March 17th, 1989
Tel Aviv, Israel
Arrived in the early hours of this morning and it was pouring and still dark out, so I didn’t get to see anything from the crew bus. Check in at the hotel was swift and I couldn’t wait to get to my room, take a shower and hit the sack.
In the elevator, Leslie, my energetic purse said, “There’s so much to see here. Ring me when you wake up sweets.”
“I will, thanks,” I said, getting off on the fourteenth floor. “Have a good sleep.”
“You too, sweets. Make sure you draw the curtains so the light won’t wake you.”
I woke up in the queen size bed feeling refreshed and was surprised when I looked at the clock. I rang Leslie’s room.
“Leslie, it’s Karen, sorry, did I wake you up?”
“You did, but it’s fine. What time is it?”
“Ten past three.”
“Shit. Is that local time?”
“I remember when I first joined, I could never keep up with the time differences.”
“I’m sure it gets really confusing. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“I’m glad you did. It wouldn’t be the first time I slept through the entire day. Would you like to meet and go out?”
“I’d love to.”
“Ok, I’ll ring the others and we’ll meet in the lobby at four?”
“That sounds great, thanks. See you then.”
“Bring a cardi or something, it gets cool here, by the water.”
I changed my clothes four times before finally deciding to wear my loose black trousers (newly purchased from Next) and stripy top with a light cardigan stuffed in my bag, just in case I might need it.
When I stepped out of the elevator, I saw Leslie, sitting in the middle of the lobby, her tiny frame encompassed in a purple velvet chair. She looked up, waved and came hurrying towards me.
“It’s just us sweets, the others are meeting for dinner later but seeing as it’s your first time here, we should make an effort and go out.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but Leslie beat me to it. “I was going to suggest a leisurely stroll to Jaffa, or Joppa as it was known during biblical times.”
“Sounds lovely,” I said, following her outside.
“And we’ll stock up on Jaffa oranges and bring some back for the others. The locals call them Shamouti and they’re quite delicious, I just love them. We’ll take the beach route to Jaffa. I find the light from the Med quite mesmerizing.”
“I think a city with a beach is the perfect combination,” I said, rounding the corner and seeing the beach for the first time.
“I agree. Imagine if London had a beach? I’d never leave.”
“I’d love to live in London but the prices are a bit out of my reach.”
“That will change sweets. How old are you?” she asked.
“I turned twenty-two last month.”
“Oh, so young. I’d advise you not to fly for more than five years.”
“Why only five years?”
“I give the same advice to all of you new girls; See the world, save your money and get out while you’re still young and can have a life with a proper relationship. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I do but he’s in Italy at the moment.”
“Is he Italian?”
“No, he’s English. He’s been working there as a travel rep in a ski resort, but he’ll be home soon.”
She stopped walking, looked at me and said, “My last piece of advice would be not to get too tied up with anyone whilst flying.”
As we strolled along, Leslie shared her life story with me; Twelve years with British Airways, two marriages that ended in divorce, no children and two cats. I was almost regretting my decision to go with her, but as we approached Jaffa, she went into tour guide mode and I learned more about the ancient port from her, than from any guidebook