May 31st, 1990

 

May 31st, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

“I don’t believe it,” Millie shouted, slamming down the phone.

“What?” I asked, still in bed.

“There’s no milk!”

“What do you mean?”

She glared at me. “There’s no milk. Anywhere.”

“Why not?”

“Because we’re on a f’ing island and the milk plane is late.”

I cracked up laughing. “Are you serious?”

“Yes!” She shouted.

“When’s the plane due in?”

She looked at me as though I’d asked her to do something dangerous. “What difference does that make?”

“Of all the mornings, this is not the one not to have milky tea. I’ll never make it,” I groaned, rubbing my throbbing temples, before picking up the phone.

Ten minutes later, we were in reception, where we met Ernest, who drove us out to the airport to meet the milk plane! Typically, the milk would be delivered to the hotel but that wouldn’t have happened ‘til early afternoon, by which time I could’ve been dead.

Back in my room, we rang Dolly, who sounded like she was still half asleep. She showed up looking less than fresh and drank three cups of tea (easy on the milk there, Dolly!) She grabbed a slice of toast, took a bite and stretched.

“I’ll see you two later.”

“You going back to bed?” I asked

“No, I’m going,” she yawned, “on a booze cruise.”

Millie and I stared at her as she gulped down the last of her tea.

“Who are you going with?”

“The guy from last night. Byeeee.”

We still don’t know his name!

Millie gave me the third degree on William and made it quite clear she doesn’t like him but as I said to her, it’s not as if I’ll see him again after we leave the island.

We met Nicolai for a drink at La Dolce Vita (his night off) and he insisted on adorning us in scarves and jewelry, which I have to say really suited us. We suggested he come with us to Tropix, where we met not only William and Scotty but some of our crew who almost blew our cover several times. I had to keep reminding them of our “code names,” and had we been somewhere quiet, the cat would’ve been out of the bag. Seamus was the only one who went along with it and he even had a conversation with me at the bar about what it’s like working for American Vogue (all whilst William was within earshot, cheers Seamus!)

A bunch of us came back to my room (oh yeah, after swimming in the sea!) and when everyone left, William dried my hair and asked if I think we’ll stay in touch. He doesn’t even know my real name (or what I really do for work) so I think keeping in touch is out!

 

May 30th, 1990

May 30th, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

Just got back from Tropix and Millie is already asleep on the couch, with her shoes on!

We drank way too much rum punch and had to leave Ugly Gurgle (we no like him!)  in town again. My scribble is atrocious and I doubt I’ll be able to read this tomorrow but who cares about tomorrow!

Absolutely loving this trip, especially spending time with the girls and the various characters we’ve met, one of whom Dolly is presently out with on a date. I  don’t even know his name but he’s Italian, very slick and so not her type so it’ll be interesting to hear what happened.

At La Dolce Vita tonight, Millie and I fell in love with Nicolai, our French waiter, who flirted outrageously with us and whose make up got heavier with each course. He offered us several beauty tips and suggested we have a drink with him before heading to the club.

We were sitting at the bar, enjoying a liqueur when Nicolai appeared, in full drag.

“Wow,” Millie mouthed, looking utterly shocked.

“Vot do you think darlinks?” he asked, twirling.

“Amazing,” I said. “How did you get dressed so quickly?”

“Not my first time,” he said, with a wink of his heavenly eyelashes.

By the time Millie and I got to Tropix we were pretty tipsy and headed for the bar (bad idea) to join William and Scotty. Millie must’ve already been drunk because she didn’t cover her ears or shudder when Scotty yelled her name. I teased William about being stuck to the bar stool but he just smiled and said, “I don’t dance.”

By closing time, I knew there was no way we could drive home, so Scotty offered to bring us back (he has an early shift and didn’t drink.) Millie was hesitant and said we could take a taxi but I reminded her how expensive that is.

Scotty seemed pretty pleased with himself after he managed to persuade Millie to sit up front with him, which left me in the back with William. Off we sped into the balmy, night air and I don’t know if it was that, or maybe the amount of rum I consumed, but we kissed. A lot. And it was pretty fantastic.

 

May 29th, 1990

May 29th, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antigua Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

William’s friend, Scotty, invited us to a barbeque on the naval base, where he works. Scotty is lovely but I swear instead of a voice box, he has a built-in megaphone. Whenever he opens his mouth, Millie shudders and covers her ears!

No sooner had I said hello to William, when he asked if I wanted to go to his room.

“Steady on there, mate,” I joked, more from embarrassment than anything else.

“You don’t wanna come with me?”

“Ehm, for what reason?”

“I have a headache from the sun, if I don’t take a pill, I’ll get a migraine.”

“Oh, ok, I’ll come with you then.”

In his room, he said he wanted to ask me a few questions.

“What is this? An interview?”

“Is that a joke?”

I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or, well, I have no idea what, so I just nodded my head.

“So, you’re in the Navy?”
“No, the Coast Guard.”

“What’s that?” I asked.
“You don’t know?”

If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking you, would I? Of course that’s not what I said.

He gave me a detailed description of the purpose of the Coast Guard, which really, from the name I should’ve been able to figure out.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I travel all the time, it’s difficult,” I blurted, without any forethought. Shit, I thought, I almost gave myself away.

“So you’re a travel writer for the magazine?”

“Ehm, well I did some travelling before but not now.”

His gaze was intense so I stood up and walked around the room he shares with another guy, or Coastie, as he called him.

“You have some really nice beach pictures,” I said, pointing to a cork board on the wall, next to a map of the island.

“They say there’s three hundred sixty-five beaches.”

“One for every day,” I laughed. “Do you like living here?”

“I’m here for another year then I’ll be back Stateside, hopefully the East Coast.”

“Is that where you’re from?”

He nodded his head. “I grew up in mass.”

“I take it that’s Massachusetts?”

“Yeah.”

“Well this is certainly a jammie place to be stationed.”

“What does that mean?”

“Jammie, means lucky, like you lucked out.”

“I’ll say that about meeting you.”

I suddenly felt slightly uncomfortable, not in a way I’d ever felt before, I just wasn’t sure of his intention.

“Let’s go back to the barbeque, I’m starving.”

“It’s called a cook out.”

“Whatever,” I groaned.

“Will you write me?”

“Probably not.”

He laughed. “I think you will.”

“I think you’re wrong,” I said, heading for the door.

 

What a weirdo!

 

May 28th, 1990

May 28th, 1990
Flight from ANU – UVF – ANU
Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort
Deep Bay, Antigua

Skipped the morning tea and toast routine because we had to take a taxi into town to retrieve Gurgle II. He’s not quite as sleek as his predecessor and his paint is peeling from too much sun but he still gets us around the island. Dolly said he “looked hurt,” because we left him alone, in town, overnight. I do worry about her, then again, I’m the one talking about a vehicle like he’s a person!

Spent the afternoon at Shirley Heights and danced away the remainder of my dastardly hangover. The music was fantastic, with steel drums and such a great atmosphere, high up on the hill, from which the view was endless.

This evening, we operated the shuttle to St. Lucia. The flight originated in LHR and was chock-a-block. The aptly named hat racks were stuffed to the gills, not only with ambitious Mother-of-the bride hat boxes but huge wedding dresses that took up every square inch. I was highly amused by the neurotic brides-to-be and their hawk like stares, aimed at anyone (including crew) who dared to open an overhead storage compartment within the vicinity of their precious, puffy, cargo.

There was no such issue on the return sector, which meant the cargo hold was full of meringue like frocks but that wasn’t the only difference. The lovey dovey couples on their way to St. Lucia (Millie claimed she was in great danger of throwing up!) possessed an entirely different look to the freshly hitched ones on the return sector, who Dolly said looked, “Royally shagged out.”

The crew teased us and asked where we’ve been hiding.
“We’ve been doing quite a bit of sightseeing,” Dolly chirped in a much too innocent tone that had Millie and I in stitches. I actually call Laney Millie now and she calls me Maddie!

It’s almost midnight but we just ordered tea and toast, cheesecake (no chocolate mousse on the room service menu!) and apple pie to enjoy here in my room, while we watch, “The Fly,” with Jeff Goldblum.

Looks like Millie, Maddie and Dolly are in for the night!

May 27th, 1990

May 27th, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

Whilst sunbathing at Galley Bay, Dolly suggested that we change our names and identities, if only to serve as a safeguard, especially since she had her handbag stolen from the police station.

“Who do you want to be?” she asked Laney.

“I always had this notion that someday, I’d be a minimalist architect.”

“Oooh,” I teased. “Get you!”

Laney gave me a disdainful look. “I’ll be an architect, based in London. Let’s see, my name will be, hmmmm…”

“That name’s already taken.”

This time she rolled her eyes in my direction.

“Millie,” she said, with conviction.

“That actually suits you, I like it. Millie the architect.”

I looked at Dolly. “What about you?”

“Well,” she said, twirling a strand of her curly dark locks. “I’ll keep my nickname but I don’t know what I want to be.”

“When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

She chuckled. “An Air Hostess.”

“Ok, well, you can check that one off!”

She giggled. “Oh, wait, I know, I know.”

“What?”

“A dancer. I also wanted to be a dancer. I used to dream of dancing on the stage like in the West End musicals.”

“Great, so we have Millie the architect and Dolly the dancer stroke actress.”

Tonight, at Tropix, after William replenished yet another bottle of Dom Pérignon us girls were guzzling, thanks to the afternoon chat with the girls, I didn’t hesitate, when he asked what I do.

“I work for a magazine.”

“That’s cool.”

I expected him to ask which one but he didn’t so I carried on.

“Vogue. I work for Vogue,” I lied, draining the last of the Champagne from my glass.

“Very cool.”

“I’m actually a features editor.”

“I don’t know what that is but it sounds cool.”

“It’s an amazing job,” I continued. “I’ve only been there for a short time but I’m really enjoying it.”

“I like my job too,” he smiled.

Eh excuse me William, we’re not talking about you right now!

“Ya, it’s really supah,” I slurred, sounding scarily like Annabel.

“So, you live in London?”

Finally, a question!

“Oh no, not London.”

I’d clearly moved beyond tipsy, because instead of leaving it there, I felt compelled to continue, if only for some kind of reaction that didn’t involve the word, “cool.”

“New York,” I stated. “I work for Vogue. In New York.”

“Cool,” he said, leaning in. “And what’s your name, again?”

“Madison.” I smiled. “Madison Frazer.”

 

May 26th, 1990

May 26th, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

The morning routine consists of tea and toast in my room but if I’m going home to buy a flat (I wonder what’s going on with that) at $17 a head, the routine might need to change!

Laney rang Tubsy, the guy we rented the jeep from and when she explained what happened, I heard his deep, throaty laugh boom through the phone. Laney remained very serious while Dolly and I rolled around on the floor, cracking up.

“Stop it, you two,” Laney hissed, her hand over the receiver.

Having someone tell you to stop laughing is not conducive to stopping and by the time she hung up, she was furious.

“You two are out of control,” she shouted. “I’m going back to my room!”

“What about Gurgle?” Dolly pouted. “Can we keep him?”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Laney snapped. “Tubsy will have someone pick him up so now we have to go back to the car hire place and get another vehicle.”

“But I love Gurgle,” Dolly whined.

“Yeah, well Gurgle’s damaged.” Laney glared at me. “You’re not saying much.”

“Just eating my toast and enjoying this lovely cup of tea.”

“Yeah, right. It’s your fault we crashed last night.”

“Why is it my fault?”

“Because that guy you were talking to, what was his name?”

“William. Sweet William,” Dolly sighed. “He was quite yummy wasn’t he.”

Laney rolled her eyes. “You two are a lost cause,” she said, heading for the door.

“Wait!” I yelled. “Why are you blaming me for your carelessness?”

“I’m not,” she said, in a much friendlier tone. “I think I was just tired and ready to leave the club.”

“Ok, well I’m glad we got that straightened out.”

Ah, life on the island!

 

May 25th, 1990

May 25th 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

We hired a jeep and named him Gurgle! Laney offered to be the designated driver but after tonight’s antics she may have lost her position.

After we picked Gurgle up this morning, we spent a few hours sunbathing at Buccaneer Cove which was just beautiful. The island isn’t as pretty as Bermuda but we’re getting paid to stay here so I shan’t complain. Dolly suggested a ride on the Big Banana boat which started out as fun but within a few minutes of bobbing about I felt sick and felt very relieved when the ride was over.

Quick change at the hotel then drove into town to check out the nightlife, which, in a club called Tropix proved to be a lot of fun. We danced for ages and when it was time to leave, our, “Look how cool we are in our silver jeep,” attitude got the better of us and the three of us climbed in, without opening the doors.

Sitting in the back, with a much too smug expression, I shot forward when Laney put the jeep in drive instead of reverse. The makeshift brick wall Gurgle hit head on, crumbled and chunks of it landed on the bonnet. The three of us swore in unison and a second later two police officers appeared and demanded we follow them to the police station! Our smug expressions were nowhere to be seen as each of the officers held open the doors.

The police station was just up the street from the club and the three of us walked meekly behind the officers and didn’t utter a word. Inside the decrepit building there appeared no rhyme or reason to how the place was set up so we sat at a huge round table in a corner of the barely furnished hot, sticky room and watched as various members of society came and went!

What felt like ages later, two other police officers came over and starting asking questions;

What’s your nationality? Where are you staying? How long have you on island? Where did you get the money to come here? Laney kicked me under the table and rolled her eyes in a “We need to get out of here,” kind of way.

Dolly cleared her throat and noisily pushed the metal chair back. She stood and waited until all eyes were upon her before she spoke.

“We’re all British and we’re staying at the, the,” she stuttered, looking at me. “What’s the hotel called again?”

“The Royal Antiguan,” Laney chirped.

“Hmmm,” mumbled the older of the two officers.

“We’re crew,” Laney stated.

“On a yacht?”

“No, no, no, for British Airways. We’re airline crew.”

I watched the beginning of a smirk cross Dolly’s angelic looking face when one of the officers got up and didn’t even come up to her shoulder.

“Do you have proof of that?” he asked, gazing up at her.

“Yes, of course. I always carry my BA ID. It’s in my bag,” she gushed, glancing at the back of the chair.

“Ehm, I think I left my bag in Gurgle.”

“No,” Laney said. “You didn’t, I saw you hanging it on the chair.”

Dolly looked at me. “Chair,” I mouthed. “I saw you do it.”

The three of us looked under and around the table but the bag was nowhere to be found.

“Somebody stole my bag with my ID!” she shrieked.

“Calm down,” Laney said. “We’ll find it.”

Laney said she’d check Dolly hadn’t actually left her bag in the jeep and when she stood up, the other officer said we hadn’t been cleared to leave so he’d have to accompany her, which I found highly amusing. We’re on an island, people! It’s not like we’re going anywhere!

With the conclusion that the fake Chanel (“I just bought it in Bangkok!”) had indeed gone walkies within the confines of the police station, Dolly had to file a stolen property report! We didn’t leave the station until after one am and because of the huge dent in Gurgle, we didn’t dare attempt to drive it back on the dark, unfamiliar roads so we got a taxi. So much for having a rental vehicle!

It’s now four am (tea and toast in my room and lots of “Who do you think nicked the bag?” chat) and now I need to sleep.

Spending time at the police station isn’t exactly what I’d envisioned for this request trip but there you go.

Oh, and I met a dishy American guy in the club tonight, called William.

 

May 24th, 1990

May 24th, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

Unfortunately, the crew hotel, as lovely as it is, is located far from town so I think we’re going to have to hire a car so we can get out and about, exploring.

Tea and toast in my room this morning with Laney and Dolly, a longtime friend of Laney’s who is really fun and giggles a lot! Spent most of the day at the beach, where we managed to avoid most of our crew who stayed close to the pool. Honestly people, it’s ok to leave the confines of the hotel!

I brought way, way too much stuff! The clothes alone are ridiculous but I also brought a stack of new books that given the amount of chatting and sunbathing we did today, will be lucky if I get to read even one.

Tonight, we met in Seamus’s room and he told everyone how shell-shocked I looked when I boarded the flight with the last of the passengers. And I thought I was acting cool, calm and collected!

A few hours into the room party, people started making excuses about being tired and the mass exodus began but the three of us weren’t ready to call it a night so we walked to the only restaurant close to the hotel, called Jaws! I ate the most delicious mahi-mahi, covered in creole sauce, which was, by far, some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. As wonderful as it was, I can’t imagine eating at the same place every single night.

Yeah, we’re definitely going to need some wheels!

 

May 23rd, 1990

May 23rd, 1990

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

“Shit!” I shrieked, yesterday morning, when, just a few miles from Heathrow, my car started losing power and the engine light came on, followed by a sputtering sound that made me think my precious VW Golf might be about to explode. I pulled onto the hard shoulder, turned off the ignition and waited a few minutes before starting it again, at which point, the engine made a growling sound and the warning light shone like a beacon.
“Bollocks,” I uttered, through gritted teeth, as I shut off the ignition.

Thoughts of floating in crystal-clear waters and drinking from tall frosted glasses adorned with little umbrellas, propelled me out of the car, onto the hard shoulder, in uniform, in the pelting rain. I reluctantly popped open the bonnet and was promptly met with a huge puff of smoke that caught in the back of my throat and made me cough. I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking for but when I spotted the cap on the oil reservoir I shouted, “Oil!”

I slipped on my way to the back of the car (lovely ladder in my stocking, ugh!) and frantically rummaged around in the boot, looking for the black pouch Jon insisted on giving me after he helped me buy my first car.

“Keep this with you at all times, McGarr,” I distinctly remembered him saying.

I’d never opened the pouch before but inside, I found a bunch of cables, a chamois cloth, an ice scraper and a container of oil.

“Cheers Jon,” I shouted, stepping precariously to the bonnet.

Thanks to some tedious instructions from Jon one Sunday afternoon a long time ago, I clicked open the oil reservoir and waited as the tank greedily drank down the entire contents. By the time I got back into my car, I was absolutely drenched. I waited a few seconds before turning the key in the ignition.

“Yes!” I squealed, observing that the engine light was no longer illuminated.

I drove much too fast to the crew car park, dragged my suitcase out of the boot and legged it to the awaiting bus. Once we were out of the parking lot, I discretely changed my stocking then I brushed my hair enough that it dried a little and slapped on a fresh coat of lipstick. To see me stepping off the bus, one would assume I had all the time in the world but inside, I was experiencing sheer, utter panic.

“Four kilos over,” is not what I wanted to hear when I dropped off my suitcase.

“Can you just keep it for a minute, please. I think I’m too late for check-in.”

Stan the suitcase man bobbed his head in agreement and I swiftly made my way up the stairs, to Crewing.

The woman behind the desk continued to scribble something as I stood, pleading my case on why it was imperative I remain on the trip.

“Basically,” she said, staring at me, with her hands on her ample hips. “You’re too late. I already called somebody out on QRS.”

Those three letters were music to my ears and I wasted no time dashing back downstairs to the payphones.

“Pick up, pick up,” I muttered, my heart racing.

“Good morning, Excelsior…”

“Is that you, Bajet?”

“Yes, who is calling, please?”

“It’s Karen Mc…”

“Oh but of course, I did not recogni…”

“Bajet, sorry, do you know who just got called out for the Antigua trip?”

“Oh, but yes,” she laughed. “He is standing in front of me.”

“Brilliant! Can you put him on the phone, please? Hurry! Please,” I uttered as I heard a slight rustling sound followed by a gruff, “Hullo?”

“Hi, ehm, listen, ehm, I just checked in late for the Antigua trip that I requested months ago with some friends, my bloody car, anyway, sorry, is there any way that…”

“Do what? You asking me to turn me nose up for a fourteen-day trip?”

“I know, I’m sure you can’t believe your luck but the thing is…”

“Luck? You must be kidding, I’m about to slit me wrists.”

“Soyoudon’twanttogo?”

“Nah. It’s the missus’ birfday tomorra and I don’t get brownie points for being away.”

I was so shocked I couldn’t speak. “Besides,” he continued, “I can’t imagine any fink worse than being stuck on an island with no footie on the ole custard and jelly.”

“The what? Oh yeah, of course, the telly. Ehm, can you wait there and I’ll ring you right back.”

I didn’t wait for his reply.

 

Upstairs (this time I ran and someone yelled, “No running in uniform!”) I went, back to surly Shirley at the crew desk.

“You again,” she snarled.

“Yes, yes, listen, ehm, Shirley.” I pronounced her name as sweetly as I could. “I rang the QRS guy you called out and he agreed to let me stay on the trip…”

She took a step back. “Who died and made you the Queen?”

Had I not been so stressed, I would’ve laughed at her expression but time was of the essence.

“I really need this trip.”

She glared at me. “Then you should’ve made more of an effort to show up on time.”

“Please. Please”, I pleaded, in a tone that’d induce some serious eye rolling from me if it wasn’t actually me speaking!

Shirley shook her head and my stomach lurched. “Be off with you, then,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “I’ll have crew transport outside in two minutes. Go!”

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I shouted, over my shoulder.

“No running in uniform!”

 

Back downstairs at the luggage check-in area, my heart in overdrive, I pointed to my suitcase.

“That’s mine right there. I just need to fill in the crew label before you take it.”

“It’s still four kilos over,” Stan stated.

I glanced outside and saw a bus pulling up. I scribbled ANU on the crew label, along with the flight number, just as the bus driver came into the building.

“Antigua?” he yelled.

“That’s me!” I said, catching Stan’s eye.

“Off you go,” he smiled. “I’ll sort it out.”

“Thank you sooooo much!”

 

I boarded the aircraft with the last of the passengers and was met at the door by Seamus, the Cabin Service Director (aka my boss.)

“You’re not Kevin Hanley,” he said, pushing his wire rimmed glasses farther down his nose.

“No, I’m Karen McGarr,” I announced, as calmly as I could muster. “I was on the original roster.”

You’re late, Miss McGarr.”

“Yes,” I nodded. “I’m very sorry.”

“We’ll discuss this later,” he said, trying not to smile. “For your penance, you’re working down the back.”

“Thank you.”

I thought I was going to burst with excitement and relief as I made my way down the aisle, wedged between the tardy passengers, being greeted by Laney as she manned the door.

“You made it!” she mouthed, scrunching up her shoulders and shaking her fists in a gesture of glee.

Of course I did!

 

May 22nd, 1990

May 22nd, 1990

Flight from LHR – ANU

Ramada Renaissance, Royal Antiguan Resort

Deep Bay, Antigua

I can’t believe I actually made it here, after such a nightmare getting to the airport this morning but I’m too tired (and tipsy) to get into it all right now, so it’ll have to wait ‘til tomorrow.

Goodnight from Antigua!