February 17th, 1992

February 17th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Taking my jump seat this morning for landing, all I could think about, as I looked down over the vast Kenyan plain, was the theme music to one of my favourite films; “Out of Africa.” I’d say Mum and I have seen it at least a dozen times and after I surprised her with a ticket to join me on this trip, we watched it again!

Mum got caught up in the throng of arriving passengers and Ian, the Captain, suggested the crew go ahead to the hotel, while he waited with me. At least an hour went by before Mum appeared, gushing over the “fantastic flight,” and how much she enjoyed being on the flight deck for landing.

Once in the taxi, headed to the hotel, I rested my head against the window and finally gave in to my weariness. Mum and Ian continued to chat like old friends while I dozed on and off, the symphonic sounds of John Barry’s romantic soundtrack floating through my head.

 

February 16th, 1992

February 16th, 1992

Flight from LHR – NBO

It’s crew rest time for me, with a cup of Earl Grey and a few delectables, pinched from the First Class galley, where Arianna and Aidan (sweet names for twins!) are working diligently, taking care of the VIP passengers, in particular, one Elizabeth McGarr, who is lapping up not only the attention but every morsel of fine food placed before her!

Seated in 1B, Mum was all smiles and looked right at home. We had a very quick chat but it goes without saying we have to be careful not to broadcast the fact Mum is travelling on a staff travel ticket I paid just over one hundred pounds for. The true cost of the seat Mum is occupying is at least thirty times that amount! Yes, First Class travel is exorbitant but oh, those chocolate biscuits!

 

February 11th, 1992

February 11th, 1992

Night flight from BOS – LHR, as a passenger

Homeward bound, but in a sense, I feel like I now have two homes, albeit three thousand miles apart.

Those incredible but too short days with William were really what I needed and I’m leaving with a much better sense and acceptance, not to mention excitement, of the commitment we’re about to make to each other in just over two weeks, arghhhhh!

I know two of the girls on tonight’s crew, hence this very nice seat in 3A! I’m very aware that the time will come when I’ll no longer have access to such perks so I’m going to make the most of them while I can. I don’t know the exact price of a First Class ticket from Boston to London but not even halfway through the flight, I suspect I’ve already exceeded it, with the amount of Champagne I’ve consumed!

 

February 8th, 1992

February 8th, 1992

Night flight from JFK – LHR – Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

We’ll be landing at Heathrow in just over three hours and shortly after that I’ll be boarding yet another flight back to America, only this time as a passenger.

I woke up feeling a little groggy so I forced myself to go out for a walk but with it being so cold, it wasn’t long before I was back at the hotel. I crawled into bed and turned on the tv but I find American tv so annoying with ads what seems like every few minutes, so I shut it off and picked up my book (The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, so good!)

I couldn’t seem to concentrate and found myself reading the same line over and over so I gave up on that and thought I’d try and sleep off the tequila induced headache which wasn’t quite bad enough to be considered a full-blown hangover.

After a short stint tossing and turning I gave up on the notion of a nap and took a very long way too hot shower. With the headache gone, I felt a little more with it and considered popping down to the deli for tea and a muffin.

Perching on the edge of the bed, I slipped on my ankle boots and jumped when the phone rang.

“Shit,” I mouthed, expecting it to be notice of a delay to the flight but instead, it was Christopher. He said he was jealous of my clear head and vowed never to drink tequila again! We chatted for a little while before he had to go and meet Laurie off the train. She lives in Connecticut so they only get to see each other at the weekend. Reading between the lines, I sometimes get the impression their relationship is quite formal in the way they communicate and spend their time together but who knows.

By the time we hung up, I’d lost interest in going out so I thought I’d ring the apartment and check the answering machine for any messages (one of perks of being in the States.) Expecting to hear my voice on the recorded message, I almost fainted when William answered! Seems there was a change to the itinerary, although I don’t think that’s what they call it in the Coast Guard! William will be home for a few days before heading back out to sea, so I’m going to spend my days off with him.

Flying across the Atlantic twice in less than twenty-four hours will no doubt leave me feeling wrecked but it’ll be worth it to spend some time with my soon to be husband. Writing that leaves me with a big smile on my face.

 

February 1st, 1992

February 1st, 1992

At home, England

Home late last night from an amazing trip to Buenos Aires, a city I found to be joyful and refreshing, filled with suave men and sensual women who dance the Argentine Tango like there’s no tomorrow. The food was incredible and the crew mostly young, so all in all it was a great trip.

Woke up to a blue-sky morning and my first thought was of William and where he might be. I know the Coast Guard boat he’s on is somewhere around Haiti, a place I’ve never been. I can’t imagine rescuing people from the sea is any picnic but he never talks about his work so I don’t know how he really feels about it.

Over breakfast, I asked Mum if anyone called while I was away. Typically, I don’t get a chance to ask as she usually gives me a rundown within ten minutes of me walking through the door. I don’t think anyone realizes how exhausting life as crew is. Flight time home was just under fourteen hours, plus two hours before the flight takes off, then a two-hour drive home, after finally locating my car in the staff car park!

The second I asked if anyone rang, Mum stuffed a large piece of toast in her mouth, a sure indication that there was something she wasn’t keen on telling me. I busied myself with the eggs on my plate and talked about the trip but as soon as Mum got up from the table, I asked again. With her back turned to me, she uttered, “Ben.”

I made a feeble attempt at feigning surprise. “Oh, when did he ring?”

“The day you left on your trip.” She said, practically tossing her plate into the sink, filled with soapy suds. I watched her shoulders rise and fall and knew I should leave it at that but I had to know more.

“Did he leave a message?”

“Aye, something about you getting back to him.”

“Oh, ok,” I stuttered. “Ehm, did he say anything else?”

“Just that he was surprised you were away.” She turned and waved her hand in the direction of the table, my cue to clear the dishes and stop asking questions.

Mum washed, I dried and we didn’t speak until everything was put away.

“Thanks, hen,” she smiled, her usual demeanor back in place.

“No problem,” I said, wondering if I could get away with just one more question. She took my hands and squeezed them. “Are you nervous?”

“About what?”
She laughed. “Did you forget you’re getting married four weeks from today?”

I shook my head, a wave of sadness washing over me that I still can’t explain.

“C’mon upstairs,” she urged, “I’ll show you what I’m thinking of wearing to your wedding.”

 

January 26th, 1992

January 26th, 1992

At home, England

Had I written this a few hours ago, I’d be crying, commenting on the huge pit in my stomach and how conflicted I feel but now the tears have subsided and my stomach is free of the flock of birds I felt sure were flying around, but the conflict, ah, the conflict remains.

It poured all day, which only seemed to compound the sense of loneliness I’ve been feeling knowing I can’t talk to William since he’s somewhere out at sea. By late afternoon, Mum had clearly had enough of my moping.

“Fancy going out for a wee drive?” She said, her perky tone matching her expression.

“Not really,” I pouted.

“C’mon,” she said, slapping my leg. “Dad’s watching some war film on the telly and I could do with getting out for a wee while.”

“Where would we go in this weather?”

“The pictures?”

The thought of eating and not talking was more than appealing. “Yeah, ok,” I responded. “I think Frankie and Johnny is still playing.”

“Is that the one with Al Pacino?”

I nodded, adding, “And Michelle Pfeiffer.”

“Och, don’t tell Dad that,” Mum chuckled. “Otherwise he’ll want to come with us!”

The film was great and like the sap I am, I cried at the end, then we followed the throng of moviegoers out, in the direction of the lobby, which is when I spotted Ben and Mandy heading in our direction. Mum was in full animation mode, cooing over Al Pacino, her hands moving in time with her speech as I locked eyes with Ben, whose pleading expression mirrored my sentiment.

Stopping abruptly, Mandy thrust the giant tub of popcorn into Bens hands and disappeared into the loo. I knew I should sail past him and ignore him but with his back to the wall, one foot resting against it, he grinned and literally stopped me in my tracks.

Mum, still clearly caught up in her off-screen romance with Al, continued walking and talking.

“Hey you,” Ben uttered once Mum was out of earshot.

“Hello,” I croaked. “What’re you seeing?”

He held my gaze and spoke slowly. “A love story.”

“Oh, I haven’t heard of-” I stopped, quickly catching his drift. “I think you’ll like it.”

“Did you?”

“Uh-huh. The music’s beautiful.”

He tilted his head back in a way I remembered all too well. “What’s this I hear about you getting hitched?”

A nervous sounding laugh escaped me and I felt my cheeks flush. “Yep! Five more weeks!”

That grin again. “Here?”

“No. America. Very excited,” I gushed, glancing nervously at the loo door for any sign of Mandy.

He leaned in so close our cheeks brushed. A sensation of pleasure and guilt shot through me and my pulse began to race. “I miss you,” he whispered. “A lot can change in five weeks.”

My stomach somersaulted and I felt hot and cold, all at the same time. Mandy’s imminent return and Mums wrath combined to make me step back but all I really wanted to do was fall into him and allow nature take its course.

“I..I have to go,” I stuttered.

“Ok,” he smirked. “I’ll ring you tomorrow night. We need to talk.”

I didn’t tell him I’ll be in Argentina.

 

January 19th, 1992

January 19th, 1992

San Francisco, California

I think to most people, California conjures up images of sunshine, palm trees, endless beaches and movie making, but I just came back from grabbing some tea and a muffin at the little place next door and I’m chilled to the bone! So much so that I jumped back into bed and piled on the extra blankets I found in the wardrobe.

We arrived yesterday afternoon and I managed to stay up ‘til ten last night which, considering we’re eight hours behind UK time, was pretty good. Still, no matter how late I stay up on this side of the world, I always wake up at some ridiculous hour feeling groggy and ravenous, hence the jaunt to the coffee shop!

Hopefully it’ll warm up today as a bunch of us are catching the boat over to Alcatraz.  Anna from my crew said it’s very eerie and the stories will make me shiver! I’m looking forward to seeing the place where Al Capone spent a chunk of his life but first, I might have to buy a coat!

 

November 4th, 1991

November 4th, 1991

Night flight from BOS – LHR, as a passenger

“Maddie!” Frankie beamed, the second she spotted me stepping onboard, motioning for me to follow her. Instead of taking a right, in the direction of the seat number stated on the boarding card, I followed Frankie through the curtain, to the First Class galley.

“Have you just been to see William?” she said, giving me a huge hug.

“Yes!”

“I knew it!” she said. “You’re glowing. Wait here a sec.”

She strode into the First Class cabin and tapped the Cabin Service Director on the shoulder. He turned his attention from a seated passenger to Frankie, leaned into her whisper and glanced in my direction. He grinned, nodded yes and I held Frankie’s gaze as she sauntered through the cabin, back towards the galley.

“Result,” she mouthed, quickly stepping aside to make room for a young couple. “Good evening and welcome onboard.” Her demeanor was all business as she checked their boarding cards. “Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Starbuck, may I take your coats?”

While they unfurled their scarves, and unbuttoned their matching camel coats, Frankie chit chatted with them, her air professional but friendly. Once they’d entered the cabin she gave me a coy look. “As for you, my lovely, I got you the best seat in the house and you know what that means.”

I gave her a questioning look.

“Bubbles, lots and lots of yummy bubbles. Now follow me please, Miss McGarr.”

 

October 16th, 1991

October 16th, 1991

35,000 feet, somewhere over America

I’m supposed to be on a flight to Toronto but halfway down the M25, my little red car started making sputtering noises, followed by spurts of loss in power that forced me to drive in the slow lane, resulting in me missing the briefing.

 

Shelia in crewing, more commonly known as “the most evil of them all,” gave me a right rollicking and said I’d have to “Take the matter up,” with my fleet manager, who, at that very moment, appeared!

“Nice to see you, Karen,” Brianna smiled. “Where are you off to?”

I began to explain my plight, but Shelia interrupted me. “I told her she’d have to see you.”

Brianna looked confused. “Why?”

“Because shewas late.”

“Car troubles can’t be helped,” Brianna shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry too much. I’m sure you have another trip for Karen.”

Shelia drummed her fingers, feigning a sudden bout of hearing loss.

“Shelia?”

“What?”

“Is there another trip you can stick Karen on? I’m sure she doesn’t want to hang around here on standby all day.”

“As it happens, I do have something.” I could tell from Shelia’s gleeful tone I was headed somewhere awful. She made sure I was looking at her when she sneered, “Lagos.”

“Lovely,” I lied, my heart sinking. “Thank you, Shelia.” For absolutely nothing!

Stretching her lithe frame over the counter, Brianna pointed to the screen.

“Would you look at that, Shelia,” she said, straightening up. “I’ve been guilty of making the same mistake.”

“Mistake?” Shelia hissed. “What are you on about?”

“L o s and l a x. It’s easy to see why you confused them.”

“But, but-” Shelia stuttered.

“Be sure to let Karen know the details,” Brianna said in an authoritative tone, before turning to leave.

“Bye, Brianna,” I said, not daring to look at Shelia, intently taking out her aggression on the poor, innocent keyboard. “Catch,” she growled, tossing the freshly printed roster in my direction. I grabbed it, gave her my biggest fake smile, turned and uttered, “Los Angeles, here I come!”

 

 

October 5th, 1991

462F70E0-657C-4810-874F-7D0CFF6CB7ACOctober 5th, 1991

Hotel InterContinental, Sydney, Australia

Aside from the fact we’re ten and a half thousand miles from home and nine hours ahead of GMT, life in the land down under instills a sense of being on the other side of the world.

One of my favourite things about coming here is spotting the Sydney Opera House on approach, as I take the jump seat and buckle the safety harness. According to one of the passengers, it was opened in 1973 by the Queen to much fanfare, which, given it took 14 years to build, is understandable!

Another thing I love about landing in Sydney is the palpable sense of excitement that sweeps through the cabin. Many of the passengers are coming to reunite with long lost family or in some cases, unite with family they’ve never met, which probably explains the reason I’ve witnessed more tears and hugs in that terminal than anywhere else in the world.

Today, I got to see the Opera House from another vantage point; the water. Sailing past the stark white million plus roof tiles, with the sun glinting, I forgot how jetlagged I am.