December 31st, 1990

December 31st, 1990

Hilton Hotel, Perth, Australia

Ending 1990 on the other side of the world, in a hotel room, where I’m not alone.

Still fragile from the room party our gregarious Captain insisted upon, even although we arrived at eight this morning (!) I stayed in bed most of the day and didn’t get up ‘til I heard a knock on the door.

I peered through the peephole to see Perfect Penny and my initial reaction was to creep quietly away, until I spotted the plastic shopping bag in her hand, at which point I knew something was “off.” Perfect Penny isn’t the sort of girl to ever be seen in public in possession of a bag with any less status than one designed by a woman named Coco (whose real name, incidentally was Gabrielle.)

As soon as I opened the door, Perfect Penny strode into my room.
“Hey Penny, come on in, why don’t you!” I drawled, my tone snarky.

“Penelope. Please,” she hissed.

She looked pale. “I see you’re still suffering as well.”


“From the room party? You-”
“I must use your loo,” she blurted.

“Be my guest.”

I scanned the room service menu to see if they offered chocolate mousse (they did) and thought I’d order one not only for myself, but also for PP, mostly because I knew there was no way she’d eat it, which brought a smile to my face but that quickly changed when I heard her piercing scream.

“Are you alright, Penny?” I called out.

“It’s Penelope,” she shrieked.


She opened the door and held out her hand, in which she held a stick from a pregnancy test kit. I glanced at the solid pink line and a little sound, indicating shock, escaped my lips.

“It might be wrong,” I stated.

“I hope you’re correct. I shall try again,” she snipped, slamming the door shut.

I paced around the room, the appeal of chocolate mousse suddenly gone, then I heard the bathroom door creak open. “What does that one say?”

PP held out the stick. The result was the same.

“I’ll try another one,” she uttered, this time closing the door, slowly.

“How many do you have?”

“Four,” she whimpered, from the other side of the door.

“I’ll make us some tea,” I offered, because I really didn’t know what else to say.

PP came walking out of the bathroom as though she was in deportment class at finishing school but I could see she was shivering as she sat down.

“Here,” I said, pulling the blanket off my bed, draping it around her bony shoulders. “And I made you a nice cup of tea. Drink it up and I’ll turn up the heat.”

I sat on the bed across from her and noticed her hands were trembling. We didn’t speak for a while until PP broke the silence. “I don’t….I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“They’re all-” I started to ask.

“Positive, yes,” she nodded. “All four of them.” Her voice sounded shaky.

“I’m sure you and Jeremy will figure everything out,” I said, in my most soothing tone.

She stared at the floor. “I can’t tell him. He’ll be furious.”
“Things don’t always go as planned,” I uttered, my mind wandering briefly to a momentous moment in a hotel room in LA just last month.
“I don’t think you understand,” she stated. “Jeremy and I have yet to…explore that side of our relationship.”

My questioning look prompted her to confess. “He thinks I’m still a virgin.”

“Oh,” is all I managed to get out.

“We planned on changing that on our wedding night, so you see, I…I can’t tell him.”

“Shit, Penny.” She glared at me. “Sorry, Penelope.”

“Thank you,” she sniffed, picking up the cup and saucer.

I didn’t know if she was thanking me for the tea, or for using her full name.

The evening arrangement was to meet in the First Class purser’s room at eight, then head to an Italian restaurant close by, where the Captain had reserved a private room. However, as the hours wore on, the reality of PP’s “condition” seemed to take hold of her and she went from being quiet and trembling, to crying hysterically.

She shared with me the entire sordid tale of the passionate affair she’s been having with the man who trains her horse (he’s twenty years her senior, married, with three kids.) He and Not So Perfect Penny have been having it off in the stables for the past six years!

After a few hours of trying to console her, I moved my suitcase off the spare bed and tucked her in. She was fully dressed and didn’t put up a fight, which is when I knew she’d gone over the edge. Within minutes, she was sound asleep, making murmuring sounds that led me to believe she was dreaming of her horse!

I can’t believe I feel sorry for her, but I really do. At some point, I’ll have to inform the Cabin Service Director, but it’ll have to wait, as I know he’s out celebrating with the crew.

Meanwhile, I’m 9,000 miles from home, trapped in a hotel room with sleeping beauty and her bun in the oven, thirty minutes away from 1991.


December 30th, 1990

December 30th, 1990

Night flight from MEL – PER

Short, uneventful stay in Melbourne, now on crew rest, as we make our way to Perth, the place where we’ll bid farewell to 1990, the year in which I travelled to;


Malaga, SPAIN



New York, New York, USA

Montreal, CANADA

Detroit, Michigan, USA


Washington, Dulles County, USA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Toronto, CANADA

Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA

Nairobi, KENYA

Dusseldorf, GERMANY

Kingston, JAMAICA

Amsterdam, HOLLAND


Los Angeles, California, USA


Miami, Florida, USA



Cairo, EGYPT


Seattle, Washington, USA

Vancouver, CANADA



Puerto Ayacucho, VENEZUELA

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Newark, New Jersey, USA

Cologne, GERMANY


Melbourne, AUSTRALIA



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

A total of 21 countries and 376, 279 miles!


December 29th, 1990

December 29th, 1990

Night flight from BKK – MEL

Winging our way to the land down under on this Saturday night, on a plane filled with crying babies that literally haven’t stopped since we left Bangkok four hours ago, which means we have another five to go.



December 28th, 1990

December 28th, 1990

Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Graeme left first thing to operate the flight to Melbourne, which was most welcome as he was just starting to get on my nerves. There are very few people I want to spend heaps of time with and I rediscovered Graeme isn’t one of them but hey, no regrets!

Spent most of the day with Penelope Platt-Balfour (from my crew) who’s make up and blonde chignon looked as immaculate at the end of the day as when we met this morning. Even after hours in the sticky heat, nothing about her appearance faltered. It was ridiculous, I mean, who goes shopping in the markets of Bangkok wearing pearls?

Penelope just got engaged to Jeremy (three carats) and they’re going to live happily ever after in their country house in Hampshire; “We plan to build on a parcel of land Jeremy’s mummy and daddy acquired.” A “Parcel of land,” in Penelope’s world is equivalent to half of Scotland and “Acquire” is posh talk for “Inherit.”

Penelope and Jeremy will have two point two children, named Rupert and Clementine (after her great-great grandmother, the rich old bag who left Jeremy’s Daddy oodles of dosh and “the land,” in Hampshire.)

Rupert (commonly known as Ropes) will play rugby and dabble in archery but he’ll fail to excel in anything, because his Mother will constantly compare him to his younger sister, forcing him to grow up feeling inadequate.

Clementine (affectionately known as Pudding, a name bestowed upon her by her doting Grandmama) with her striking resemblance to the old hag who left all the dosh, will play piano superbly, dance ballet beautifully, sing like an angel, and demand a pony before she can write her name.

Jeremy will continue to “work in finance,” but will fail to notice how much Penelope spends employing the five people who run her, “terribly hectic life.” When the head nanny (“We keep two just in case I manage to conceive again, it’s all been so dreadfully difficult”) loses weight and comes dangerously close to weighing the same as “Mistress,” Penelope will take to her top of the line Range Rover and drive across muddy fields (read as; “all the land we own.”)

During that particular trek, Penelope will devise ways to sack “Skinny Nanny,” before stopping halfway across the field to check her make-up. In the mirror, Penelope will admire her still glossy blonde locks but when she runs her hand across her pale, smooth cheek, tears will begin falling from her beady eyes. Penelope will scold herself for being a terrible person because she knows Skinny Nanny’s weight loss is related to the recent, sudden death of her younger sister.

Penelope’s tears will land on the freshwater pearls (handed down of course) she wore in Bangkok, years ago, during what she still secretly considers the happiest time of her life. A time before Mummy won the argument that, “Only common girls work.”
Ok, so perhaps I’m being a little harsh on Perfect Penny (“It’s pen eh la pee. Please refrain from calling me Penny. Mummy says it’s frightful to shorten one’s Christian name.”) After an entire day of listening to her high-pitched voice, I returned to the quiet of my room but in my head, I could still hear her prattling on about her horse.

In an effort to escape, I ordered far too much food on room service (all gone) then climbed into bed and watched, “A Room with a View,” with Julian Sands, who is much yummier than the three servings of chocolate mousse I mistakenly (yeah, right!) ordered.


December 27th, 1990

December 27th, 1990

Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

So, there might have been a little bit of kissing tonight. Ok, there might have been a fair amount of kissing. Oh alright, I confess, I had a major snog fest with Graeme!

I met Graeme on a trip last year, during which we fell in what I like to call, “trip lust,” which typically occurs in an exotic location, in this case the beautiful island of Bermuda with its pink sand and turquoise water.

Since that trip, there’s been a running joke between us that I continually lost Graeme’s phone number, when in fact I never kept it in the first place!

We met up again tonight in that most romantic (not!) of places, The Toby Jug, which crew seem drawn to like moths to a flame. I only agreed to go because it tends to be the first stop for crew before heading somewhere livelier (and less British!)

I soon realized I wasn’t in the mood for traipsing around Pat Pong in the heat so I came back to the hotel with Graeme, where we sat in the beautiful lobby bar with the huge Christmas tree and piano tunes to match. Conversation flowed as freely as the Mai Tai’s before he walked me to my room, outside which there was that awkward moment of, “Now what?”

Graeme gazed at me in that Christmas lights a glowing sort of way and his eyes sparkled accordingly, which, on reflection was at least eighty two percent alcohol induced but regardless, I’m a single girl, in Thailand, with a cute guy.

Added to which, it’s Christmas!


December 25th, 1990

December 25th, 1990

At home, England

Festive Christmas Day with Florence and her gang, filled with presents and delicious food, including my all-time favourite; Christmas Pudding with Brandy sauce. Oh my!

“Karen love,” Florence uttered, long after the table was cleared. “You must fess up to William.”


“I have a funny feeling he’s going to show up on your doorstep!”

“Don’t be silly, he lives on an island, thousands of miles away from here.”

“I know love, but I just think with him being so keen and reconnecting with you he might make an appearance.”

“He won’t,” I stated.

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

“Don’t worry, he won’t.”

She gave me a questioning look

“I ehm, I gave him a fake address and number.”

“Oh, Karen!”

“I know, I know but, ugh, it was all so weird, with Shelby squealing and me panicking about missing the flight and all that. I was completely caught off guard!”

Her look told me she didn’t agree with me.

“You think I should’ve told him the truth?”

She nodded. “I think you owe it to him to at least tell him the truth about the circumstances under which you met. The other stuff is up to you.”

I sighed deeply. “You’re right. I should tell him.”

She smiled. “Can you write to him?”


“Then I think you should spill the beans and make it clear you don’t want to see him again…unless of course you do.”

“I don’t know if I do or not. I’ve been thinking about the fun we had in Antigua but I don’t know if I’m flattered because he made such an effort to find me or because I really liked him.”

She nodded in agreement. “I think starting with the truth is the first step, then see where it goes from there. At least that way when he shows up on your doorstep professing his undying love, he’ll at least know your real name!”

I came home and penned a ten-page letter that I already put in the post.


December 24th, 1990

December 24th, 1990

At home, England

“Happy Christmas babe,” Ben whispered, nuzzling my neck, as we waited on the platform for the train to arrive.

“Thanks,” I breathed, wishing I could freeze the moment.

“And Happy New Year, hope you get everything you want.”

“You too.”

“I’m sorry I messed everything up with us.”

I pulled away and stared at him in shock, as he continued. “I really am. I wish it could’ve been different.”

“Me too,” I uttered, feeling close to tears.

“But just think, this time next year you’ll probably be married and living happily ever after with lover boy in la la land.”

I choked back the lump in my throat.

“Right?” He asked, expectantly.

“Oh yeah,” I lied. “It’s entirely possible.”

“Course it is, you’ve already met the family, how was that by the way? You never mentioned it.”

“Things you don’t need to know,” I said, burying my face in his shoulder, wishing the train would hurry up.

“Makes me sad to think I’ll never see you again when you move to America,” he said, wistfully.

I cleared my throat but before I could answer he said, “Ah, here comes the train.” He kissed me full on the lips. “Bye babe.”

“Bye, Ben. Happy Christmas.”


No sooner was I home when Pamsy rang.

“Happy Christmas darling.”

“And to you, what’re you doing?”

“Taking a break from helping my mum prepare tomorrow’s feast. I really wish you were here.”

“Sounds-” I started to say, before bursting into tears.

“Oh no, what’s the matter?”

“Everything,” I sniffed.

I told Pamsy about my night of unbridled passion with Ben but that I’d omitted to tell him I split up with David.

“This year hasn’t exactly turned out as planned for either of us, has it?”

“Not in the least,” I sighed.
We continued with our mega chat and I felt much better after we hung up, then remembered I hadn’t told her about meeting Howie and talking to William. I was about to ring her back when the phone rang, making me jump.


“Hey McGarr, fancy a wild night with me and the boys at The Harrow? I’ll even come and pick you up. How’s that for service?”

“As tempting as that sounds, Jon,” I chuckled. “I have to decline.”

“My poor old heart,” he said, leading me to believe he’d already made some headway with the liquid variety of holiday cheer.

“Actually, I was supposed to go to a party in London but I got, ehm, distracted,” I said, failing to elaborate on the reason why.

“Oh,” he uttered, his tone hopeful. “You shouldn’t be alone on Christmas Eve, want me to come over?”

“Nah, that’s ok, my friend Sarah is having a party so I’ll probably just pop over there.”

“Fair enough. Are you enjoying your first Christmas in your new house?”
“To be honest I haven’t given it much thought.”

“Did you put up a tree?”


“Why not?” he asked.

“I’m leaving on Boxing Day, there didn’t seem much point.” Added to which I’ve been put through the love ringer and can’t wait for this shitty year to be over!

“Bah humbug McGarr, bah humbug.”

“Nooooo,” I laughed. “Don’t call me that!”

“Just kidding, anyway Happy Christmas to you. Ring me when you get back?”

“Of course,” I lied.

On reflection, after a painfully boring evening at Sarah’s where everyone gathered in the kitchen moaning about how much they hate their jobs and gossiping about who got fat this year (me!) and who got engaged (not me!) I should’ve made an effort and gone to Annabel’s where I’d no doubt be tipsy on Champagne and giddy at the sight of the hunks she had lined up for me.


December 23rd, 1990

December 23rd, 1990

At home, England

The phone interrupted my floaty dream of the beach and blond floppy hair, but, thinking it might be mum and dad ringing from the airport to say bye, I sprang out of bed and dashed downstairs to answer it.


“Hey you with the sexy voice.”


“That’s the one,” he chuckled.

“As if I could forget.”

“I miss your morning voice,” he breathed.

“I miss yours too,” I blurted. Shit!

“That could be rectified you know.”

“I’m sure it could,” I said, my tone much flirtier than intended.

Stop it! Get a grip!

“I’m free today.”

“Good for you,” I chirped.

“Very funny. Should we keep beating around the bush or do you want to pick me up at the train station?”

“What time?” I asked, grip gone!

“I’m thinking as soon as possible but realistically it’ll be about three hours from now.”

Ample time for you to come to your senses, Miss McGarr!

“Ok, ring me back when you know what train you’re taking.”

“I will. And hey, Karen?”


“I can’t wait to see you.”



December 22nd, 1990

December 22th, 1990

At home, England

Headed straight to mum and dad’s this morning to celebrate Christmas before they head to Spain first thing tomorrow.

We munched on mince pies whilst opening presents and mum was all ears, wanting to know what happened in New York. I wanted to tell her about my chat with William but I still haven’t found the right time to tell her David and I split up. I just can’t seem to get the words out, perhaps because I know she’ll be really disappointed.

Dad helped me load the presents into the car and like me, he hates saying goodbye, so when he wiped away a tear, I pretended not to see.

“Right hen, I’m away to take Tini for a wee walk, enjoy Christmas and your trip,” he said, pushing a wad of cash into my hand.


“It’s fine,” he said. “Use it to enjoy yourself.”

“Thank you,” I said, kissing his cheek.

The second dad was gone, mum said, “You’re awful tight lipped.”

“I’ve been up all night, don’t forget.”

“So, you’re just tired?”

“Uh-huh,” I uttered, getting into the car.

“Did something happen in New York?” she asked.
“A lot happened in New York, it’s the city that never sleeps!”

“You know what I mean.”

“It’s all good, mum.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” I said, straining my neck to receive her kiss on my cheek.

“As long as you’re alright,” she said.

“I’m fine,” I smiled. “Happy Christmas, enjoy Spain, take lots of pictures.”

“Same to you, hen,” she said. “See you next year!”

I probably should have just told her about William but it’s not as if I have any intention of keeping in touch, which is why I gave him a fake phone number and address.