October 19th, 1990

October 19th, 1990

Flight from BKK – SYD

SYD – MEL, as a passenger

Melbourne, Australia

The flight we boarded in Bangkok originated at Heathrow so the majority of the pax were exhausted and somewhat grumpy, which, after being cooped up in economy for thirteen hours, with ten hours still to go, was understandable.

All except for 28H who was full of smiles as I made my way through the cabin during the first drinks round.

“Would you like something to drink?”
“What’ve you got?”

“Soft drinks…”

She screwed up her face in a gesture that said, something stronger?

“Wine? Spirits?”

“Oooh,” she cooed, her face lighting up. “Could you do me a gin and tonic?”

“Absolutely, ice and lemon?”
“Yes, please.”

I noticed her small, bony fingers were slightly curled, arthritis, I suspected. “Would you like me to mix it for you?”

“That’d be lovely,” she smiled up at me. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I smiled back. “Are you heading home or going on holiday?”

“I’m off to see me daughter,” she said in her lovely cockney accent. “And her four granddaughters and me three great grandchildren I’ve never met, plus all the spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends. Sixteen of ‘em altogether.”

“How amazing. When was the last time you saw your daughter?”

“Not since she left London over forty years ago.”

“Wow! I hope you told her you’re coming,” I teased.

She let out a little chuckle. “We’ve been planning this for a long, long time,” she said wistfully. “I was hoping I’d be alive long enough to see this birthday.”

“It’s your birthday?”

“It was when I left London but I’ve been on this ruddy thing for so long it’s probably Christmas by now!”

I laughed. “It’s a long flight, isn’t it? I don’t think I could do it!”

“It’s not as bad I thought it’d be.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I have to press on but once the service is over, why don’t I bring you a nice cuppa and we can have more of a chat.”

“Oh, aren’t you a good girl,” she said, raising her glass in a cheers gesture.

Over tea and carefully “acquired” chocolate biscuits from First Class (thanks Andy!) Mrs. Orion showed me pictures of the family she’s never met. “They’re all coming to meet me at the airport,” she beamed.

“What a reunion you’re about to have!”

“I had better brush me hair,” she chuckled, fingering the thin strands of her hair. “You know, when I was a young girl like you, I had beautiful hair.”

“You still do,” I smiled. “Can I ask how old you are?”

“Eighty”, she proudly stated. “And here I am, on an aeroplane for the first time in me life!”

“No way!”

She nodded, visibly pleased with herself.

“Well in that case,” I said, “we need to get you up to the flight deck for a visit. Would you like that?”

“You’re not pulling me leg, are you?”
“Not at all. Let me go and sort it out, I’ll be right back.”

“Is this the way to heaven?” she chuckled, slowly climbing the stairs to the upper deck, after which she smiled and said hello to every (awake) passenger as she moved down the aisle towards the flight deck. Inside, the guys (female pilots are still few and far between) made a big fuss of her and she had them in stitches with several what she called, “saucy jokes.”

On the approach, I peered out the window and saw the Sydney Opera House for the first time. It looked more amazing from the sky than the pictures in the encyclopedia at home that dad and I still flick through from time to time.

Mrs. Orion waited for most of the passengers to disembark before she came shuffling down the aisle.

“You sure you’re alright?” I asked, knowing she previously refused any special assistance after landing, stating, “I’m not showing up in a wheelchair!”

She nodded yes and took my hand. “I can’t thank you enough,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I made it!”

“You made it,” I smiled, choking back the tears as I bent to receive her kiss on my cheek.

There really is a first time for everything.

 

October 14th, 1990

October 14th, 1990

At home, England

In the time that it took for mum and I to walk Tini around Willen Lake and devour baked potatoes slathered in beans and coleslaw, dad painted my kitchen!

David rang tonight but the eight-hour time change certainly didn’t appear to work in our favour.

“How’s the move going?”

“To quote you, swimmingly.”

I laughed. “Glad to hear it.”

“Yeah, we got everything out yesterday.”

“So where did you sleep last night?” I asked.

“What?”

“Did you sleep at your new place?”

“Oh, eh, yeah, first night. Very cool.”

“How was it waking up?”

“Waking up?” His tone indicated he didn’t understand the question.

“With the new view, how was it?”

“Awesome, yeah, pretty cool.”

“Are you ok? You sound a bit distracted.”

I heard him yawn and couldn’t help but wonder if he was also stretching. Concentrate.

“It’s still early,” he said. “And all I can see are boxes that need to be unpacked. Preferably before the start of another crazy work week.”

When did unpacking become more important than talking to me!

“Then I should probably let you go.” I snipped, hoping my tone would alert him to how unsatisfied I was with the boxes excuse!

“Cool,” he replied. “I guess I’ll talk to you, when?”

“Not for a while,” I sighed, hoping that would rouse him. “This trip is a really long one.”

“How long?”

“Twelve days.”

“That’s not so bad.”

Maybe not for you with all that unpacking to keep you busy!

“Ok so I guess have a good trip and let me know when you’re back.”

“Will do,” I stated.

“I love you honey.”

“I love you too,” I croaked, hanging up just in time for the tears to start.

I’m blaming the paint fumes!

 

October 12th, 1990

October 12th, 1990

Flight from CAI – LGW

At home, England

Call time was three thirty this morning which can only be described as hideous, but on the plus side, with a flight time just under five hours, I was home early. Waiting on the door mat to greet me was the phone bill, the amount of which I responded to with a slew of expletives, all before I’d even removed my uniform jacket!

Driven by my new level of poverty, I went to mum and dads for dinner, over which, the conversation turned to the weather.

“Was it scorching in Cairo?” Mum asked.

“It was on the way to and from the hotel but other than that, I didn’t set foot outside the hotel.”

“Uff, I’d be at the pool day and night.”

“That’s because you’re a sun worshipper.”

“I’m dreading the winter,” she sighed as a look of concern flashed across dad’s face.

“Why don’t the two of you go away for a wee break?” he suggested.

I shook my head. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“My phone bill is eh, pretty hefty, to say the least.”

“Och, well that’s understandable,” mum chirped. “Given how much time you spend on the phone with David.”

“The price of love,” dad said with a little chuckle.

“And worth every penny, right Tommy?”

“Honestly, you two, behave!” I said, trying not to laugh. “What’re you like!”

“Anyway”, mum continued. “Where should we go for a wee bit of winter sun?”

I looked at dad. “Don’t worry about the money,” he said, waving his hand.

“Thanks dad. How about I buy staff travel tickets to say, somewhere in Spain and you and mum pay for, well, pretty much everything else.”

Dad laughed and mum looked eager. “When can we go?”

“I have leave the first week of November, we could go then.”

“What about David?” Mum asked.

“He’ll be in Japan that week. I probably won’t see him now ‘til Thanksgiving.” Just saying it made me sad.

“Spain it is!” Mum said, jumping up off the couch. “C’mon upstairs Karen and help me sort my clothes out for Espana.”

I didn’t have the heart to point out the obvious, like the fact we’re not going for at least another three weeks!

 

October 7th, 1990

October 7th, 1990

Flight from DUS – LHR as a passenger

At home, England

 

I don’t quite know where to begin so I guess I’ll start by saying how much I’m missing David after such an incredible time in Germany.

It was raining this morning, so we had breakfast inside, but with the balcony doors open.

“I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long, long time,” David said, stretching enough that his t-shirt rose, revealing parts of him I find irresistible.

“Glad to hear that,” I smirked. “Can you just do that again?”

“Do what?” he asked. Such innocence!

“That stretch thing,” I said, waving my hand. “Only this time reach higher and slow it down a bit.”

“You’re bad,” he said, leaning over to kiss me.

“Did you have the dolphin dream?”

He looked surprised. “No, did you?”

“I did, actually,” I said in a cocky voice.

“And?”

“There were seven dolphins swimming around us.”

He cracked up laughing and I loved that he got it without me having to explain. “Seven, huh?”

“Actually,” I continued, in the same vein. “It might have been nine.”

“Hmmmmm,” he said, rubbing his chin, in an exaggerated way.

I glanced at the clock and sighed.

“I wish you could stay”, he said, echoing my thoughts.

“As much as I want to ring in sick for the Paris flight tonight, if I do, it’ll mess everything up and I’ll lose the trip I requested to spend Thanksgiving with you.”

“That’s not an option.”

All too soon, we were on our way to the airport.

“You don’t have to come in, just drop me off.”

“No way,” David said. “I’m coming inside with you.”

The desk agent had a stern look to her that didn’t exactly scream Customer Service and with a well- practiced eye roll, she uttered the words one never wants to hear whilst travelling on a staff travel ticket; “The flight is full.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very,” she stated, her tone falling somewhere between stern and evil. “You vil not be travelling to London today.”

“Shit!” I exclaimed, followed with a quick apology as she practically tossed the ticket at me. I looked at David. “I can’t ring in sick, I really can’t.”

“Can you take a flight out of another airport?”

“I, I don’t know,” I stuttered.

He gave me a look that said, “Allow me?”

I nodded yes and stepped to the side as he cleared his throat. He leaned slightly over the counter and said something in German to battle axe lady that actually made her laugh, which in turn made him laugh but I could tell he was faking it. All I understood from the quick exchange was “Dusseldorf.”

Battle axe turned sex kitten hit the computer keys in a frantic fashion, all the while making sounds confirming the reason why German isn’t considered a Romance language.

“Ja,” she breathed seductively, gazing at David as though I had vanished into thin air.

“Danke,” he smiled, followed by words that made her cheeks flush slightly.

“What exactly is happening?” I snipped.

“I’ll tell you in the car,” David said, looking at his watch. “We gotta move it!”

Fortunately, due to the fact David flew into Dusseldorf just the other day, he remembered the way.

“Don’t worry honey,” he kept saying as he bombed down the autobahn. “We’ll get you home in time for work tonight.”

For a myriad of reasons, my insides were churning as we neared the terminal so I told David just to drop me off.

“You sure?”

“Uh-huh,” I nodded, fearing I might cry. “There’s no time to linger.”

He grabbed my bag out of the boot, we kissed and I ignored the immense sadness welling up inside as I quickly made my way towards the entrance. Just as I was about to step inside, David called out. “Nine dolphins, huh?”

I spun around to see him standing with his elbow resting on the car door.

“Actually,” I yelled. “I think it was ten.”

He smiled and blew me a kiss.

Inside, the terminal was packed and I fought my way to the Lufthansa check-in area and joined the long queue. When I finally got to the counter, the desk agent typed in all my information, all the while making small talk (I think!) with the man working next to her.

“Are there many people on standby?” I asked.

“About twenty too many,” she replied in a Northern English accent. I refrained from asking where she was from, but just knowing she spoke the same language was enough to make me continue. “The woman in Cologne said there was space on this flight.”

“There was, until about ten minutes ago. We had a huge group of VIP’s check in, now we’re juggling everybody about to accommodate them.”

“Ugh, so there’s no way I’m getting on this flight.”

She gave me a sympathetic look. “Sorry. The best I can do is put your name on the list for the Air Europe flight. To Gatwick.”

“That’s the only other one today?”

“There’s one to Manchester later.”

“My car is at Heathrow,” I said, feigning a smile.

“Sorry, I wish there was something else I could do.”

The thought of losing the request trip to LA was enough to make me come up with Plan B, so with a freshly paid for phone card, I rang mum and asked her to ring crewing. “Tell them my car broke down but make sure whoever you speak to knows I’m not ringing in sick. I can’t let David down at Thanksgiving.” I knew the mere mention of anything David related would be enough to guarantee mum’s utmost attention!

The prospect of waiting for the flight to Gatwick was depressing so I concocted a fantasy (what else can you do in the airport with three hours to kill when you’re too distracted to read?) in which I made my way back to Cologne. David opened the door. Stretched! Took one look at me, fell to his knees, told me he couldn’t live without me and asked me to marry him! Of course, I said yes and we lived happily ever after (in LA!)

Fine tuning the fantasy details took up a lot of time and before I knew it, I was on the flight, vowing never again to rely on staff travel to get me home in a timely fashion!

I got a crappy middle seat but I knew two of the girls on the crew from my days working with Air Europe so I moseyed to the back galley, where I enjoyed several glasses of Champagne, all whilst giving Ally and Emma the condensed version of why I was in Germany.

Reality once again set in when we touched down at Gatwick and I had to leg it to catch the Gatwick Express to Victoria train station. From there it was two tube rides to Heathrow then finally to the crew car park, where I sighed a deep sigh of relief. Even the thought of a two-hour drive home felt like nothing compared to the eight hours prior.

Rang mum to let her know I made it. She said the woman she spoke to on the crew desk was really helpful, and assured mum that none of my other trips will be affected. I do have to ring crewing in the morning though, so hopefully I won’t be in too much trouble.

I put on some music, made hot chocolate and pondered whether I should unpack or wait ‘til tomorrow but I felt too wired to sleep, so the bag won. At the bottom of it, was a postcard of Cologne Cathedral, attached to a small box, tied with white ribbon. On the back of the card, David had written; “Here’s the first of many. Thank you for the best time ever. I absolutely love you x”

And inside the box, was a Swarovski crystal baby dolphin.

 

October 3rd, 1990

October 3rd, 1990

At home, England

It was nice coming home to a freshly painted bathroom with new floor and wall tiles, all thanks to dad who was a busy bee in my absence.

Picked up Chinese food on my way over to mum and dad’s and after staying up all night and day I expected I’d soon be ready to call it a day, but that was before mum asked if I fancied going to the pictures.

Headed to The Point, where we saw, “Presumed Innocent,” which literally had us hanging on the edge of our seats. Such suspense! Needless to say, we loved it and agree that Greta Scacchi is an absolute knockout.

And now, after being up for thirty-three hours, I’m finally going to bed!

 

October 2nd, 1990

October 2nd, 1990

Night flight from BOS – LHR

Millie just finished crew rest but I have another twenty minutes. She came into the crew rest area laden not only with my favourite chocolate biscuits but several plates of delicious chilled seafood from the First Class galley.

“I’m so glad you got called out for this trip,” I said, greedily picking apart a chunk of lobster tail. “This is the best back to back I’ve ever done.”

Millie laughed. “You’re just saying that because a pilot gave you his phone number.”

“Yeah right.”

“Flight deck floozie,” she said with a wink. “Actually, to be honest with you, I think Richard was really nice.”

“Hmmm,” I mumbled, polishing off the last of the seafood. “He’s only been flying for two years.”

“Longer than you. Did he tell you he always wanted to be a pilot?”

“No, he said he actually wanted to be a footballer but he got some sort of injury when he was a teenager.”

“Oh wow…”

“I know, not exactly the norm for pilots, is it?”

“Not at all,” she said. “Well, maybe if things don’t work out with David you can give Richard a ring.”

“Hey!”

“What?” she asked.

“Things are working out with David.”

“Yeah I know but you know what it’s like with this job and stuff. I can’t even find a boyfriend in the UK let alone manage a long-distance relationship.”

“Yes, but you have issues,” I said, not entirely joking.

“And you’re perfect”, she said in a sarcastic tone.

“Far from it. At least yours are only once a month. Mine are ongoing!”

She laughed. “How much did you want to throttle me?”

I rolled my eyes. “Which time?”

She shook her head. “Guess I had better up my intake of Primrose Oil.”

“Might be a good idea. And just so you know, I’m keeping a calendar so I can avoid you during that time.”

“Good idea,” she said with a little chuckle. “And will you do me a huge favour and let me know a week ahead of time so I don’t leave the house?”

“Deal. Oh and thank you for the yummies,” I said, wiping my mouth. “That went down a treat.”

“It’s the least I could do.”

I’m sitting here thinking about my Nana on what would’ve been her seventy-second birthday. I have no doubt mum has been doing the same and hopefully isn’t feeling upset. The last thing mum needs as we get closer to winter is to dwell on something that makes her feel sad. The darker the days get, the more prone mum becomes to suffering from another bout of what she sometimes refers to as, “the dark tunnel.”

The one place I definitely don’t want to lose her to.

 

September 26th, 1990

September 26th, 1990

At home, England

Tonight, mum and I went to The Point to watch Sarah Ferguson arriving for the Royal Premiere of, “Presumed Innocent,” a new legal drama with Harrison Ford.

Mum insisted on us getting there (in my opinion) far too early so I was surprised to find hundreds of people already lining the entryway. Mum was not at all fazed by the size of the crowd and more or less barged her way to the front (I followed!)

A loud cheer went up when the stately looking car pulled up and an even louder one, when Fergie stepped out, at which point mum leaned into me and whispered, “Her hair looks awful straggly, she should have it up.”

The Duchess of York took her time walking up the red carpet, allowing mum ample time to comment on, well, pretty much everything related to Fergie but I do agree that she looked better in person than she does on tv and definitely much thinner.

“You look smashing,” mum blurted as Fergie walked past. She smiled and said, “Thank you,” with a little wave.

“Och, that was nice of her, wasn’t it,” mum uttered to nobody in particular.

 

Dad feigned interest as mum regaled him with every detail of her, “Encounter with Royalty,” whilst at the same time attempting to continue watching Daniel Day Lewis in “My Left Foot.” He eventually gave up and turned the tv off, which mum took that as an invitation to continue and I had to laugh when she said, “Even with that red hair of hers, Fergie looks better in bright colours. That velvet dress, as lovely as it was, was too dark for her.”

When I was getting ready to leave mum said, “Thanks for coming with me, hen, I really enjoyed it.”

“Me too, mum,” I said, kissing her cheek. “It was fun.”

“I just have to say though, Fergie’s nice but she’s no a patch on Diana.”

I nodded in agreement as mum gave my cheek a little squeeze. “And Diana’s no a patch on my lassie,” she said, smiling widely.

Ah, mum.  Always my biggest fan.

 

September 25th, 1990

September 25th, 1990

At home, England

It’s not even nine o’clock but I’m already in bed, trying to ignore the sound of my growling stomach and the hunger pangs accompanying it.

My current fantasy revolves around meeting David at the airport in Germany, where he takes one look at me, steps back and remarks, “Wow, Karen, when did you get so thin?” At which point, I’ll smile and wave my hand in a gesture of, “Oh please,  I always look like this.”

In order for said fantasy to be fulfilled, I need to lose one pound per day for the next eleven days, which will take me down to eight stone. In David’s language that’s one hundred, twelve pounds, in mine it means I’m skinny.

This afternoon, in another attempt to avoid eating, I went to the pictures and saw, “I Love You To Death,” a very cool black comedy with William Hurt, who I find incredibly appealing. River Phoenix was also in it and he’s not too shabby either, but given the choice (like that’d ever happen!) I’d pick Mr. Hurt.

Shit, I’m hungry!

 

September 23rd, 1990

September 23rd, 1990

At home, England

The best thing about being at home is picking up the phone and dialing my favourite place in the world.

David’s “Hello,” was all it took to make me want to crawl through the phone.

“Hey sleepy,” I uttered. “Is this too early for you?”
“No way! This is the best way to wake up,” he said in his sexy morning voice.

I imagined him in bed, stretching. Concentrate. Concentrate.

“Did you have a late night?”

Please say no and that you’re tired from staying up late reading “War and Peace.”

“I guess, well, ah, I don’t know.”

“Oh.” Keep it together McGarr. Be cool. “Did you go out?”

“Yeah we had an awesome night, we…”

“We?” Cool! Be cool!

“Yeah, Elizabeth’s here for the weekend. Did you forget I told you she was coming?”

“Oh, Elizabeth. Your sister Elizabeth!”  Not some gorgeous tanned, toned girl called Claudette, with long dark hair and green eyes who does bikini modelling “just for fun” because being a lawyer can be “soooo tedious!”

“Where’d you go?” You two. Brother and sister. Not you and Claudette!

“To our favourite sushi place.”

“Where’s that?” I asked.

“You know, the place in Bel Air. Our favourite sushi place.”

“Oh, I thought you meant…”

“Ours, honey. Our favourite.”

My hand instinctively reached for my heart.  Ours. He said ours. “How was it?”

“As usual, the food was amazing. I mean, that place, wow, right? We talked about you for most of the night.”

“You talked about me? To your sister?”

“Yeah, she said she cant’ wait to meet you. I think you two will hit it off.”

Result!

“I can’t wait to meet her either.”

“I’m thinking Thanksgiving.”

“When’s that?”

He laughed. “November. It’s always the third Thursday in November.”

“Oh, it might be too late for me to request leave but…”

“I’m just throwing it out there, so hopefully we can figure something out. It’d be awesome for you to come and meet everybody.”

“Like who?”

“My folks, my sister. Some random family members, friends, you know, holiday stuff. Besides, you need to come and see my new place.”

“When are you moving in?”

“Hopefully before I leave for Germany, which is kindofa crazy goal but I think I can swing it. And you are gonna flip when you see it. Front row baby!”
I laughed. “Bang smack on the ocean, can’t beat that! Ugh, just saying that makes me homesick for LA.”

“Now that’s funny. You being homesick for a place you’ve never lived.”

Yet.

“Guess we got a lot to do, huh?”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, we do.”

Especially now that we have a favourite restaurant and you want me to meet your family.

 

 

 

 

September 15th, 1990

September 15th, 1990

Night flight from LHR – JNB
After hanging up with Ben yesterday I was sorely tempted to ring in sick but my next trip is with Millie and my life wouldn’t be worth living if she found out why I wasn’t on it.

So, here I am, on crew rest as we wing our way to one of my least favourite places.

I guess I’m still learning how to take the good with the bad.

Ugh!