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.