August 21st, 1990

August 21st, 1990

Flight from Caracas to Puerto Ayacucho as passengers

Some Dodgy Hotel, Venezuela

At five this morning, I met Millie, Dolly and Nigel in the lobby and a short while later, we boarded an ancient looking DC-9 that arrived (via San Fernando) in the capital of the Amazonas state.

Juan, our tour guide, met us at the tiny airport terminal and drove us to the boat that would take us up the Orinoco River. I wasn’t expecting a yacht but neither was I expecting the miniscule boat we crammed into, with Juan at the helm, insisting we wear bulky lifejackets that only added to the discomfort already felt by the heat.

The slow pace up the river felt serene until it became apparent that Nigel’s role was to stop Juan from falling into the water, anytime he dozed off! Nigel is one of the nicest guys ever. He’s the sort of chap that, even if you do something wrong, will take the blame and insist it’s not your fault.

“I don’t expect you got much sleep last night,” he said to Juan, after the umpteenth time saving him from drowning. “Perhaps it’s time for a short break?”

With Millie, Dolly and me shaking the boat (raft!) with our uncontrollable laughter, Nigel helped Juan guide the boat under the shade of towering trees, where sloths moved above us. What strange but cute little creatures they are.
“I feel a bit like that at the moment,” Dolly uttered, knocking us into another fit of giggles.

Only Nigel was brave enough to eat the unsavoury looking chunks of chicken (debatable) Juan offered, as we girls ate only rice and not nearly enough of it.

“We’re going to die of hunger,” Millie groaned, sounding as lackluster as I felt.

After “dinner,” Nigel took on yet more responsibility, aiding Juan anytime the engine cut out, which seemed like every few minutes but allowed us to stay on the river long enough to witness a spectacular sunset which would’ve been much more enjoyable had we not been so ravenous.

“I am not staying here!” were Millie’s first words after Juan dropped us at the hotel, to which Nigel calmly responded; “It’s only for the night.”

The so called “shower,” is a hand-held unit but the bracket that used to house it is broken off, along with the piece of the wall it was attached to, leaving a gaping hole to the outside! There are spiders and huge black bugs everywhere, some of which are already dead. And I’d prefer to be at the other side of the jungle when Millie discovers there’s no lock on the bedroom door!

We’re beyond starving so Nigel went in search of food and just returned looking rather apologetic.

“It appears we’re too late but the good news is, breakfast will be served at eight.”

Too bad we’ll be dead by then, Nigel!

Ah, but to prove that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining, Millie just produced a bottle of vodka from her rucksack with the same dramatic flair, a magician would, a bunny from a top hat.

Or maybe I’m just delirious!

 

January 23rd, 1990

January 23rd, 1990

Flight from LHR – JED – DOH

The Oasis Hotel & Beach Club, Doha, Qatar

I was five minutes late getting to TriStar House this morning, where I was greeted by the scornful wrath of Helen, on the crewing desk. She was so annoyed that I fully expected her to say she was taking me off the trip (which would not exactly have made me cry!) but she obviously knew the best punishment would be to send me here.

On a positive note, Doha is dry, so with no alcohol in sight it’ll give me a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep. We made a quick stop in Jeddah today, which always makes the duty day feel much longer but that’s not why I’m knackered.

Just as I was about to leave the house yesterday, Jack rang.

“Sorry I had to cancel on Sunday.”

“I take it you’re feeling better?”

“Much better,” he said. “Back at work today.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“What are you up to?”

“I’m just getting ready to drive to Hampton Hill.”

“Hampton Hill? What’s in Hampton Hill?”

“Three very good friends. And a flat. Where I’m spending the night.”

He laughed. “Sounds like a big night ahead.”

“I don’t expect it to be, I have an early morning check in, hence the…”

“Oh, so you’re free tonight?”

“Ehm…”

“Hampton Hill’s my neck of the woods, I could meet you for a drink.”

“You live in London!”

“You know what I mean.”

I laughed. “You’re nowhere close to where I’m going.”

“I can be.”

“Ok, let’s meet for a drink,” I said, surprising myself.

“Where?” he asked.

“I don’t know the area that well and I hate driving in new places, so..”

He laughed. “Don’t worry about that, just tell me where you’ll be and I’ll come and pick you up.”

That’s how it started; an incredible night in London with Jack, the guy I had no desire to kiss not even two weeks ago, when I feigned food poisoning just to get away from him!

And now, after our lingering kiss by the bus stop outside the flat last night, I can’t wait to get home and do it all again.

 

December 25th, 1989

December 25th, 1989

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Christmas day started out with Frankie bouncing on my bed, in an effort to wake me but unbeknownst to her, I’d been awake for ages and had already gone down to the lobby to ring home.

With the time difference, it was still Christmas Eve at home and mum sounded a bit down and said it was a different kind of Christmas but that she and dad were planning on making the most of it. After I told her David rang, she sounded much perkier!

There wasn’t much time for Frankie and I to exchange gifts before having to get into uniform and meet our crew. I got the impression several of them had been up all night, no thanks! On the crew bus, Captain Alan started singing, “Good King Wenceslas” and we needed no encouragement to continue.

One passenger didn’t show up for the shuttle to Manila and unfortunately he had luggage in the hold which had to be offloaded. It took the baggage handlers absolutely ages to locate the suitcase, after which we expected to be on our way to the Philippines.

There was an issue with the aircraft flaps and the passengers had to be offloaded! The crew stayed onboard and we gathered in the First Class cabin while the engineers tended to the problem at hand.

With satisfactory flaps (!) the passengers came back onboard and right as we were about to taxi, we found out we’d gone out of hours! If we operated the flight to and from Manila (three and a half hours each way) we’d exceed the number of duty hours we’re legally able to work in a day.

Much to the passenger’s dismay (that’s a serious understatement!) an announcement was made, more or less saying, “You won’t be seeing the Philippines today!” At that point I really felt sorry for the passengers and all the disruptions they experienced, more so since it’s Christmas.

Off we went and to add insult to injury, Captain Alan broke the news that he’d received a message from London saying we’d be staying in KL for an extra few days. That news dampened everyone’s spirits and there was no singing on the way back to the hotel.

In an effort to cheer us up, Captain Alan invited everyone his room. I told Frankie I wasn’t in the mood to go but she reminded me that it’s still Christmas, so, off we go again!

 

 

December 21st, 1989

December 21st, 1989

Night flight from AUH – KUL

Presently on crew rest, which on the Boeing 747-400 is heavenly. There’s an entire area at the rear of the aircraft, accessed only by crew, with a row of seats and bunks upstairs.

Super cute baby on board called Rupert. He’s travelling with his two sisters and parents who seem a bit overwhelmed with three young kids. I took the three of them to the flight deck for a visit, which the girls loved. Captain Alan spent ages talking to them and was very patient. Needless to say, the parents were happy for the break and were very thankful.

Arrived in Abu Dhabi at four this morning and within an hour we were dancing in the Safari disco! Our circadian rhythms are now shot to pieces with no hope of regaining any sense of normalcy but none of us seemed too concerned about any of that while we strutted our way around the dance floor!

Viking Man (phew, he really is gorgeous) was in Safari and his eyes lit up when he spotted Frankie. They were cutting some serious moves on the dance floor and it was nice to see Frankie enjoying herself so much. They’re really good together, so much more than that obnoxious Sammy.

We left Safari around seven this morning, slept for a few hours then went to the souk. Bought more goodies and wilted even more than in Singapore so it was back to the air- conditioned room for a very quick nap before call time.

Next stop, Malaysia (again!)

 

December 19th, 1989

 

December 19th, 1989

The Westin Stamford Hotel

Singapore

I was so concerned about Frankie that I kept the adjoining room door open and throughout the night, I popped in and out to check on her, like one would, a baby. Each and every time I found her in a different position which reassured me enough to stumble sleepily back to bed.

Just as I was finally dozing off this morning, Frankie came bounding into my room.

“Darling! Are you awake?” she screeched.

Eh, no. I’ve been up all bloody night keeping an eye on you! I didn’t say that of course but I certainly wanted to.

“Sweetheart,” she continued. “Why is there a wheelchair in my room?”

I sat up and stared at her. “Are you serious?”

I filled Frankie in on the reason for her new mode of transport and when I was done recounting the latter part of the evening’s events, she covered her mouth with her hand and giggled like she was twelve again. I tried desperately to maintain my scornful expression but watching her laughing so hard made me do the same.

“Ok, that’s enough,” she said, trying to compose herself. “We have to get ready.”

“For what?”

“Gam is coming to pick us up.”

“No way.”

“Waaay,” she said in a fake drawl.

“No. I. Am. Not. Going. Out.”

“You have to come with us, Gam has the day all planned for us.”

“Sorry but no. I really need to sleep.”

“Party pooper,” she said, blowing a raspberry.

“That’s me,” I said, gleefully crawling back under the covers.

 

Sleep was blissful until Frankie returned and blasted the radio. The adjoining door was open and I poked my head in.

“Frankie? You there?”

“Darling!” She exclaimed, making her way towards me with her arms outstretched.

“Why are you all dressed up?” I asked.

She hugged me tight. “We’re meeting the crew in twenty minutes.”

“Oh no! I thought I’d only been asleep for a little while.”

“Guess you needed it.”

No shit, Frankie!

 

Frankie omitted to tell me Gam would be joining us and he looked slightly bewildered when everyone started showing up in the lobby.

“Who’s he?” Sarah whispered.

“His name is Gam. He’s a friend of Frankie’s. He lives here.”

Sarah snickered when I shrugged my shoulders.

 

On the Captain’s recommendation, we made our way to Fatty’s restaurant. The sleeves of Frankie’s dress were covered in pale pink feathers and each time Alan (our Captain) turned to talk to her, he pretended to sneeze. Sarah, Matt and I were walking behind them and couldn’t stop laughing but Frankie seemed oblivious and just kept talking.

Dinner with our entire crew was most enjoyable, a great bunch for sure and I think the fact we’re spending Christmas together prompted everyone to make an appearance tonight.

After dinner, most of us went to the Top Ten club, where Sammy and his bodyguard (oh, please!) were inside. The second Sammy spotted Frankie, he made a beeline for her. Sarah gave me a questioning look and gestured towards Gam.

“No idea,” I shouted.

The music was loud so we couldn’t hear what was being said but Frankie and Sammy’s body language told us everything we needed to know!

Frankie made her way over to Gam and Sarah and I watched Frankie telling Gam he had to go. And he did. Just like that, he made his way towards the exit and once he was gone, Sammy beckoned for us to follow him to what appeared to be the VIP area. Inside the ropes, we lounged in armchairs with tiny lights inside. Even the Captain joined us!

The champagne (courtesy of Sammy) flowed and we were all in very good spirits. I joined Sarah and Matt on the dance floor, just in time for the chorus of, “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” We sang in a way that pretty much guarantees we’ll have no voice tomorrow.

I can definitely relate to that song!

 

December 15th, 1989

December 15th, 1989

At home

Went shopping with mum and felt sad knowing I’ll be away for Christmas (on a trip with Frankie that will, no doubt, be very interesting!) Mum mentioned more than once that Christmas won’t be the same without not only me around, but also Nana.

I have lovely memories of helping Nana wrap our gifts, then feigning surprise when I opened mine on the day.

“It’s just what I wanted,” I’d say, laughing.

“I’m so glad you like it, hen,” Nana would say, avoiding eye contact with me for fear of cracking up laughing.

I do feel bad I won’t be here, especially this year, where things have been difficult for mum and dad but more than ever I know it’s time for me to move out. I’ve been thinking about Christopher’s offer of helping me get set up somewhere in New York in an apartment that I’d rent (no way could I afford to buy there.) I still love the idea of buying a place in France but New York captures (and holds!) my attention unlike anywhere else and I can imagine “popping in,” to see Christopher (the only person I’d know in New York!) on my days off.

I know plenty of cabin crew who commute, ok maybe not to New York but with the short flight time, I think I could make it work.

 

December 6th, 1989

December 6th, 1989

Night flight from MCT – RUH – LHR
Presently relaxing in 1A, which, with the exception of a spot on the flight deck, must surely be the best seat on the aircraft. Surprisingly, there are no passengers in the First Class cabin, hence the upgraded crew rest area, which is most appreciated, especially after the two hour delay we encountered leaving Riyadh.

Rang home first thing this morning to see if mum had returned from Scotland but there was no answer. Next, I rang Catherine’s room but no reply there either.

About an hour later, there was a knock on my door. When I peered through the peephole I was somewhat pleased to see that Catherine had been reduced to a tiny, round blob.

“Morning,” I said, opening the door.

Walking right past me, she asked, “Can we order room service?”

“Hi Karen,” I said cockily. “How are you? Did you sleep well? Yes I did actually, thank you for asking Catherine.”

“Sorry, so sorry,” she yawned. “I’m absolutely ravenous.”

“Don’t tell me lover boy didn’t feed you.”

“We were otherwise occupied,” she chuckled.

“Catherine! Didn’t you just get engaged?”

“Engaged, yes. Married, no. Let’s order some nosh first, before you start lecturing me.”

Without asking what she’d like, I picked up the phone and ordered a ridiculous amount of food.

“You’re an angel,” she breathed.

“Unlike you.”

“I can’t seem to help myself,” she said, making herself comfortable on my bed.

“Don’t you love your fiancé?”

“Of course I love him.”

“Then why did you sleep with, eh, what’s his name?”

“I knew what was in store and I simply couldn’t resist.”

“Perhaps you have impulse control issues,” I said. Or maybe you’re just a slut, I thought.

Catherine propped herself up on her elbows. “I simply cannot have this conversation until after breakfast,” she said, in such a dramatic way, it made me laugh.

“Fair enough. By the way, what is lover boy’s name?”

“You mustn’t laugh.”

“I can’t agree to that until you tell me his name.”

“Witton.”

“It’s unusual but not terrible.”

“It means farm, by the wood.”

“How on earth did you find that out?”

“How do you think?” she asked, sitting up.

“Catherine, last night you couldn’t even remember his name and now you know the meaning of it? At what point did he choose to share that little nugget with you?”

Grinning wickedly, she said, “About four o’clock this morning.”

 

December 4th, 1989

December 4th, 1989

Flight from LHR – MCT

Hotel Inter Continental, Muscat, Oman

Flight time was just under eight hours but we were chocka so no crew rest. Lovely passengers, albeit very demanding, with one very sweet older woman who reminded me of Nana. Needless to say, she was very well taken care of, so much so in fact that she remarked it was her best flight ever and right before she disembarked, she gave me a huge hug and told me she’d been back in the UK to bury her sister. Took everything I had not to burst into tears and it reminded me that you never know what someone is going through.

Ben rang while I was still at home this morning, asking when I’ll be back. “In a week,” I said, which is a lie because I’ll be home in a few days. Granted, we just had the most fantastic few days together but that doesn’t mean I’m going to allow myself to fall into my old habits and act like a fool. I have no intention of doing that again. Not ever. Not with anyone.

We arrived in Muscat just before seven tonight and most of my crew arranged to meet in the hotel bar but I wasn’t in the mood for socializing. I feel really sad about Nana and thought my time would be better spent alone, writing.

After we left Scotland for England eight years ago, I didn’t get to see Nana as much as I did growing up but she still spent every Christmas with us and I made sure to get up to Scotland to visit as much as I could. Plus, we talked on the phone frequently and wrote all the time. I’m finding it hard to come to terms with the fact I’ll never see Nana again. Or even talk to her. Somehow, that part feels worse than knowing never seeing her again.

It’s two in the morning and I’ve been cocooned in this lush, ridiculously comfortable bed for hours on end. As usual, I’ve already used up every scrap of hotel stationery, most of which is now strewn across this giant bed. Ah, I’m in total bliss!

Needless to say, some of what I wrote has to do with Ben. I actually wrote a letter to him earlier but after I read it, I tore it up. I know I need to step away from him. I don’t think I’m ready just yet to let go completely but I think I’m getting close.

 

November 22nd, 1989

November 22nd, 1989

At home

Just got off the phone with Annabel, which is always an experience.

“Have you heard the news?” she asked.

“What news?”

“The near miss.”

“Sorry Annabel, I’m not following.”

“Miss McGarr, where have you been?” She didn’t pause to let me answer. “You haven’t heard about the Jumbo that came so close to the Penta hotel on landing that it set off the car alarms?”

“Shit, no. When did that happen?”

“Yesterday.”

“What airline?”

“The world’s favourite, of course. I wouldn’t be interested if it wasn’t ours.”

“You really are too much, Annabel. What happened?”

“It was super foggy…”

“Yes it was, we circled for ninety minutes before we got clearance to land.”

“Apparently the Captain was alone in the cockpit.”

“Why?”

“Allow me to finish, Miss McGarr! Gosh, you can be terribly impatient at times.”

I found myself grinning. “Sorry, go on.”

“The First Officer and Engineer were both incapacitated.”

“Incapacitated?”

“Diarrhea,” she stated, with, I imagine, her signature shudder. “Isn’t that just the ghastliest word?”

“It is, actually but I wouldn’t consider having diarr, I mean an upset stomach as being incapacitated.”

Slowly, she said, “It can be considered such if one is stuck on the lav. Or in this case, two.”

“Ok, point taken.”

“Prior to being in Bahrain, the crew were in Mauritius where most of them somehow ended up with gastroenteritis.”

“Ugh, the poor things. There’s nothing worse than flying with a dicky tummy.”

“Apparently, due to the dense fog, the Captain mistook the hotel lights for the runway and almost came down on the bloody roof of the hotel! It was absolutely frightful.”

“You were on the crew?”

“No. I was at the Penta when it happened, after which all hell broke loose. Several people who witnessed it were terribly upset.”

“What were you doing at the Penta?”

“That’s not important right now.”

“You really are a dark horse, Annabel.”

“Perhaps”, she said with a chuckle.

“I’m assuming everyone is ok?”

“Yes, shaken, of course. Thank goodness the Captain realized his mistake in time. It could have been catastrophic.”

“How scary. I’m sure there’ll be a major investigation.”

“Yes, after which, I imagine, heads will roll.”

 

November 15th, 1989

November 15th, 1989

Flight from MCT – RUH – LHR

This trip has been, by far, the most unsociable one to date. I didn’t see another soul from our crew until pick up. On the crew bus, there was no mention of what anyone had been doing. Seems we were all being hermits and as much as I wouldn’t want that to be the norm on every trip, I have to say, it was pretty nice lounging around my luxurious, opulent hotel room reading and ordering room service (especially the chocolate mousse!)

Thanks to my purser Sonya’s mood swings, I’m on crew rest for two hours. She was full of beans at pick up and insisted on sitting beside me on the crew bus, where she chatted animatedly about her cats and how much she’s looking forward to getting home to them.

On the outbound sector, Sonya worked us really hard and made us miserable with her appalling attitude. Tonight, a stop in Riyadh to pick up passengers didn’t faze her in the least. I would definitely put Sonya in the “Double M,” category of women I don’t particularly enjoy working with. Having said that, I’ve also worked with numerous women her age that are absolutely lovely so I guess it’s more of a personality issue than a hormonal one.

Note to self; Beware of turning into a Menopausal Matron once you reach forty!