August 31st, 1989

August 31st, 1989

At home

I wish Pamsy lived closer. Having said that, with the amount of time we just spent talking on the phone, I’d almost be there (three hours!)

“Blimey,” she quipped. “LA Dave is coming this weekend?”

“According to my mum, yes.”

“How does your mum know?” she asked.

“How do you think?”

Pamsy started laughing. “I wonder how long she kept him on the phone.”
“She didn’t say but I don’t suppose it was a quick chat.”

“I love your mum, she’s so funny.”

“Oh. Yes. She. Is.”

“So,” Pamsy said, and I imagined her putting her hand on her hip. “Dare I ask what you two will be doing this weekend?”

“I expect we’ll spend time in London.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m avoiding the question.”

“Do you think it will happen?”

“What? Going to London? Most definitely.”

“Oh, I see what you’re doing,” she said with a chuckle. “So, do you think you’ll go to London with LA Dave for the first time this weekend?”

“I think we might go more than once,” I said, trying not to laugh. “At least I hope so.”

“Oooohh,” she cooed, “you really are a minx.”

 

Spent the morning with mum in the garden. Now that the weather is changing, it wasn’t that warm but it was nice to be outside. Mum was much quieter than usual.

“You ok, mum?”

“Aye,” she said, staring into the distance.

“Do you want me to set the table up so we can play table tennis?”

She shook her head no. We didn’t speak for a while and mum was the one to break the silence

“I’m no looking forward to the winter,” she said, with a heavy sigh.

I felt annoyed at myself for not guessing that’s what it might be.

“Maybe this winter won’t be too bad,” I offered.

Her silence told me everything.

Knowing I should leave it at that, I continued. “You’ll be alright, mum. Dad and I will be here to make sure you’re ok.”

 

 

 

August 30th, 1989

August 30th, 1989

Flight from LHR – CDG – LHR

At home

Today I went to Paris, but saw nothing! Easy flights there and back and because of the early start, I was home by lunchtime.

Came home to another letter from Ben. It was tedious and boring and left me in a bad mood. When I re-read it tonight, his words made me feel sad and miss him. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t read it again.

How pathetic.

 

August 29th, 1989

August 29th, 1989

At home

In bed with my headphones on, listening to Teddy Pendergrass crooning “Can We Be Lovers.” I keep rewinding the cassette because I love this song like there’s no tomorrow. “You’re the missing part, that can heal my lonely nights, you’re the missing part, that makes my day so bright.” Ah, sing it Teddy.

Dashed down the motorway this morning for a flight to Paris, only to find out it had been cancelled. I had a room at The Excelsior for the night (provided by British Airways) and for a minute I thought about going there but I knew I’d be bored silly so I came home.

Nice dinner with mum and dad then I rode my bike over to see Susan and Stan. I always enjoy being in Ben’s house, even when he isn’t there. I find it very comforting and Susan always makes me feel really welcome. Jill popped in and it was lovely to see her. She’s lost a lot of weight since I last saw her and cut her hair shorter, it really suits her. It’s been nice watching Ben’s little sister go from a stroppy teenager to a twenty year old who seems much happier.

“I have something to ask you,” she said.

My first instinct was that she was about to ask me something related to Ben, so I was surprised when she said, “Will you be my Chief Bridesmaid?”

It took me a minute to register what she asking.

“What?”

“When Brian and I get married, will you be my Chief Bridesmaid?”

“Did he propose?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” she said. “But I have a feeling it’s coming.”

I thought back to the last time I was in Brian’s company, when he made fun of what I was wearing and acted like a total prat.

“I’d love to,” I said, hating myself for lying.

While I was putting my bike in the shed, mum came dashing out of the house.

“Guess what?”

“What?”

“David’s going to be in London this weekend.”

“He is? How do you know?”

“He phoned about an hour ago.”

“Shit!” I exclaimed.

“Don’t swear,” she said.

“Sorry. What did he say?”

“He’s flying into Heathrow…”

“When?”

“Friday.”

Shit!

 

 

August 28th, 1989

August 28th, 1989

At home
I made the mistake of sharing some stuff with mum about my recent chat with Ben. For a few hours she carried on as normal and over dinner, with dad, she made no mention of anything I’d shared with her.

Then tonight, after dad had gone to bed, the two of us were watching tv and everything seemed fine. Until mum said;

“I don’t want you to get back together with Ben.”

I stared at her.

“Shut that off,” she said, indicating to the tv.

I got up and did as she asked then I made my way towards the door.

“Don’t you dare,” she said, in a tone I didn’t dare disagree with. I sat on the couch beside her.

“Listen,” she said. “I think you’ve been much happier since the two of you split up.”

“But…”

“Just listen,” she said, interrupting me. “I know you were upset when you came back fae seeing him in France and even though you didnae tell me straight away what happened, I knew.”

“You did?”

“Aye of course I did. I could see how sad you were.”

“You didn’t say anything.”

She shook her head. “The only things I had to say were no what you would’ve wanted to hear.”

“Probably not.”

“I see you enjoying yourself and having a great time on your trips, meeting new people that sound smashing. People you’ll be pals with for a long time.”

I gave her a questioning look.

“Like Frankie and Annabel for instance.”

I smiled. “That’s true, I’ve met some great new friends.”

“Aye and you’ll continue to meet more. I just think you’re better off moving in the direction you’ve been going in, that’s all.”

“Are you talking specifically about David?”

“I think you should at least give the boy a wee chance.”

“You haven’t even met him.”

“Naw, but I’ve talked to him on the phone enough to get a good sense of who he is.”

“Yeah, an American with a nice voice,” I said, sounding like a stroppy teenager.

“Aye well that’s true but I mean more than that.”
“I know you do, sorry, that was uncalled for.”

“Listen hen, you’ve got the world at your feet and it’s up to you what you want to do.”

I sighed. “I know.”

She squeezed my arm. “I just want ma lassie to be happy.”

At least in that, we can agree.

 

August 27th, 1989

August 27th, 1989

Night flight from LCA – LHR, as a passenger!

I noticed the message light on the phone flashing as soon as I woke up. Expecting it to be news on the whereabouts of my suitcase, I was surprised to learn we’d be flying home as passengers and not as operational crew.

Having no extra clothes, I wrapped the bed sheet around me and opened the doors to the balcony. I peered out and saw Suzette sitting on her balcony, right next door.

“Suzette,” I whispered from behind the door.

“Who is that?” she asked, putting down her book.

“It’s Karen.”

“Oh, morning sweetums. What are you doing?”
“If I come out, will anybody see me?”

“No, it’s safe, come on out,” she said, standing up.

I gingerly stepped outside. “Looks like Armani,” she laughed. “I just remembered you have no luggage. Do you need anything?”

“You wouldn’t happen to have a spare toothbrush would you?” I asked.

“Give me a minute,” she said, with a nod.

I waited on the balcony and heard Suzette talking, I assumed, on the phone. I couldn’t make out what she was saying so I assumed she was talking to her boyfriend. When she came back out, she had a First Class toiletry bag in her hand.

“You can keep that,” she said, passing it to me over the low wall that separated us.

“Ooh, lovely, thank you.”

She held her finger up to her lips and spoke softly. “Acquired during a recent upgrade on a staff travel ticket to see my sister in Australia.”

We chatted for a little while and I noticed Suzette looking at her watch.

“Be right back,” she said, going into her room.

Next thing I knew, Suzette and four others emerged from her room, all draped in bed sheets!

“Surprise!” they shouted in unison.

I cracked up laughing and took the offer of Simon’s hand to help me over the wall.

“We didn’t want you to feel left out,” Suzette chuckled.

“Yeah, you’re not the only fashion queen around here,” Simon tartily said.

“Let’s order room service,” Suzette suggested.

“But first, we’ll start with these,” said Simon, producing two bottles of wine from underneath his designer toga.

 

August 26th, 1989

August 26th, 1989

Night flight from LHR – LCA, as a passenger

I have nothing! Not even a toothbrush. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Torrential rain the entire drive to Heathrow this afternoon. I hate driving in those conditions, especially when I find myself chugging along, sandwiched between oversized lorries. I definitely need a car with more power for motorway driving. With something zippier I could easily pass the lorries and not get stuck behind them, getting sprayed.

Even though we were travelling as passengers today, we still checked in at TriStar House and dropped our suitcases off. There was a briefing to establish our working positions on tomorrow’s flight home, as well as other info pertaining to the flight/trip. The only difference is that we weren’t in uniform.

Flew here on a Boeing 757, which, compared to the TriStar, felt small. Sat with my purser, Suzette, who is absolutely lovely. Suzette’s been with BA for over ten years and it was refreshing to hear how much she still enjoys flying. She told me she quickly became hooked on this lifestyle and has no intention of leaving until she retires (in about thirty years from now!)

The flight made a quick stop in Rome, then onto Larnaca. As soon as the aircraft doors were opened, the warm air quickly filled the cabin and I was happy to finally disembark.

By the time we reached the baggage claim area, the crew luggage had already been offloaded, as is typical. One by one, my crew claimed their suitcases and I thought that perhaps mine had been loaded, by mistake, in the hold with the passenger’s luggage. I waited by the carousel, hoping it would appear but needless to say, it did not!

The CSD helped me file a report to give to the ground staff and of course that delayed the crew bus leaving the airport. By the time we arrived, the hotel bar was already closed.

So, here I am in Cyprus with only the clothes I’m wearing and the contents of my handbag and cabin bag.

Fortunately, we’re only here for the night!

 

How Working As Cabin Crew Changed Me…

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This is a recent guest post I wrote for lifeasabutterfly.com

How Working As Cabin Crew Changed Me

“I have a date! I have a date! I have a date!” I squealed, as I ran around the hotel room in Orlando. My best friend Pamsy, who was still suffering from jet lag, peered out from under the floral bed cover.
“We should go out and celebrate,” she said, with a yawn.
“It’s a bit early for drinking.”
“I don’t mean with alcohol,” she croaked. “We can celebrate with food.”
“Perfect,” I said, smiling. “Let’s go to Denny’s and pig out.”
“Deal,” she said, sitting up. “What date does your training course start?”

Less than two week’s later, on a dank January morning, I joined the sea of commuters waiting on the platform for the train to London. My stomach was doing somersaults but when I finally arrived (almost three hours later) at Cranebank, British Airways training centre, my nerves had morphed into excitement.

Little did I know that several of the people I met on that first day of training, back in 1989, would become decades long friends. Friends who shared experiences unique to cabin crew as well as life events we all go through.

One of the most exciting days of the six-week training course was the day we found out where we’d be heading on our supernumerary flight. I had my heart set on New York and felt almost sure that’s where I’d be going, so when I opened the envelope and saw the airport code for JED instead of JFK, I was shocked.

Stepping onboard the TriStar in uniform for that flight to Saudi Arabia is one I’ll never forget. I felt apprehensive and anxious, trying desperately to remember everything we’d learned in class. But, once the announcement was made that passengers were about to board, a feeling of calm came over me and from that point on, working onboard became second nature.

On that supernumerary trip to Jeddah, I spent my twenty-second birthday at a beach club, in temperatures I never knew were possible, surrounded by ex-pats and crew from various other airlines. I went sailing for the first time that day and remember feeling conflicted when it was time to don the burka over our swimsuits, for the short drive on the shuttle bus back to the hotel.

In my first year of flying on the Lockheed TriStar and the Boeing 747, I visited twenty-six destinations in nineteen countries and spent approximately eighty-three days in the air. When you consider the circumference of the earth is calculated at 24,901 miles, I flew around the world more than eight times that first year alone.

Life as cabin crew exposed me to people from all over the world and all walks of life. Being onboard, surrounded by hundreds of passengers, many of who don’t speak the same language or share the same customs, taught me to be patient and understanding of other people’s needs. It showed me how to manage the vast array of passenger’s expectations, all whilst maintaining a professional air.

Working as a team with your crew (most of whom you met for the first time in the briefing room an hour before) is key to the success of the flight. It’s reassuring to know that you all share the same training and that should something go awry, those Safety and Emergency Procedures and hours spent in Aviation Medicine will be called upon.

At the end of a long haul duty day, with flight times exceeding twelve hours, you go to your hotel room in a foreign land, in a place perhaps you’ve only ever read about. Managing jet lag is par for the course and I learned that even when I wanted to sleep, it was much better to force myself to get up and socialize with my crew. Some of the friends I made during those long flights and trips remain close today because of the bond we developed from working so closely together and relying on each other, both on and off the aircraft.

Being crew taught me to appreciate my time at home and not take everyday life for granted. It’s not a given that the leave you requested for your best friend’s wedding will be approved and good luck trying to start a relationship with the cute guy you just met in your local pub, after you tell him you’ll be away for the next two weekends, on a trip you’re getting paid for.

Having said that, the benefits of being cabin crew far outweigh the negatives associated with it. Going from sipping champagne in a trendy San Francisco nightspot one week to delivering supplies to an orphanage in Zambia the next, became a lifestyle I continued to miss long after I left British Airways. The ability to travel with ease from country to country and see firsthand how other people live has long stayed with me and given me a much deeper appreciation of life.

On Christmas morning in the year I joined, two hours after our crew party wound up, my alarm shrilled and I headed, bleary eyed, to the hotel lobby, where I spent a huge chunk of my allowances calling home. Because I was on the other side of the world, my parents were still celebrating Christmas Eve and I cried after I hung up because I wanted to be at home.

With the anniversary of my first year in sight, I was excited at the prospect of having access to staff travel and wasted no time securing a ticket for my Mum to join me on my first trip to Hong Kong. We were invited to sit on the flight deck for landing and marveled as the Boeing 747 zoomed past clothes hanging to dry from tiny balconies, hundreds of feet in the air, from the flats adjacent to the flight path.

That trip to Hong Kong was the first of many Mum accompanied me on and needless to say, it didn’t take her long to get used to travelling in a cabin situated closer to the nose of the aircraft.

Sadly, my Mum has since developed dementia but thankfully some of the memories of those trips stay with her. Sometimes when we’re looking through old photos, she surprises me when she remembers something we did, during what I now know were precious times.

My favourite trip Mum and I took together was my last one as a single girl, to Nairobi. We watched the sun rise over the Rift Valley and witnessed thousands of flamingoes at Lake Nakuru, before heading back to Nairobi for afternoon tea in a town called Karen, named for Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa.

A week later, I boarded a flight from LHR to BOS, as a passenger, on my way to America, to marry the guy I met on a trip, fifteen months prior.

But that’s another story!

August 25th, 1989

August 25th, 1989

At home

Friday night (they roll round fast) around nine and I just got home from Simon and Sarah’s. Didn’t expect to be home this early but Sarah kept getting onto Simon about stuff I perceived to be trivial. At one point she lost her temper and screamed so loud, I instinctively covered my ears.

It can get interesting watching your friends interact with their boyfriend/girlfriend. I’ve often thought that if I were to find myself on the receiving end of such, I’d no longer choose to be friends but really, who am I to talk?

Received a lovely letter this afternoon from Mr. LA himself. The way David describes where he lives makes me want to go there even more. I wonder if, because of his letters, it’ll feel familiar or be completely different to how I envisage it.

If David were here how would I feel about him? I know that if Ben showed up on the doorstep right now I would want him, just like I always have. Mr. LA is a whole different kettle of fish but if the next time we meet is anything like it was in Delhi, we might be onto something. Plus, I’m really enjoying his phone calls and love receiving his letters.

One side of me wants to tell Ben, “Yes! Let’s get back together.” The other side of me wants to mess him around in the hopes of getting some kind of revenge for splitting up with me, but what purpose would that serve? It might make me feel better (if only for a second) but it’s just not me and I wouldn’t like myself for acting in that way. Oh my, oh my, what’s a girl to do?

After Sarah split up with “The Love Of Her Life,” she sobbed for what seemed like months on end. She was truly heartbroken and I honestly didn’t imagine she’d get involved with anyone else for a long time. And then Simon showed up. Now they live together and will get married, I expect, in the next year or so.

Thinking about that is helping me to see things in a different light. Ben has been a huge part of my life since I was sixteen, so it’s no wonder we share a special bond that may or may not always remain.

When it comes to my friends and my job I feel fulfilled and satisfied so maybe I shouldn’t get so caught up thinking about how it might be when Ben comes home. I only want to be with him if I feel it’s going to be really good between us. Like it used to be. A long time ago.

Or maybe it won’t work out and I’ll fall in love with someone else. Up until now, I haven’t given much thought to the possibility of that but I think I could fall in love again.

Of course I could!

 

August 24th, 1989

August 24th, 1989

At home

Ben rang this morning and I would go so far as to say that our chat was one of the best we’ve ever had. It was so lovely not just to hear his voice but to laugh with him on the phone about some of the things that have happened since we last saw each other.

According to Ben, he hasn’t been with anyone else. Of course I don’t believe him but if we’re thinking about getting back together (oh yes, it was mentioned more than once!) we need to put the past behind us and not dwell on it. We know each other so well and he’s always somewhere in my thoughts, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.

He asked if I’ve “been with anyone?” and I told him I haven’t. I didn’t tell him I almost got “back on the bike,” (thanks to Frankie for that expression) with Graeme in Bermuda. Or, that I kissed David in Delhi. All while being single!

Having said that, I do feel a bit concerned about falling back into the old ways with Ben when he comes home. The old, shitty ways that ended us. I really don’t want that to happen. If there’s any chance of us being together again we need to start afresh. Hopefully I made that clear on the phone.

I was on a high after we hung up, so I got on my bike and cycled to the city centre. It was such a lovely day so after I locked up my bike I sat by the fountain at Queen’s Court to have a think about things before I hit the shops.

I had my eyes closed and loved the feeling of the sun on my face. I started replaying my chat with Ben and could feel myself grinning just thinking about him.

“Karen?”

I opened my eyes and shielded them with my hand.

“Oh, hello Lee,” I said, squinting up at him.

“You look like you’re enjoying this fantastic weather.”

“It’s gorgeous isn’t it? What are you up to? I haven’t seen you for yonks.”

“Not since we commuted to London together on the train.”

“That feels like ages ago.”

“It certainly wasn’t warm like it is now.”

“Ugh, those awful winter mornings waiting on that cold platform. Are you still commuting?”

“I am,” he said, nodding his head.

“You must be mad.”

He laughed. “The financial world is London based.”

“No work today?”

“I took the week off, needed a break. How about you?”

“I just got back from New York…”

“Uh, sorry to interrupt but do you have some time now?” he asked.

“I do,” I said, getting up.

“Would you like to go somewhere for a coff, oh wait, you’re allergic to coffee.”

I smiled. “Good memory.”

“Tea? Would you like to go and have a cup of tea?”

We walked through the city centre and I noticed a few girls checking Lee out. He did look smart in his casual jeans and Ralph Lauren shirt. So different to how he looked in the dowdy trench coat I got used to seeing him wearing. And no more heavy rimmed glasses like old people wear either.

We popped into Café Rouge where, as well as tea, I ordered a Mille-feuille, because two layers of puff pastry aren’t nearly enough! I ate while Lee filled me in on what he’s been up to and when only crumbs remained on my plate, he said, “your turn.”

As is normal for me, I ended up sharing far too much! Lee rolled his eyes when I told him about Ben’s call. “I thought that would’ve fizzled out by now,” he said.

“It did. We split up back in June when I went to see him in France.”

“And now you might be getting back together?”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“Then what would you say?” His sharp tone took me by surprise.

“I’d say, eh, I’d say we’re planning on seeing each other when he returns. As friends.”

“How do you think that will go?” he asked, pointing to my mouth.

“Thanks,” I said, wiping a trace of custard. “I don’t know how it will go.”

“You must have some idea.”

“I might.”

“Let me rephrase it,” he said, sitting up straight.

“Shit Lee, are you sure you’re not a lawyer?”

He cracked a tiny smile. “What would you like to see happening with you and Ben when he returns?”

“I’d like to spend time with him.”

“And?” he asked.

And I’d like to kiss him, but of course I didn’t say that.