February 16th, 1991

February 16th, 1991

Night flight from BDA – LGW

Spent most of the day poolside, under the shade of an umbrella, watching in amusement as Ava swanned around the pool, her Rubenesque figure swathed in a pastel coloured creation that took on a life of its own anytime the wind kicked up!

“We really must stop meeting like this,” Graham said as I looked up from the sun lounger.

“Given our line of work, that might be difficult,” I smiled. “And I take it you’re off to Tampa?”
He nodded. “You have my number, right?”

We have a running joke that I lost his number, based on the fact I never ring him.

“Somewhere, yes,” I laughed, sitting up.

“I’d love to take you out for a drink at home sometime, you know, like normal people.”

“But we’re not…” I started to say, just as Ava appeared in a cloud of billowing polyester.

“Graham dahling,” she gushed, leaning in for a kiss. “I do hope you’re securing a date with Miss McGarr.”

“I’m trying,” he laughed.

“Try harder,” she said, lightly smacking his arm. “And as for you Miss McGarr, don’t forget what I said about the boat,” she winked, before slinking her way in the Captain’s direction. Graham gave me a quizzical look. “What’s that about a boat?”

“Just a few words of wisdom,” I shrugged.

Some people really suit being in uniform and Graham is definitely one of them. He smiled at me in such an appealing way that for a second, I thought I might ask if he’d be interested in being my guest at Lorna and Klaus’s wedding.

“What?” he said, grinning.

I waved my hand dismissively. “Nothing. I hope the Tampa shuttle goes well, with no delays.”

“You’ll be gone by the time I get back, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Can I give you a kiss goodbye?”

“No kissing allowed in uniform,” I laughed.

“You’re not in uniform,” he grinned, bending towards me. I expected a peck on the cheek but he went for a full mouth kiss, taking me totally by surprise. “Ring me,” he whispered.

 

February 15th, 1991

February 15th, 1991

Flight from BDA – TPA – BDA

Hamilton Princess Hotel, Bermuda

Tea and toast this morning with Tessa and Ava (at this point, I barely remember the names of my fellow crew members!) where Ava held court from the comfort of the couch, informing us quite sternly that we, “Mustn’t miss the love boat.”

“What do you mean?” Tessa asked, sounding oh so innocent!

“Come a little closer, my sweet girls. I want you to listen very carefully. If you should happen to meet a chap, I mean one who holds your attention, grab onto him with both hands, and leave British Airways. Immediately! Am I making myself clear?”

Tessa yawned, but not wanting to appear rude, I nodded yes.

“You mustn’t end up like me,” Ava stated, looking wistful. “I missed the boat a very long time ago and I deeply regret never having married or having children. You must, are you listening Tessa?”

“Uh-huh,” Tessa uttered, picking at her chipped nail varnish.

“You must,” Ava continued. “And I mean must, pay attention to every opportunity life presents, most especially where love is concerned. I’ve found, sadly, that the boat sometimes sails only once.”

I think Ava has a point. I can already see how fast times flies (ha!) and how easy it’d be to reach, say, forty and turn around, wondering what on earth you’d been doing all those years. I’ve already discovered how quickly one trip falls into another but I think if you want to build a life with someone, the first step is being open to the possibility, which I believe I am, regardless of how shitty that’s proved so far!

This afternoon, we operated the shuttle to and from Tampa, where Ava refused to leave the aircraft, spending the turnaround time in, where else, but the First Class cabin. I suspect the last time Ava ventured through the curtain was decades ago, if ever! With the cleaners and maintenance people working around her, she had them eating out of her hand, tending to her every need!

Tessa invited Ava and I, as well as the guys to her room for drinks tonight and I had to laugh when Graham told me he and Elliott borrowed the ties they wore last night,  from Alan (what is it with these “senior” crew and their trip wardrobe?)

Alan was hanging on Ava’s every word and they enjoyed reminiscing about, “the good old days,” where it seems flying was much more glamorous and as Ava is fond of saying, “Civilized.”

Sitting next to Graham on the couch, he asked if I’ve ever met anyone like Ava.

“Never! She’s one of a kind, don’t you think?”

“Most definitely,” he nodded as I caught Ava’s eye.

“Don’t forget what we discussed dahling,” she cooed, from the other side of the room. “Sometimes it only sails once.”

Don’t worry Ava, I won’t forget.

 

 

February 14th, 1991

February 14th, 1991

Hamilton Princess Hotel, Bermuda

Met Ava and Tessa first thing and caught the ferry to the Southampton Princess Hotel, were, I imagine due to the overcast day, we were the only three people on the beach.

Tessa kept whining about the weather as Ava and I busied ourselves building sandcastles, when, out of nowhere a ridiculously tall guy appeared, asking if we were enjoying the day.

“Very much so, monsieur,” Ava cooed, gazing up at him. “Of course, the day would be complete if, say, a dashing man were to perhaps find us some lovely chilled bubbles to enjoy.”

“At your service, miss,” he smiled widely, holding out his hand. “The name’s Linky.”

“Ava,” she breathed, seductively, before turning her attention back to our poor excuse for a sandcastle.

“Who the hell is that?” Tessa asked from her horizontal position on the sun lounger.

“I have absolutely no idea,” Ava shrugged.

 

Linky returned with two bottles of Tattinger, an ice bucket, flutes and a handful of snacks.

“Why only three flutes Monsieur Linky?” Ava asked, cocking her head.

“My love for the bottle cost me two marriages and damn, those dee vor sis are expensive,” he chortled, in an accent I couldn’t quite place.

“Understood,” Ava stated, plunging her hand in between her ample bosom, from which she pulled a stack of notes. She blew on a one-hundred-dollar bill, before holding it out to Linky. “A small token of my appreciation.”

“No need,” he smiled, waving his hands dismissively. “The pleasure is all mine.”

For the next hour or so, Linky and Ava had Tess and I in stitches with their back and forth banter, chuckling as though they’d known each other forever. Then, all of a sudden, Linky stood up and said he had to go. He kissed Ava’s hand. “I hope to see you again,” he said, before making his way up the hill, towards the hotel.

On the ferry back, Ava said she suspected Linky might be one of the hotel owners and asked if Tessa and I would like to join her in her room for dinner. I was seriously in the mood for a quiet night in my room but didn’t have the heart to say so.

“I’d like you both to dress for the occasion.”

“What’s the occasion?” Tessa asked.

“Dahling, please,” Ava sighed, looking disappointed. “I didn’t get a furry heart for Easter, you know!”

I tried not to laugh as Tessa, clearly oblivious, continued. “I don’t have anything special to wear.”

Ava gave me a questioning look.

“This is it,” I said, motioning to my shorts and casual top.

“Then you must both come to my room.”

Hanging in the wardrobe in Ava’s room, were at least half a dozen dresses.

“Take whatever you desire my sweet girls, and I won’t say no to a very generously poured g and t.”

Tessa took the bait as I thumbed my way through the beautiful dresses (none of which I suspected would fit Ava!) settling on a green silk, flowy number.

“Your turn,” I said, moving aside for Tessa, who promptly found a red silk sheath.

“You’ll find an assortment of accessories in the drawer,” Ava smiled.
Dinner was planned for eight and Tessa and I arranged to meet beforehand to pick up some goodies. I was waiting for her in the lobby, swathed in the green dress, when the new crew arrived. I quickly scanned the weary faces and smiled when I spotted Graham.

“Well, well, well,” he said in greeting. “What’s the occasion?”

“Dinner.”

“With?”

“One of the pursers.”

“Lucky guy,” he whistled.

“Actually, it’s a woman,”

He shook his head. “You’re a real mysterious one.”

Just then, Tessa appeared, and, as I suspected, she looked stunning in the red dress.

“I’ll be right back,” she mouthed.

Graham looked at me in bewilderment.

“It’s a long story,” I offered, continuing with our small talk, before Tessa returned with her friend Elliott, from the newly arrived crew.

“You two ought to join us later in Ava’s room. Come by around, say, ten ish,”

she said, glancing at me for approval. “Trust me dahling,” she laughed. “Ava will love it.”

 

On our way to the gift shop, our heels clip clopping on the tile floor, Tessa grinned. “Graham’s not too shabby. What’s the deal?”

“It started as a trip fling that, incidentally, began right here, in this hotel.”

“Ava will devour them,” she laughed. “They don’t stand a chance!”

In the gift shop, we bought chocolates, then spent an exorbinent amount on two bottles of Champagne from the hotel bar. However, when we handed Ava the gifts it was worth every penny to experience her reaction (after her “butler for the evening,” opened the door to us; yet another member of staff poached from the hotel!)

“My dahlings, my beautiful, sweet girls,” Ava gushed, in between her high demands for, “More Champagne Ramos dahling, ahhhh, thank you. Can I keep you?”

Ava insisted that the man who delivered the room service dinner join us for, “a lively glass of bubbles.” He said he couldn’t, but Ava somehow managed to convince him he absolutely could!

Classical music was playing on the radio, and Ava threw the balcony doors open with such gusto, I thought she and her long pink chiffon dress might go hurtling outside!

“I hope you don’t mind Ava,” Tessa began sheepishly, “but we invited some friends for drinks later.”

Ava lowered her heavily mascaraed eyelashes suspiciously. “Here? Who are they?” she demanded. Tessa cleverly slipped the words, “Nice looking men,” into her sentence and all was well in Ava’s world again.

Right at ten pm on the dot, there was a knock on the door, which amused me no end because I knew Graham would be right on time. When I met him for the first time two years ago, his timing had amused me no end.

We were expecting only Graham and Elliott, but they showed up with their Cabin Service Director, Alan, a man I suspect to be as “mature,” as Ava. The three of them were dressed smartly in shirts and ties and they brought chocolates for each of us, as well as flowers for Ava, who was in her element and wasted no time flirting outrageously with each of them.

“How clever you are, amazing Alan,” Ava grinned, her fingers firmly pressing his shoulder as he found a radio station playing tinny sounding sixties music. “Now we’re really strolling down memory lane. Come along you sweet young things, dance with me!”

It’s now 0540, and Graham just walked me back to my room. Last I heard, he was going out with another crew member so I asked if he was still seeing her. Looking at me with his come-hither look, which I have to say is not entirely unappealing, he shook his head and uttered, “It ended very badly,” but I still didn’t invite him in.

 

 

February 13th, 1991

February 13th, 1991

Flight from LGW – BDA

Hamilton Princess Hotel, Bermuda

This pale pink hotel is, by far, one of the nicest we crew stay in and it’s exciting to think that in less than a month, I’ll be back to attend Lorna and Klaus’s wedding.

We arrived to a beautiful, sunny afternoon and on the crew bus, Ava, the First Class purser sat behind Tessa and me and joined in our conversation. According to our Purser, Ava’s nickname is Lady Lace due to the fact she insists on covering the FC galley and cabin in various what she calls, “enhancements,” because, “Life is so much prettier in lace!” I doubt British Airways would be thrilled to learn their award-winning First Class silver service comes adorned in lace doilies, but I suppose when you’ve been flying as long as Ava you can get away with anything.

Ava asked Tessa and I if we’d like to join her for “a spot of window shopping,” so we made our way along Main Street, with Ava oohing and aahing at the array of window boxes outside every pastel coloured building. Outside a shop painted sun yellow, a girl was handing out chocolates so I stopped to take one.

“Let’s take a peek inside,” Ava suggested, so we stepped into what I presumed to be a chocolatier, heaven on earth for sure, but once inside, I realized we were in no such place.

“I’d like to get my lady bits waxed in the shape of a heart, in honour of Saint Valentine,” Ava cooed to the girl behind the counter.

Tessa’s mouth dropped open and I turned my back so Ava wouldn’t see me giggling.

“I shan’t be long dahlings,” Ava smiled, as another girl led her into one of the treatments rooms.

Tessa and I took a seat on the plush couch in the reception area and browsed through several brochures offering all manner of cosmetic procedures. The only sound we could hear, aside from the calming music, was Ava’s booming voice.

“Make it a little smaller dahling, that’s it, a nice little furry heart.”

“Furry heart?” Tessa mouthed as I popped another chocolate in my mouth, nearly choking on it.

“Girls? Girls?” Ava called. “Would you care to see the masterpiece Marcia has created?”

I immediately fell into a fit of giggles and couldn’t speak.

“Uhm, no thank you, Ava,” Tessa managed to say. “Thank you for the lovely offer though!”

“Ok my dahlings, I shan’t be long.”

Ava reappeared, looking rather chuffed with herself. She noisily pecked Marcia the heart maker on each cheek before pressing a wad of cash into her hand.

“Beautiful dahling, just beautiful.”

Back at the hotel, Ava invited us to her room for, “A civilized drink. Nobody bothers to take the time anymore. I find it all rather depressing.” In Ava’s room, a woman, donned in the uniform worn by hotel staff, was unpacking her suitcase and ironing!

“Thank you my sweet,” Ava gushed as the woman smiled and continued with the task at hand. “Dahling, would you mind terribly if I took the liberty of asking you to procure two bottles of the very finest bubbles room service has to offer?”

“My pleasure,” the woman, whose name tag read, “Ali,” smiled.

After the first cork was popped, Ava said, “Gosh, Ali dahling, please do put down that dratted iron and come join us in a little celebration.” With the second bottle empty, Ava managed to acquire two more, over which she regaled us with tales of her thirty plus years of flying, slipping in the fact she has a Rolls Royce, complete with, of course, a chauffeur!

“A woman driving is so terribly common, wouldn’t you agree, dahlings?”

By the time I left Ava’s room, I felt more than woozy and the prospect of a relaxing evening seemed more than appealing, all until Ava rang to remind me she was treating the entire crew to “An early lovey dovey supper in honour of Saint Valentine.”

 

February 9th, 1991

February 9th, 1991

At home, England

Very lengthy chat to William tonight, which means a very ugly phone bill! He’s off to Barbados tomorrow on a work trip, which, as the snow falls outside my window, sounds pretty nice.

 

February 7th, 1991

February 7th, 1991

At home, England

Millie rang first thing and the second I realized it was her, I regretted answering. It would be really nice to know who’s ringing so you can see if you want to answer or not!

“Who are you with?”

“Why are you asking that?”

“Your voice,” she said. “It’s different.”

“I just woke up,” which was actually true.

“Are you with Richard?”

“Richard?”

“You’ve already forgotten him?” she shrieked.

“No, of course not,” I uttered, feeling flustered. “No, Richard isn’t here.”

“Well unless William flew in from Antigua to surprise you or David decided he’s straight, I can only guess it’s bloody Ben but please tell me I’m wrong.”

“You’re wrong.”

“Oh good, then who’s there?”

“Ben,” I said, quickly holding the receiver far from my ear, awaiting the onslaught. Not hearing a thing, I tentatively put the phone back to my ear, which is when I heard Millie chuckling heartily, which in turn made me do the same.

“You are a lost cause!” she said, through the giggles.

“Yes, I am,” I nodded, still laughing.

“You know, one of these days one of you will get married and that will be the end of this…this….what would you call it?”

The phrase true love swam in my head but there was no way I was about to jeopardize Millie’s good mood.

“Sickness,” I said. “This mad, twisted sickness I suffer from where he’s concerned.”

“Don’t say that,” she said, surprising me. “I think what you two have is true love.”

“You do?” I said, sounding as surprised as I felt.

“Uh-huh,” she uttered. “They say the path of true love is never smooth.”

“I can’t disagree with that!”

Millie chuckled, something she rarely does. “Anyway, I have to go and get ready for work.”

“Where you off to?”

“LA.”

My stomach lurched.

“Sorry,” she uttered. “And I’m sorry for what I said about David. I know that’s still a sore point for you.”

“It’s fine,” I lied. “But do me a favour. If you see a blonde guy surfing, bop him on the head and tell him it’s from me!”

“Hmmmm, finding a blonde sufer in LA might prove difficult.”

“Try your best,” I laughed.

Before going back upstairs, I made two mugs of tea, a pile of buttery toast and grabbed a box of Jaffa cakes.

 

 

 

 

February 6th, 1991

 

February 6th, 1991

At home, England

I was up early this morning for my hair appointment at Braids, during which Tracy asked if I had anything special planned for the day.

“Nope!”

“Poor planning,” she tutted. “You should always have somewhere decent to go after you get your hair done.”

“That’s good advice,” I nodded. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

I popped into River Island in the hopes of getting some ideas for an outfit to wear to Lorna’s wedding next month, but nothing struck my fancy. Feeling slightly despondent, I thought I’d go and see Susan at work, before heading home.

Susan is perfectly suited to her job at Milton Keynes shopping centre and when I stepped into the office she was showing a woman in a wheelchair a map of the vast area, sweet and considerate as always. When I caught her eye, she smiled widely and gestured, “just a minute.”

“Hello, Karen love,” she said, as we hugged hello.

“Looks like a busy day for you.”

“As always,” she said. “You just missed Ben.”

The mere mention of his name made my stomach twist.

“I did?” I said, hoping for more info. “Is he just here for the day?”

“I think he’s staying over, you know what he’s like, you never know with him.”

I laughed. “That’s for sure.”

“He said he was heading to John Lewis to look at shoes,” she grinned, reminding me how much Mother and son resemble each other.

“Well maybe I’ll run into him,” I said, desperate to make a make a mad dash for the door but not wanting to appear rude. Fortunately, a couple came into the office, giving me the perfect excuse to leave.

“See you later,” I mouthed.

“Bye love,” Susan said, turning her attention to the couple.

I practically ran to John Lewis, slowing down only when I reached the men’s shoe department, where I spotted Ben, sitting in the corner, surrounded by shoe boxes. His posture indicated defeat but when he looked up, his wide smile matched Susan’s and I felt my heart do the little flitter flutter thing.

“Fancy meeting you here,” I laughed.

“You’re just in time,” he grinned. “I need help!”

We flirted heavily as Ben decided on two pairs of not inexpensive shoes, before asking if I fancied, “finding a nice country pub so I can buy you lunch to say thanks.”

We ended up in Olney, in the epitome of a country pub, complete with low beamed ceilings. We talked and laughed nonstop and by the time we left, it was dark!

“We should just stay for dinner,” Ben joked.

“Don’t you have to get home?” I asked, hoping for an answer that would make me happy.

That was seven hours ago and I’m too excited to sleep but knowing Ben is in my bed is enough to make me go back upstairs and crawl into bed beside him.