. I’ll meet you down by the water in a few minutes.”
“Have a nice time,” Meryl said.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” I asked her.
She shook her head no. “I have a bit of a headache from the heat,” she said. “But I’ll come inside and buy you a hat for your birthday.”
It was blissful being out on the water in the tiny boat (I think Andrew called it a sunfish) and even although I wore my new hat and was slathered in cream, I still managed to burn my shoulders.
When we got back to the hotel, I spent an entire day’s allowances calling home. I knew mum and dad would appreciate hearing that I was safe, plus I knew mum would be anxious to talk to me on my birthday.
“Who would’ve ever thought my lassie would be in Saudi Arabia on her twenty-second birthday,” dad said. Something about the way he said it made me feel a bit tearful but I think it’s just the fact I’m so far away from home on my birthday. Mum took the phone from dad and I told her I’d been sailing. She started telling me about how seasick she was when she sailed home from New York in the sixties! I hated having to cut her short, but I’ve heard that story a million times and the seconds were ticking by.
I really enjoyed my birthday and now I’m going to write to Ben and tell him all about it. I feel lucky and happy being in love with the most gorgeous guy, who just happens to be in Italy. Which, according to Andrew, is roughly two and a half thousand miles from here.
February 26th, 1989
Flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (JED)
I woke up with butterflies in my tummy just thinking about how the day might play out.
Lucy and mum were chatting up a storm in the kitchen and mum made us poached eggs on toast but I was too distracted to eat. The taxi arrived late and I was in a panic that I’d miss the train, but I made it. Just.
Getting to TriStar House felt like an expedition in itself and travelling on public transport with a heavy suitcase is no fun at all. My desire for a car has become a priority. In TriStar House, I dropped my suitcase off then drew a blank on where I should go from there. I wandered through the hive of activity of crews coming and going and headed in the direction of the canteen. I bumped into Lolly and Henry who were on their way to the briefing room for their flight to Cairo. Lolly was a ball of nervous energy and Henry was as cool as ice. We wished each other luck and I felt better after seeing some familiar faces.
Met Meryl in the canteen and we chuckled over the fact we were there two hours ahead of the briefing. We stayed in the canteen until it was time to check-in, by which time I had calmed down and couldn’t wait to get onboard.
In the briefing room, we were met by Alan, the Cabin Service Director (known as the CSD, basically the boss of the cabin crew.) He was really friendly and introduced us to the main crew (we haven’t earned our Wings yet so we’re extras.) Alan made sure Meryl and I were aware that bringing anything with images of scantily clad women (such as underwear ads in magazines) into Saudi would result in it being confiscated, and get us in serious trouble. We covered all of that, at length, in training, but Alan wanted to make sure we didn’t have anything in our possession that could cause a problem and delay the crew.
By the time we stepped onto the TriStar I felt eager to get going and after I stowed my cabin bag and handbag, I stepped into the galley and it all felt like second nature. Alan suggested Meryl and I work in Club World together so we stood in the cabin in preparation for boarding. Meryl was across from me in the other aisle and I looked over at her and mouthed, “Are you ok?” She responded with a slightly nervous looking smile.
At the front of the Club World cabin, there’s a screen that gets pulled down for boarding then again during the flight, when it’s time for the movie to play. Right after Alan made the boarding announcement, the British Airways “Face” ad began playing on the screen and I looked at Meryl and said, “Here we go.”
It felt great welcoming passengers and answering all sorts of questions. Boarding went smooth and I was anxious to get going. Alan rang the Club purser and said Meryl and I were invited to sit on the flight deck for take off. Meryl asked me to lead the way and I said, “You can’t get lost looking for the cockpit,” but I think she was too nervous to get the joke.
The Captain and First Officer were finishing up the pre-flight checks and the Flight Engineer, Andrew, helped us into our jump seats and showed us how to strap ourselves in. Then the Captain welcomed us and asked if we were ok. Meryl opened her mouth but nothing came out so I said thank you for both of us.
It seemed like only a few minutes later that the aircraft was barreling down the runway and Meryl and I had matching huge grins. To say it was exciting being in the cockpit for take off is a huge understatement. I absolutely loved it!
During the flight we worked in Club World, which is basically BA’s Business Class cabin. I did the first drinks round and really enjoyed interacting with the passengers. I even managed to remember all the names of the wines we offer without having to consult the menu. The rest of the crew in Club were super nice and helpful, which made all the difference.
Just under six hours later, after a very hectic flight, Meryl and I sat on the flight deck again for landing. It was dark so not quite as exciting as take off, but still a thrill knowing we were landing in Saudi Arabia. It was just after midnight and eighty-two degrees.
Inside the airport terminal there were people everywhere and a sea of black burkas. It felt as if everyone was staring in our direction as we walked through the terminal to the crew bus, especially since we were the only females “not covered.”
It was pretty lively on the crew bus and Samantha, the Club purser said Meryl and I were naturals. Meryl whispered to me how relieved she was to hear that. Alan invited everyone to his room and I think most of the crew actually showed up. Of course they were teasing us that it was unfortunate we’d been sent to a “dry” area. According to some of the crew, most trips start in someone’s room (someone piped up, “or on the crew bus!”) and from there they go out for dinner and drinks. I like the sound of that!
The hotel is absolutely beautiful. It’s very opulent and everything is ornate and luxurious looking. My bathroom is mostly made of marble and the taps are gold. I have a king sized bed with the softest linens and six pillows, all to myself!
If today is any indication of life as Cabin Crew with British Airways, I know I’m going to love it!
Goodnight from Jeddah and my last night as a twenty-one year old!
February 25th, 1989
I should be packing but instead I’m sitting on the couch with Lucy, kind of watching ‘Platoon,’ which is intense, so say the least. Lucy is spending the night here before heading back to London tomorrow. She was a bit quiet earlier when she arrived but I know she hates being prodded with questions so I usually just wait until she’s ready to share what’s on her mind. We’re nothing alike in that way. I like to get everything out in the open and resolve it as quickly as possible!
Spent most of the day with mum, birthday shopping (because I won’t be here) then she treated me to lunch at Café Rouge, which was lovely. Mum and dad went to H & M’s for dinner and will hopefully bring some yummy leftovers home with them.
Meryl rang earlier in a panic about what to pack for temperatures we’ve been told will be well in excess of one hundred degrees! Meryl said she feels sick every time she thinks about, “The briefing and the long flight and the passengers and the crew and staying in the hotel and being…” Poor thing, she really was in a terrible state. I told her as soon as we take off, our training will kick in and everything will start falling into place. I didn’t dare tell her how nervous I’m feeling!
Just tried to get a hold of Ben but there was no answer. I was really hoping to catch him before l leave. He sent me a very groovy looking birthday card (which he’s apt to do) and a four-page letter that I’ve already memorized.
Earlier tonight, Lucy asked what’s going on with us.
“Everything is fantastic, except for the fact we’re living in different countries.”
“How long will that last?”
“I don’t know yet. He’ll be back at some point but will probably be working in Spain again this summer.”
“Same resort as last year?”
I shrugged, “Don’t know yet.”
“How do you feel about him going to Spain again?”
“I think it’ll be different this time and it’s his job isn’t it? Just like I’m leaving in the morning.”
“Yes but you’ll be home in a few days.”
“That’s true. Ugh, I really, really miss him.” I gushed.
“I can tell,” she said with the hint of a smile.
“Is it that obvious?”
She nodded her head yes. “Do you still feel the same about him as you did when you two deci..”
I sighed. “You and I have never really talked about that have we?”
“Not really,” she said, averting her eyes.
“Is it safe to now do you think?” I asked.
“I think so, don’t you?”
“I do. I’m so sorry for the way everything happened. All I can tell you about back then is that I felt like I’d been hit by a bolt of lightning.”
“That’s what it felt like?” she asked.
“For me, yes.”
“I think it was like that for him as well.”
Feeling surprised I asked, “Really?”
Lucy nodded her head yes. “One day we were sitting in the common room at school and Ben came in. I expected him to come and sit beside me because he was my, well, he was my boyfriend.”
There was so much I wanted to say in response, but I thought it best to keep quiet and let her continue talking.
“But instead, he sat beside you. I tried not to be angry but when I looked over, the two of you were facing each other, talking and laughing and it was as if you were both in a little bubble.”
I still wasn’t sure if I should speak or not, but I thought maybe it was time to take the bull by the horns. “I’m so sorry. You never told me that before. You must have hated me.”
“I did,” she nodded, “you know that.”
“But here we are almost six years later and you’re telling me you two are as good as ever so I think it’s meant to be. I really do.”
Hearing her say that felt like a big relief. “I absolutely love him.”
“You always have,” she said.
I nodded my head yes.
“Do you think you two will get married?” she asked.
February 24th, 1989
On the train…
It’s twelve forty am on Friday night (I guess technically Saturday now) and I’m on the train. After observing some of the human behavior on display in this late night carriage teeming with people (not to mention the putrid smells) I’ve concluded that if I were a newly arrived alien, I’d waste no time in returning to the planet from which I came!
Sitting across from me is a couple who have literally not stopped kissing for the last ten minutes. I shall deny all and any knowledge of CPR when one of them finally keels over from lack of oxygen. Needless to say, I am not in uniform.
It’s interesting being on the other side of such a glaring display of affection (more like obsession with these two.) It makes me think of Ben and how we might appear together to others when we steal the odd kiss or two within public view. I tend to get so caught up in him when we’re together that I never pause to think about how we look together, but thanks to slobber mouths, I think that just changed.
I can’t help but wonder what Ben might be doing in Italy at this very moment. He may still be on airport duty or possibly at a party somewhere, then again probably not as Saturday is his busiest day of the week when the new tourists arrive. He’s probably already in bed.
Finished off week four with a visit to TriStar House, which is where I’ll be checking in, for the first time, on Sunday. The building is huge and I have to admit it felt a bit daunting watching the ease with which crews were coming and going, but I know in no time I’ll be doing the same.
First order of business, right as you enter TriStar House, before briefing, is to drop off your suitcase to one of the many people that work in the luggage area. There’s a yellow label we attach to our checked luggage, on which we write the three-letter airport code and flight number of our destination. Hopefully that info is enough to ensure its safe arrival! Company regulations call for the use of either a Samsonite (my choice) or a Delsey suitcase and from what I saw today, it was mixed.
It was pretty amazing being in TriStar House, kind of the heartbeat of the airline when you think about. It’s where each and every cabin crew member and flight deck crew on every British Airways flight departing LHR checks in. After dropping our luggage off, we check in at the crew desk to find out which briefing room we’re in and then we meet the rest of our crew and after briefing, head out to the aircraft on the shuttle bus.
I didn’t expect to be going out after class, but Carl suggested we should all go out for a drink to celebrate our upcoming first flights. Only a few from our group didn’t join us at the Green Man and that was only because they have their first flight tomorrow morning.
Just as Carl and I were getting out of his car, a British Airways Boeing 747 flew overhead and we both let out a cheer. Carl agreed with me that there’s something really exciting about being so close to the different types of aircraft and the possibility of where they can take you.
Sam and I were the first to leave the Green Man and we had a great laugh together walking to Hatton Cross. On the tube, we met a few Aussies who had just arrived from Sydney.
“Which airline did you fly with?” Sam asked.
“Oh, Qantas mate, the only airline worth flying. The flights were chockers but ripper.”
“I see. Doesn’t British Airways fly that route?”
“Yeah but, no offense, I heard they were a bit stuck up.”
“Interesting,” Sam said.
Sam and I stood up as the tube pulled into the station at Green Park.
“Enjoy your time here,” Sam said.
“Yeah mate, thanks. By the way, what time is it?”
Sam looked at his watch. “It’s just after ten, on Tuesday night,” he said with zero expression as we stepped onto the platform. We linked arms and when I glanced at him, his expression was one of glee.
Must stop writing…looks like tonsil hockey is over and the lovebirds are now in disagreement over who loves who more. This might be worth watching!
February 23rd, 1989
Still haven’t heard from Ben, not that I was really expecting to because it’s only his first week and I know he’ll be really busy. Regardless, every time the phone rings, I secretly hope it’s him. Hopefully there’ll be a letter from him soon but I mustn’t hold my breath where the Italian postal service is concerned. It took his letters up to two weeks to arrive last time. I just want to know that he’s ok.
On the way home tonight, there was a bomb threat at Tring, so we had to leave the train and evacuate the station. I was in uniform and at least a dozen people came up and asked me how long it would be before the coaches arrived to take us to our destinations. No bloody idea madam! Of course I didn’t say that but after half an hour of waiting, I was chilled to the bone and my patience had more or less diminished. One old boy offered me his coat but of course uniform regulations don’t permit me to wear anything other than uniform issue.
Met Lee on the train this morning and true to his word he saved me a seat again. As usual, the carriage was silent but I had a few things I needed to tell Lee. I took my notepad out and wrote.
“Morning. You appear rather engrossed in your numbers so I apologize for interrupting but I just wanted to let you know not to save me a seat tomorrow because we’re starting class later.”
I slid the notepad across the table to him. He wrote, “Ok,” and slid it back.
“I won’t need a seat next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday either.”
I was expecting a lengthy reply, but all he wrote was “?”
“I’m leaving on Sunday on my supernumerary flight.”
He pulled a blank sheet of paper from his clipboard and started to write. Then he twisted the clipboard so I could see what he’d written. “What on earth is a supernumerary flight? Sounds like you’re off to space.”
I replied, “Funny. It means an extra. I’ll be an extra on the flight, not key cabin crew. I’ll work wherever I’m needed, which most likely means I’ll be working down the back.”
“Crew talk for the economy cabin.”
“Where are you off to? Actually, let me guess. Give me the first letter.”
I wrote, “J.”
I watched him write “Jakarta?” and shook my head no.
He scribbled, “Juba.”
I gave him a questioning look.
He wrote, “Did I guess correctly?”
Quickly, I scribbled, “No, but where is Juba? Never heard of it.”
“Oh ok. Keep guessing.”
I watched his hand moving speedily across the page as he wrote: “Juneau Jackson Jacksonville Jamestown Joshua Tree Joplin” He put his pen down for a second, then picked it up again, “Can’t think of any others in America.”
“I’ll give you a clue. It’s not in America.”
“Now you tell me.”
This is more difficult that I thought.”
“You can’t imagine my pleasure at knowing the numbers man is stumped.”
Without looking at me, he wrote, “I am NOT admitting defeat.”
I scribbled, “Yet.”
That prompted him to write even more furiously than before. “Jordan Juan Mateo Jalandhar Jerusalem.”
“Nope. Are you throwing in the towel?”
Sighing, he wrote, “I hesitate to do that but I can’t think of any others.”
He put down his pen and tilted his head back on the headrest.
“Wait,” I wrote, “it isn’t J. I gave you the wrong letter.”
He leaned forward in his seat and while he read, I watched his expression change. He looked at me and made what could only be described as a sound of absolute annoyance.
I covered my notepad with my hand and wrote, “Just kidding! It is a J! Sorry if that raised your blood pressure. Considerably!”
I showed it to him. “You’re mean,” he scribbled, trying not to smile.
“I know. Is this where you lay down your arms, sir?”
“I can’t bear to write it. Look at me.”
He contorted his mouth into a very amusing expression and I somehow managed not to laugh.
“Last chance before I win. Anything?”
He shook his head no.
In huge letters, I wrote, “JEDDAH.”
“I’d like that.”
“Yes, it’s dry there. Alcohol free, perfect for me, I’m never drinking again.”
“You reached that conclusion based on one night of recklessness?”
“Once is all it took for me. And you?”
“I continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Just to make sure.”
He laughed out loud.
I wrote, “For example, I have a slight headache today.”
“Dare I ask?”
“Yesterday was my friend Sarah’s birthday. Last night we went to Ye Olde Swan in Woughton-on-the-Green and indulged, ever so slightly.”
“Can’t say I know it.”
“Really? It’s a beautiful old Tudor pub, right on the village green. One of my favourites.”
“I don’t drink.”
I laughed, then I wrote, “I’ll let you get back to your work.”
“It’s not work. It’s personal finances. I want to buy a flat in London, somewhere close to where I work, maybe around Euston.”
“I know a nice pub close to the train station.”
He looked at me and smiled.
“Good luck on Sunday,” he wrote, “How very exciting.”
“I’d be more excited if I was going somewhere like, say, New York.”
“That’s where everybody goes. I don’t know anyone who’s ever been to Saudi Arabia.”
“You know me.”
“You haven’t been yet.”
“I’ll tell you all about it next week.”
“I’ll look forward to that.”
“Sorry you lost the J game.”
“Sorry you’re going to a dry place.”
I guess I deserved that.
February 22nd, 1989
I was so tired last night that I went to bed just after eight. Shortly afterwards I heard the phone ringing and I jumped out of bed and sprinted downstairs in the hopes it might be Ben. When mum saw me, she smiled and said, “Okie dokie, here she is.”
I took the receiver from mum. “Hello?”
“McGarr! What the hell are you doing in bed at this hour?”
“I had a bit of a late night last night.”
“With that wild bunch from your training course?”
“Something like that, yeah. How are you?”
“Excellent. I’m going to be at a meeting in your neck of the woods tomorrow and was wondering if you’d like to meet for lunch? I imagine you do get a lunch break?”
“We do, usually around twelve thirty, for an hour or so, depending on what we’re doing.”
“I’ll be there at twelve thirty then to pick you up.”
“Hang on a minute, I didn’t say yes to meeting you.”
“McGarr, it’s lunch. Lunch is food. You love food. I already know you’ll say yes.”
“That’s rather presumptuous,” I laughed. “And accurate.”
“Twelve thirty it is then. See you tomorrow. Sweet dreams.”
I had to laugh.
It was closer to one pm by the time we finished up this morning’s session, so I wasn’t sure if I’d still be meeting Jon. Lolly, Lorna and Meryl were going to uniform stores and Lolly asked if I wanted to go with them.
“I do need a cabin bag and a few other bits, but I’m meeting a friend for lunch. I think.”
When we stepped outside the building, I heard a horn beep and I looked over and saw Jon waving. I waved back.
“Is that your friend?” Lorna asked, bowing her head slightly.
“Uh-huh, see you all after lunch,” I said, ready to scurry off.
“Eh, excuse me,” Lorna said, “That looks like a guy in that car.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that. I joked. “That’s my friend, Jon.”
“Friend?” Lolly asked.
“Friend. And ex-boyfriend.” I said.
“Ooohhh,” Lorna and Lolly said, in unison.
If the weather was nicer, we would’ve sat outside, but it’s not quite that time of year yet so we sat at a table inside the pub.
“McGarr, you can’t possibly be refusing a beverage of an adult nature,” Jon said, after I told him I’d like a lemonade.
“I can’t go back to class sozzled.”
“Fair enough. I won’t have a drink either then. I’m sorry I haven’t located a suitable car for you yet. I just got home yesterday.”
“Where were you?”
“Italy. Boys skiing trip, it was brilliant. Plenty of après ski.”
“Aka snow bunnies,” I smirked.
“Perhaps,” he grinned. Peering down at the menu, he mumbled, “French ones.”
“I heard that,” I laughed. “Et bon pour tu.”
“You’d love the resort,” he said, enthusiastically.
I asked where it was and when I heard him name the resort where Ben works, my heart fluttered and I suddenly felt very warm. Then I wondered if perhaps their paths had crossed but I didn’t think it would be appropriate to ask.
“You alright McGarr? You got a bit distant on me there.”
“Fine thanks. I just got a bit lost somewhere on the Italian ski slopes.”
Back in class, I was looking through my notes from this morning, when Carl came walking towards me with what I call his signature cheesy grin.
“Who was that bloke with the nice wheels you just snogged?”
“I didn’t snog anyone.”
“Yeah you did, I was driving behind you.”
“That was not a snog, it was a friendly kiss goodbye.”
Just then, Lorna, Lolly and Meryl came into the room.
“Why’s your face so red?” Lorna asked me.
“Because she was snogging some bloke a minute ago,” Carl said.
“Uff, I’d have snogged him as well. I was going to suggest my new guy’s brother for you missy, but I think you’re doing alright for yourself.”
“Yeah,” Carl continued, “Between getting drunk with an old friend from school and…”
“And mister hot wheels,” Lorna chipped in.
“You have it all wrong,” I pleaded.
“Aye maybe,” Lorna said, winking at me, “But you honey, you have it all right.”
February 21st, 1989
I heard the train pulling into the station the second I stepped out of the taxi this morning. Made a mad dash across the concourse with the sound of Sandra’s voice in my head shouting, “No running whilst in uniform!”
Halfway down the second flight of stairs, I thought I was going to throw up, but I knew if I paused, even for a second, I’d miss the train.
I stood beside the luggage racks as the train pulled out of the station, trying to collect myself together. In the toilet, I avoided looking in the mirror as I smoothed my hair down then took a few deep breaths.
All I could see, walking through each carriage was a sea of drowsy commuters, the majority of who were deeply involved in their relationship with coffee and newspapers. I had just about given up any hope of a seat, when I spotted Lee sitting in the middle of the carriage, with a vacant seat beside him. When I was a few rows away from him, he looked up and I mouthed, “thank you.”
I sat down and didn’t dare break the silence of the other passengers. I noticed Lee had a notepad open in front of him and was writing down a series of numbers in various columns.
I closed my eyes and a minute later, I felt Lee nudging me. When I opened my eyes, he slid the notepad across the table to me. On a new page, he’d written, “I don’t think wearing sunglasses on the train is in keeping with uniform regulations.”
Smirking, I scribbled, “I feel like death warmed up. You wouldn’t happen to have anything for a raging headache, would you?”
Lee clicked the locks on his briefcase open and rooted around in the inside pocket, with a level of discretion that failed to gather any attention from the two men sitting across from us. Lee twisted open the top of a small, brown glass bottle and shook several tablets into the palm of his hand. He passed two tablets to me and without asking what they were, I popped both of them in my mouth and swallowed them. From behind my sunglasses, I noticed Lee doing the same.
I scribbled, “Thank you for the tablets. How bad is your hangover?”
He wrote, “Shocking. I’ve never, ever been as drunk as I was last night. Ever. Now I know why people say never again.”
“And yet…” I wrote.
“No, I mean it, never again. I’ve never taken the last train home, either.”
“First time for everything.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day.”
“Stay hydrated and eat lots.”
“Will that help?”
“I have no idea, but that’s what I plan to do. I need to sleep now. See you at Euston.”
“I’m sure snoring in uniform is against uniform regulations. I’ll wake you if you do.”
“It is. And thank you.”
February 20th, 1989
Week four of training and one person will not be graduating with our class. I can’t say I’ll miss Maisy but I do feel a bit sorry for her.
The usual sluggish Monday sentiment switched gears after Sandra called me into the office to inform me I would be staying with the group. I was so relieved I could’ve hugged her. She was actually very pleasant and expressed a side of her I hadn’t seen before. Had she said otherwise, I honestly don’t know what I would have done. I told Ben I’d go to Italy but that would just mean running away and at some point I’d have to come home and face the music.
Carl, being the sweet guy he is, suggested we take Maisy out at the end of the day to say our farewells. Lorna flat out refused but said she’d be up for going out, minus Maisy. Remind me not to get on Lorna’s bad side!
I thought about going straight home, but Lolly, Meryl and Kimberly said if I did, they wouldn’t go to the pub either. Obviously I couldn’t bear that kind of responsibility on my shoulders, so I went! Somehow, after a few drinks, the conversation got around to Ben’s departure and they each had a few words to offer.
While the cat’s away…
Chin up mate, you’ll be alright.
You do know you could be going anywhere in the world next week on your supernumerary flight. Right?
Sorry you’re feeling sad that your boyfriend had to go back to Italy.
Does he seriously think you’re going to wait around for him?
This will be Karen when we get our Wings. Ben? Ben who?
Wallowing in self-pity does not become you.
Because of the detour (aka the pub) I got to Euston much later than usual and spotted Lee standing on the platform. When I reached him, he appeared engrossed in the glossy paged brochure he was leafing his way through. I didn’t think he’d seen me, so I was surprised when he said, “Evening Karen.”
“Oh, hello Lee. Is this your usual home time?”
“On a Monday, yes.” He continued flipping through the pages. “Typically the worst day of the week.”
“I agree,” I said, as Lee tucked the brochure under his arm.
“You appear much more jovial than the last time I saw you,” he said.
I failed to mention I’d just come from spending three hours in the pub!
“That’s becau…” I was interrupted by a tinny sounding announcement I could barely understand.
“Did you catch any of that?” I asked him.
“Yes. We’ve just been informed that our train will be delayed for approximately fifty-three minutes due to..”
“Oh shit,” I said, taking a seat on the bench.
“Would you like to go for a drink?” he asked.
“No thank you. I’m just going to wait here.”
“I’m not insinuating anything by asking you to come for a drink. I know you have a relationship with Ben, so I’m offering a drink, to pass the time.”
“Thank you for rectifying that Lee,” I said, with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“I find it’s usually best to say everything up front. I’m going for a drink. Would you care to join me?”
The reality of waiting on the cold bench was starting to hit me. “I don’t know,” I sighed.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” he said, sounding very confident.
“Go on,” I urged.
“If you join me for a friendly, nostalgic, talk about our school days, type of drink, I’ll save you a seat on the train every morning for the remainder of your commute.”
That got my attention. “How do you propose to do that?” I asked.
In an utterly deadpan manner, he held up his briefcase and said, “With this, of course. So, do we have a deal?”
“We have a deal,” I said, shaking his outstretched hand.