December 31st, 1989

December 31st, 1989

At home

What to wear? What to wear? What to wear?

I’ve already tried on all the usual suspects; black stuff, bright colours, more black stuff, a blue dress I hate, a white skirt I love.

“Will you no be freezing in that wee skirt?”

“The party is inside mum, not outside. Besides, I feel comfortable in it.”

“You looked lovely in that blue dress you just had on.”

“Maybe so but I can’t sit in it.”

“You won’t be sitting, you’ll be dancing.”

“Not in the car on the way there, I won’t.”

“Aye that’s true.”

Today is mum and dad’s twenty-second wedding anniversary and the pair of them were quite lovey dovey over breakfast, which was nice to see after such a difficult few months.

“What are you doing tonight, hen?” Dad asked.

“I don’t know yet.”

“It’s the last night of the eighties, you should do something you’ll always remember.”

I laughed. “I’ve been doing that all year, dad!”

I was sitting in the phone chair, flicking through my Filofax, when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“McGarr, you’re home!”

I laughed. “Obviously! How are you, Jon?”

“Excellent. What you up to tonight?”

“I’m not sure yet, I was just about to…”

“Fancy coming here?”

“Uh, eh,” I stuttered.

“I can come and pick you up.”

“Are you going to The Harrow?”

“Yeah, I’m meeting the boys there but not ‘til later. What do you say?”

“Eh, thank you but let’s catch up in the new year, yeah?”

“You sure? I’ll take you home anytime you want, tomorrow.”

“I’m sure, thanks. Have a great time and tell the boys I send my love.”

“I will. Happy new year, McGarr.”

“Same to you, Jon.”

I felt guilty the second I hung up and thought about ringing him back to say I’d changed my mind but the phone rang again.

“Hello?”

“Karen, it’s Sebas..”

“I know who you are,” I laughed.

“Listen darling, I know it’s short notice but is there any way you’d consider being my date tonight?”

“For what?”

“A very posh party.”

“Ooh, Sebastian, you have my attention. Where?”

“Notting Hill.”

It’s amazing how my mind can reach a conclusion in a split second about some things and for others I need ridiculous amounts of thinking time. This was clearly the former.

“Yes, please!”

“I’ll pick you up at eight. Oh, and, are you still there?”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“I should warn you. There might be only a handful of straight people at the party.”

I laughed. “And? Why are you telling me that?”

“I’m just letting you know your chances of snogging someone at the stroke of midnight will be slim to none.”

I guess we’ll see about that!

 

December 30th, 1989

December 30th, 1989

At home

I just got off the phone with David.

“How was your trip?”

“It was great but I’m really glad to be home.”

“No place like it,” he laughed. “I’m sure your folks are happy to see you.”

“My mum basically followed me all over the house today and any thoughts of sleeping went straight out the window.”

He laughed. “I guess she missed you.”

“This is mum’s first Christmas without my Nana here so it’s been really…”

“I know, sweetie. I’m sorry it’s that way.”

“Thank you. How are you?”

“Doing good, thanks. Heading home this afternoon.”

“Oh, where are you calling from?”

“My folks place, in San Diego.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Yeah, it’s been good but, hold on a sec. What’s that, mom?”

In the background, I heard a woman’s voice but couldn’t make out what she was saying. Mum passed me in the hall. “Who’s that?” she asked. I put my hand over the mouthpiece. “It’s David, he’s in San…”

“Karen? You still there?”

I waved my hand dismissively at mum. “I’m here. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s all good. My mom wanted to know who I’m calling but she disguised it by asking if I wanted food for the ride home.”

I started laughing. “Sounds like somebody I know.”

“Seems that way, huh?”

“Did you answer any of your mum’s questions?”

“You didn’t hear?” he asked.

“No, all I heard was mumbling.”

“I told her I’m talking to a Scottish girl who lives in England but just flew in from Bangkok.”

“Oh, I say! That’s quite an introduction. And are you getting some nosh for your drive home?”

“I don’t know, she looked kinda confused. If I ask for nosh it might knock her over the edge.”

We started laughing. “Hey, Karen, I gotta go but have a great new year’s.”

“You too, are you going out?”

“I guess but no plans yet. How about you?” he asked.

“Same.”

“It’s too bad you’re not here. LA puts on quite a show.”

“As does London.”

“Yeah, man, that’d be awesome. Maybe next year, huh?”

I hope so.

 

December 29th, 1989

December 29th, 1989

Night flight from BKK – LHR

Bye-bye Bangkok and thank you for the eye-opening experiences!

Presently on three hour’s crew rest and as soon as I finish my tea, biscuits and writing, I’m going upstairs to jump in the bunk but I doubt I’ll sleep. Nobody tends to sleep on the first crew rest, it’s too soon into the flight. Second crew rest is the best but only until it’s time to wake up and then you feel like a zombie getting back into uniform and when it’s time to face the passengers, all you want to do is take a shower and crawl into bed. At least that’s how it is for me.

I didn’t venture out at all today! Stayed in my room with yummy room service (club sandwich and not one but two, tut tut, helpings of chocolate mousse) writing and watching movies.

First movie I watched was “Mississippi Burning,” with Gene Hackman. I’ve yet to see a bad movie with him, he’s such a great actor and what an amazing film, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lightened the mood with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, in “Heartburn.” I remember seeing it at The Point with Ben a while ago and I recall us getting into a heated “discussion” afterwards, over the difference between men and women! Needless to say, we held rather opposing views, probably because Ben could relate to the philandering character in the film (meow.)

This is the longest trip I’ve had to date and I’m ready to go home. It’s been a great trip and the crew have been amazing but there comes a point when you just want to be in your own bed in your own surroundings.

Seeing as it’s the end of the year, I’ve been thinking about what’s to come next year and things I’d like to achieve. It’s definitely time to move into my own place, so that will be a priority for sure.

I’d like to think that this time next year I’ll weigh at least a stone (or more) less but I’ve been saying that for years and have yet to actually do anything about it. Plus, my penchant for all things chocolate isn’t going anywhere so that could be a problem. Regardless, I remain in wishful thinking mode!

Let’s see, what else? Oh yes, my love life! It’ll be interesting to see what 1990 holds in store in the lurve department. Ah, men, guys, boys…not sure what to call them in this age bracket. Jon is pretty mature (an ex and now a friend) and come to think of it, Christopher in New York (who I do not fancy!) has his act together, actually David (who I really do fancy!) does as well. He flies all over the world representing his company so I would say he’s in the man category (as are the other two but David is the one I’d like some kind of future with.)

Needless to say, I’m not including Ben in the man category. That sounds mean and my intention is to move into the new decade with a positive outlook so perhaps it’s time to leave behind the “stuff” that isn’t working. Along with the legwarmers and shoulder pads!

 

December 28th, 1989

December 28th, 1989

Hotel Dusit Thani

Bangkok, Thailand

In the early hours of this morning, when I got back to “our” room, it soon became apparent why Frankie had left early. I found her and Charlie in the throes of passion and after an awkward, “Shit, sorry,” escaped my lips, I promptly crept back into the corridor, unsure whether they heard me or not!

Went to reception, where I managed to get a key (“So sorry, I seem to have misplaced mine,”) to Frankie’s room, the one we weren’t using! Consequently, I woke up this morning, with none of my belongings, not even my toothbrush!

I rang “our” room (which is really my room) and Charlie answered! I said I’d be up in ten minutes to grab some clothes, fully hoping he’d take the hint and make himself scarce.

Instead, the cozy couple invited me to stay for breakfast!

“Eh, no thanks,” I stuttered. “I have a few things to do.”

Yeah, right. We’re in Bangkok, for goodness sake! What would I need to do? Perhaps find a shop that sells ping pong balls and end my flying career in a spectacular fashion?

Having been dislodged I felt a bit uneasy so I rang Sarah. She invited me to her room and when I told her what had happened, she cracked up laughing and made me see how comical the whole thing is.

“What are you doing today?”

“I’ve arranged to meet Matt and..”

“Oh, sorry, I don’t want to keep you.”

She smiled her sweet Sarah smile. “You’re not. Come with us, we’re going to the market at the President Hotel.”

I didn’t find the prospect of spending the day alone in the city or in a room with none of my creature comforts very appealing, so I said, “Sounds nice. Is it?”

Sarah laughed. “I don’t know, this is only my second trip, remember?”

“Shit, I keep forgetting that! Don’t expect them all to be like this one!”

“Aw, don’t tell me that,” she groaned and we cracked up laughing.

After a fun afternoon with Matt and Sarah wandering around several markets, I rang “our” room from the lobby. Charlie answered.

“Is Frankie there?” I snapped.

“She’s taking a nap.”

“I’ll be up in a few minutes to get more of my stuff,” I said, curtly, hoping this time he’d take the hint.

“Alright darling,” he chirped, “See you then.”

Aaarrrrrrghhhhhh!

While I was tossing everything into my suitcase, Charlie made small talk and when I was leaving, he held the door open and said, “Maybe we’ll see you around later.”

Maybe not!

I met Matt, Sarah and half our crew and after dinner we made our way to the Rome Club, where Sarah and I acted silly on the dance floor and had a great time. On our walk back to the hotel, we had just enough alcohol in our system to stop in Pat Pong and spend money on rubbish we don’t need. All except for my new toothbrush!

 

December 27th, 1989

December 27th, 1989

Hotel Dusit Thani

Bangkok, Thailand

I suggested to Frankie that perhaps now we’re close to the end of the trip, we should stay in our own rooms. She looked crestfallen and said she’d “much rather not.” So, for the next few days we’ll be occupying my room.

On our way out this morning, we bumped into Richard from our crew. Richard strikes me as the type of guy that’ll live with his Mother for the rest of his life and one who will probably continue to fly until the day he’s forced to retire.

He asked if he could join us and we couldn’t really say no, so he accompanied us to the Grand Palace. The temple was exquisite and in the cool interior, I felt a sense of calm that I doubt can be found anywhere else in Bangkok.

Caught a tuk tuk to the river Chao Phraya and the driver was mental! He screamed at the other drivers as he sped past them and each time we rounded a corner, the three of us got much more familiar than I’d ever hope to! I got the impression the driver was doing it merely to scare us and if so, he certainly succeeded.

We took a cruise up the river and witnessed the most incredible sights, with people bathing and washing their clothes in the murky water. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s truly fascinating to see how other people live and makes me realize how incredibly fortunate I am.

Richard recommended one more stop at his favourite floating market. Due to the intense heat, I was more than ready to call it a day but Frankie said she needed a few gifts and Richard seemed eager to show us around. The more lethargic I got, the chirpier Frankie became and I was about to say “let’s go,” when I spotted Carl’s brother (also cabin crew.)

The last time I saw Charlie was back in September at Carl’s twenty-first birthday. The day after the party, he left with Kimberly, squashed into his tiny two-seater. A vision I haven’t forgotten.

We hugged hello and I saw his eyes dart towards Frankie. I introduced them and could tell he was, let’s say, “keen.” The feeling between them appeared mutual and they flirted as if they’d known each other for a while.

While Frankie and Charlie were enjoying their lust fest, Richard started babbling on about his favourite restaurants around the world! His speech pattern became rapid and he looked extremely uncomfortable. That’s when my patience ran out and I told Frankie I was going back to the hotel. Richard practically jumped with glee and Frankie reluctantly agreed to tear herself away from Charlie.

I fully intended to take a nap before going out tonight but the minute I lay on the bed, Frankie began asking a slew of questions about Charlie.

“I don’t really know him that well.”

“But you’re friends with his brother.”

“Yes but that doesn’t mean I know the entire family!”

“Do you think he liked me?” she asked.

“I think if I gave him a spoon he’d have devoured you on the spot.”

Frankie chuckled, as only she can and suddenly I no longer felt tired.

Donned in a pink, sparkly dress, complete with clinking baubles (Frankie, not me!) we met up with a few of our crew and made our way to Pat Pong. Outside every bar, were scantily clad girls urging people to go inside. We’d arranged to meet the rest of our crew in the “Queen’s Place,” which is a dreadful name for an establishment where most of the employees are naked and the entertainment is a live sex show!

Feeling slightly stunned, not so much from the sex show as from the girls shooting ping pong balls out of their nether regions (!) we made our way to the Rome Club, which was filled with tourists and drag queens. The entertainment was outstanding and I found it hard to believe we were watching guys onstage and not the most stunning women ever.

Frankie said she was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. I was loving the music but still offered to go with her. She insisted she was fine and I have to admit, I was secretly happy not to be leaving.

And off she went.

 

December 26th, 1989

December 26th, 1989

Flight from KUL – BKK

Hotel Dusit Thani, Bangkok, Thailand

Woke up in Malaysia to some very good news! There was a message on the phone to say we were staying on the original trip, which meant operating the flight to Bangkok. Such a relief as none of us wanted the trip to be disrupted.

The news cheered Frankie and I right up and we invited Matt and Sarah to our room for some yummy breakfast. They laughed at our Christmas decorations and helped us take them down. When Frankie asked if they’re having a “romantic liaison,” they looked at each other and smiled. I think they make a nice couple but I imagine it’s a trip fling, at least for Sarah I think it is.

They teased me about coming home early last night and filled me in on the evening’s antics. Seems I missed a rather raucous night! I didn’t dare tell them I spent the evening furiously writing to my heart’s content!

Flight time was a meager ninety minutes and we’ve only been here for a few hours but when people say Bangkok is wild, they’re not kidding! The streets are crowded and the traffic is beyond horrendous. The pollution is so bad, many of the locals wear masks and after almost choking to death on fumes earlier, I can see why!

We didn’t venture too far tonight and ended the evening in the plush hotel bar, along with most of our crew.

 

December 25th, 1989

December 25th, 1989

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Christmas day started out with Frankie bouncing on my bed, in an effort to wake me but unbeknownst to her, I’d been awake for ages and had already gone down to the lobby to ring home.

With the time difference, it was still Christmas Eve at home and mum sounded a bit down and said it was a different kind of Christmas but that she and dad were planning on making the most of it. After I told her David rang, she sounded much perkier!

There wasn’t much time for Frankie and I to exchange gifts before having to get into uniform and meet our crew. I got the impression several of them had been up all night, no thanks! On the crew bus, Captain Alan started singing, “Good King Wenceslas” and we needed no encouragement to continue.

One passenger didn’t show up for the shuttle to Manila and unfortunately he had luggage in the hold which had to be offloaded. It took the baggage handlers absolutely ages to locate the suitcase, after which we expected to be on our way to the Philippines.

There was an issue with the aircraft flaps and the passengers had to be offloaded! The crew stayed onboard and we gathered in the First Class cabin while the engineers tended to the problem at hand.

With satisfactory flaps (!) the passengers came back onboard and right as we were about to taxi, we found out we’d gone out of hours! If we operated the flight to and from Manila (three and a half hours each way) we’d exceed the number of duty hours we’re legally able to work in a day.

Much to the passenger’s dismay (that’s a serious understatement!) an announcement was made, more or less saying, “You won’t be seeing the Philippines today!” At that point I really felt sorry for the passengers and all the disruptions they experienced, more so since it’s Christmas.

Off we went and to add insult to injury, Captain Alan broke the news that he’d received a message from London saying we’d be staying in KL for an extra few days. That news dampened everyone’s spirits and there was no singing on the way back to the hotel.

In an effort to cheer us up, Captain Alan invited everyone his room. I told Frankie I wasn’t in the mood to go but she reminded me that it’s still Christmas, so, off we go again!

 

 

December 24th, 1989

December 24th, 1989

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The first thing I saw when I strained to open my eyes this morning, was tinsel. And the first words I heard were Frankie’s.
“Morning darling! We need to get into the Christmas spirit!”

“Didn’t we have enough of that last night?”

“Never,” she squealed, with the widest grin, that I have to admit would make even the grumpiest person smile.

“Let’s go down to the pool,” she said, jumping on my bed.

I yawned and stretched. “I need to wake up first.”

“You can do that on a sun lounger. I’ll pop my headphones on and promise not to bother you.”

It was like crew central by the pool and I felt utterly out of place among the bikini clad girls with their perfect figures. We got chatting to some girls from KLM, none of whom were less than five ten, all statuesque and stunning. And so friendly that we arranged to meet up with them tonight.

By lunchtime it was far too hot for me so I came back to the room. Wrote a long letter to Ben that I scrunched up and tossed in the bin and started feeling sorry for myself. I was thinking about Nana and how much I miss her, then I thought more about Ben and tortured myself by wondering if he’s spending Christmas with Mandy.

That thought sent me into a downward spiral so I lay on the floor, in front of the huge window, in the beginning stages of what I commonly refer to as my “Christmas Cry.” I was well into it when the phone rang. My first reaction was to ignore it, then I thought it might be Frankie ringing to say she was either staying at the pool or on her way upstairs.

When I picked up the phone, I caught sight of myself in the mirror and shook my head when I noticed how red my eyes looked.

“Yaaassss?” I said, expecting to hear Frankie respond with her signature chuckle.

“Karen?”

“Oh, ehm, hi.” I quickly cleared my throat. “David, hi, wow, how are you?”

“Awesome. Are you ok? You sound like you have a cold.”

“No, I’m eh, I’m fine, yeah, I’m fine,” I stuttered.

“You sound surprised.”

“You can say that again,” I laughed. “How on earth did you find me? I mean the hotel and everything?”

He laughed. “I have my ways.”

“I like your ways,” I said in a cocky tone that made him laugh more.

“I wanted to say hi and happy holidays.”

“Well, hello to you and Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas from LA.”

“What time is it there?” I asked.

“Twenty after nine.”

“At night?”

“Yeah, twenty-one twenty on the twenty-third.”

“Stop trying to confuse me,” I laughed.

We had a lovely chat and when I hung up, I turned on the radio and blasted Christmas music. Then I ordered champagne flutes from room service, as well as an ice bucket, into which I popped the bottle of Dom Perignon I’ve been lugging around in my suitcase. I yanked a string of tinsel off the wall, tossed it around my neck and suddenly, even though we’re six and a half thousand miles from home, it started to feel like Christmas.

Tonight, our entire crew met in Captain Alan’s room and exchanged gifts. Whoever picked my name hit the nail on the head with the gift of an intricately carved jewellery box that I love.

Went for dinner, which was really fun, albeit much tamer than usual, due to the early start tomorrow. A few of us carried on and went to The Ship, where we met up with the KLM girls. We swapped some amusing stories about life in the tin can and came to the conclusion that regardless of nationality, human nature is all much the same.

Famke, one of the Dutch girls, suggested going to midnight mass, which I have to say was quite spectacular and an experience I’ll never forget. The service was very moving and either because of that or the fact we’re far from home, I noticed a few tears being wiped away.

From the pub to the church, it’s just like being at home!