February 27th, 1992

February 27th, 1992
New Hampshire, USA

I’m twenty-five today! William turned thirty a few days ago and our wedding is two days away!

Unfortunately, William is feeling quite poorly. He caught something during the last patrol through Haiti and he thought he was better but this morning he was so sick, his Dad (super sweet) went to pick up Mum and Dad and brought them here for breakfast, which was soooo yummy!

Dad has fully recovered from the trauma of his first transatlantic flight so hopefully now, with his fear of flying conquered, there’ll be no excuse for him not to come and stay with us when we buy a house on Cape Cod.

The two sets of parents appear to be getting on very well together, which, considering we’re about to become related, is a good thing! It’s been quite nice having everyone around the table (minus William who spent all day in bed.)

 

February 26th, 1992

February 26th, 1992
New Hampshire, USA

Lizzie and Tommy have arrived in the U S of A and the motel they’re staying at is right out of a Hitchcock movie! Mum and Dad are the only guests and the old boy working “reception,” which consists of a shelf and a bench, asked if they’re local, which, given my parents have broad Glaswegian accents is pretty hysterical.

The Taj Mahal (Dad renamed it!) is located right off the main road at the bottom of a slope nobody bothered to shovel. Dad joked if they’re going to be staying there (they are!) he’ll need extra whisky to help him sleep.

This is Dad’s first time in America and my parent’s first time meeting the guy I’m marrying a few days from now!

 

February 25th, 1992

February 25th, 1992

New Hampshire, USA

I knew it’d be freezing here but I wasn’t quite prepared for how cold it actually is. I’m thinking the heels I brought to wear with my wedding outfit won’t be suitable for snow and I might be better off with something along the lines of fur lined wellies!

William met me at the airport yesterday and unlike me, he’s not the sort to kiss in public or show affection so there was no snogging or lingering, welcome hug. Instead, he was all about, “Getting on the road,” which, I found annoying, considering we were only going to his parents. So much so, in fact that we didn’t talk for the first hour, until my stomach deceived me and started growling, which is when I caved in and asked if we could stop for something to eat, to which he replied, “No.”

Denying me of food is on par with declaring war so I got all huffy and started on about how annoying he was being, blah blah blah. Anyone else on the receiving end of such would probably retaliate in some way, but not William. He just ignored me and kept driving.

Fuming (and starving) I told him if I didn’t get something to eat fast, I’d faint which I see now, was a tad melodramatic! What William failed to tell me was that we were very close to his Mum and Dad’s, where a feast, and some of their friends awaited us.

 

February 24th, 1992

February 24th, 1992

Flight from LHR – BOS, as a passenger – Somewhere over the Atlantic

I slept through the alarm and woke up with the phone ringing. Hoping Mum would answer (Dad was at work) I stuck my head under the pillow but Mum’s voice wafted up the stairs, to my room. Feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, I rolled out of bed and shuffled my way downstairs, checking to make sure Mum was out of ear shot as I picked up the receiver, fully expecting Ben to be on the other end.

“I thought you were going for the early flight!” Pamsy boomed.

“Ugh, keep your voice down,” I groaned. “My head is pounding.”

“Oh no!”

“What?”

“Did you change your mind about going?”

It took my mushy mind a second before registering what she meant. “No, of course I didn’t change my mind, I just overslept, that’s all.”

“By about three hours!”

“Shit, I had better ring William and let him know I’ll be on the later flight.”

“Karen’s in trouble,” Pamsy sang.

“Oh well, he should probably know who I am before he marries me!”

Pamsy chuckled. “I still can’t believe you’re getting married! Your Mum sounds so excited, bless her, oh and make sure your Dad takes lots of pictures.”

“I will.”

“Good luck my lovely, I’ll be thinking of you.”

I felt the lump forming in my throat and croaked, “Thanks Pamsy.”

“Aw, now you’ve got me crying,” she sniffed. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me!”

“I’m not leaving you, I’m just getting married.”

“To a guy I haven’t met who lives three thousand miles away,” she blurted, before blowing her nose. “What will I do without you?”

“You’ll come and visit! Besides, I won’t be moving to the States until all the immigration stuff is sorted and that’ll take ages.”

I waited while she blew her nose again. “When you say ages, do you mean years?”

“Maybe one.”

“So, I still have you for a little while,” she sighed.

“Pamsy, we’re best friends. You’ll be stuck with me forever!”

 

February 23rd, 1992

February 23rd, 1992

At home, England

Tomorrow morning, when I board the flight to Boston, I’ll probably regret having had so much to drink tonight but as the saying goes; “Live and let live!”

Absolutely fabulous night here at home, thanks to Mum and Dad who arranged for everyone to come and celebrate my last night here as a single girl! Fresh from the most incredible trip to Kenya, I don’t know how Mum mustered the energy to shop and cook. I wasn’t supposed to know about the party, so I couldn’t offer any help! Dad did a brilliant job keeping everyone plied with booze and music that kept us on our feet most of the night.

I probably shouldn’t write any of this next bit but I feel I need to, if only to get it off my chest. I was shocked to hear Ben’s voice on the other end of the phone this morning. “I wanted to catch you,” he said, “before you jet off to Disney.” Hearing that immediately got me riled up and I knew I should hang up but I didn’t.

“Don’t be obnoxious,” I said. “I’m not going to Disney!”

“Disney. America,” he huffed. “Isn’t it all the same?”

Mum came home just as I was leaving and as usual she asked where I was going. I muttered something about getting some last-minute things to take to the States. I didn’t want to lie, nor could I tell her the truth, so I just sort of left it at that.

I drove to Willen Lake, where I’d arranged to meet Ben so we could, “Go for a walk and talk about stuff.” All the way there my stomach was churning from a mixture of guilt, excitement, nerves and who knows what else.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot I’d worked myself in a right old state and my hands were shaking. Gripping the wheel, I uttered; “I shouldn’t be here,” over and over again, before hesitantly and slowly reversing out of the parking spot, all the while half hoping Ben would show up, forcing me to stay.

Halfway home, I thought about going back but I knew the consequences of my reckless behaviour could be dire. Not necessarily for me.

 

February 22nd, 1992

February 22nd, 1992

Flight from NBO – LHR

In the past few days, Mum and I visited a snake farm, fed giraffes, ate buffalo, danced with my crew at Simba bar, enjoyed a picnic at the base of the Ngong Hills, shopped at various markets, witnessed thousands of flamingos at Lake Nakuru, visited a local school with (founder!) Thor, enjoyed tea in Karen Blixen’s garden and watched the sun setting over the Rift Valley.

This trip will be forever etched in my memory but now, it’s time to fly home and enjoy the surprise pre-wedding party I’m only aware of because I overheard Mum dishing the details to Thor!

 

February 21st, 1992

February 21st, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Over dinner last night at Carnivore, the conversation turned to travel, giving Mum the perfect opportunity to rattle off the countries we’ve visited. Thor agreed with Mum that Hong Kong is captivating but he has yet to make it to Australia, which is surprising, since it appears he travels extensively.

With no idea who Thor is or what he does, I made a sneaky call to Ian (our Captain) who promised he’d, “do a spot of investigating,” prior to Mum and I meeting Thor. It probably helped that Thor is staying at the same hotel, hence the reason for Ian’s prompt return phone call. Apparently, Thor is a regular guest at the hotel and has, “multiple business holdings in the area.” From the info Ian managed to garner, he said he felt assured that it’d be safe for us to venture out with Thor but just as an extra precaution (true to the nature of a Captain) he arranged to be in the lobby when we were due to meet Thor!

Back to dinner (which I have to say was hugely entertaining) where Thorasked if I have “a special someone.”

I nodded. “Fiancé.”

“Niiiice,” he drawled. “Any wedding plans?”

“Yes,” I smirked. “One week from tomorrow!”

Wine shot from Thor’s mouth, narrowly missing Mum by about an inch! Poor guy looked absolutely mortified as he dabbed at his mouth, then the tablecloth, all the while apologizing profusely.

Getting back to the conversation, Thor asked Mum what her future son-in-law is like and this time, he looked like he was about to fall off the chair when Mum nonchalantly replied; “I don’t know, I’ve yet to meet him.”

Thor’s response came out sounding as though Mum didn’t understand English.  “You haven’t met the man your daughter is marrying?”

“Tom and I will meet him next week.”

With Thor’s gaze firmly on me, he shook his head. “You know, I thought eating buffalo or ostrich would be the craziest thing about tonight, but….but…here you are, so close to your wedding, on a different continent!”

“And loving every second,” I retorted.

“Shouldn’t you be in Scotland making plans?”

Preparing to savour the moment, I smiled my biggest smile. “The wedding isn’t in Scotland. It’s in America.”

“Oh…this…story,” he uttered in his lovely accent, clutching at his heart in such a way it had me wondering if he was doing it as a joke or not.

“You must start at the beginning,” he smiled. “But first, some Champagne.”

 

February 20th, 1992

February 20th, 1992

Shuttle from NBO – DAR – NBO

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Easy flight to and from Dar es Salaam, with light passenger loads and a short flying time. The worst thing about it was getting up in the middle of the night but the flip side was being back in time for breakfast, which Mum and I enjoyed on the tiny balcony.

“What do ye think of Thor?”

“He seems nice,” I replied, popping a chunk of chocolate croissant in my mouth, giving Mum the perfect cue to speak.

“I think he’s smashing, ye know ye canny beat a friendly guy with a good sense of humour. I woke up thinking about the flamingos, wasn’t that something else yesterday, I’ll never forget it. And to think their pinkness comes from eating shrimp! Did ye hear me asking Thor how much shrimp cocktail I’d have to eat in first class before I turn pink? Och, it’s lovely being in the sun isn’t it and I know ye don’t think the hotel is anything special but I think it’s fine and I have to say, everybody I’ve met has been very friendly. What did ye think of Karen Blixen’s place? Wasn’t it magnificent? I felt like we were on the set of Out of Africa. D’ye remember the scene where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep fly over the flamingos, och I just love that, especially now I’ve seen it all for myself. Oh and that bit when she reaches back and he takes her hand. What a handsome man he is. Never seems to age, mind you neither does she. I can see why Karen Blixen spent so much of her life here, it really is a very special place and quite amazing to think of all the animals roaming free, och, it’s just fantastic. I’ll be sad to leave, won’t you? Oh, and I’ve been meaning to ask, what do we wear tonight to, what’s the restaurant called again?”

“Carnivore.”

“That’s some name for a restaurant, eh? I hope they don’t have giraffe on the menu!”

“You eat meat, Mum, what’s the difference?”

“Aye,” she uttered, turning her attention to the strips of bacon on the plate. “But the giraffes are special.”

At a loss for words, I drained the last of my tea and enjoyed the short-lived lull, interrupted by a knock at the door that startled Mum. “Who’s that?”

“No idea,” I shrugged, pushing back the plastic chair. “As hard as it is to believe, I don’t yet possess the ability to see through doors!”

“Don’t be cheeky,” Mum grinned, smacking my leg as I went to answer the door.

When I stepped back onto the balcony, Mum had her face turned to the sun.

“Lookie here,” I said, handing her the giant box of chocolates with a scene of the Ngong Hills. The other package was wrapped in flamingo gift wrap but first Mum opened the chocolates. I chuckled at the sight of the animal shapes within. “Yum,” I said, reaching for a giraffe as Mum tore the paper from the package and asked if it was from Thor.

“Uh-huh,” I nodded, swallowing what was left of the giraffe. “He had someone deliver them but yes, they’re from him. There’s a little card, see? Says he’s looking forward to having dinner with us tonight.”

Mum held up the book she’d just unwrapped. “Recognize her?”

“That’s the woman we met at the giraffe centre. She’s a writer? Let me see.”

I quickly scanned the author blurb. “They call her the giraffe lady. Oh, wow, she’s one of the founders of the giraffe center, along with her husband Jock. That must be him on the front cover with her. And that must be Daisy, the giraffe they raised, what a great book title; Raising Daisy Rothschild.”

Mum seemed more interested in the chocolates so I continued reading. “It says they live in a home designed as a Scottish hunting lodge, called Giraffe Manor.”

Mum peered over at the book cover, her expression one of approval. “He looks quite handsome, doesn’t he? We probably should’ve agreed to have tea with her!”

 

February 19th, 1992

February 19th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

My first instinct this morning, when the alarm shrilled, was to roll over and go back to sleep, but I knew Mum would be disappointed if we missed the tour I booked through the hotel late last night.

Waiting bleary eyed in the lobby for the guide/driver to arrive, Mum struck up a conversation with a young Dutch guy who gave her a run for her money in the talking department. With the beginning stages of a caffeine deficient headache and no sign of the driver, I went in search of tea, which thankfully I managed to find, along with a generous bag of pastries, for what I expected might be a long, bumpy ride to Lake Nakuru.

I stepped outside to find Mum and the Dutch guy sitting in a van that looked like it had seen better days. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I stepped into the heap of metal, where it soon became apparent we were the only tour goers.

The driver, whose name was Ansel, slid the door shut and when he did, the handle came away in his hand! For some reason, Mum and the Dutch guy found this hysterically funny and even more so when Ansel held the handle to his ear like a phone and pretended to look perplexed when there was, “no answer.” With the handle sitting on the dashboard, we set off and next thing I knew, Mum was shaking me awake.

“Look,” she beamed, pointing outside, to where a sea of pink populated the lake.

I was first out of the van, followed by Mum and we strode (after checking with Ansel it was safe) arm in arm, to the water’s edge, where thousands of flamingos moved effortlessly, their extra-long legs managing to find space in the shallow water.

“There’s sooo many of them,” I sighed in wonderment.

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” Mum sniffed, a few stray tears rolling down her cheeks.

Once we’d had our fill of the flamingos we headed back to the van, where the Dutch guy remained in the back seat. Catching his eye, I watched his mouth move into what appeared to be a sincere smile.

“Aren’t you interested in seeing the flamingos?”

His smile grew wider. “Something special for you and your Mother to experience together.”

“Oh,” I uttered, with a nod of thanks.

“I’m Thor,” he said, extending his hand.

“Karen,” I said, reaching over the top of the seat to shake his hand. “Would you like a pastry?”