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 18th, 1992

February 18th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Mum and I are having the most fantastic time and today we went to the Rothschild Giraffe Centre, a place I’ve long longed to visit! From the pamphlet, we discovered that the Centre was founded by Jock Leslie-Melville, the Kenyan grandson of a Scottish Earl. Well, that was all Mum needed to hear before she started on about how proud she is to be Scottish (something I’ve never heard her express before!) From that point on, every other word she uttered was heavily punctuated with “ochs” and “ayes,” leaving Issac, the guide, looking quite bewildered!

Mum commented that the giraffe’s tongue felt like sandpaper and Issac was about to answer when he stopped and turned his attention to a woman who appeared a little out of breath from having climbed the stairs, to the feeding platform.

“Good afternoon,” he nodded, with a wide smile.

“Allow me,” she said, with just a hint of an American accent. The guide passed the bucket to her and with an easy manner, she continued feeding the giraffes with us and introduced herself as, “Betty.”

Betty was a mine of information and shared some fascinating facts about the Rothschild giraffes but she seemed especially interested in our Scottish ancestry and asked what brought us to Kenya.

“Karen’s getting married!” Mum gushed. “This is our last wee hurrah!”

Betty’s eyes widened. “Congratulations! You chose, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on earth to visit. Where will you be married?”

“In the States.” She looked surprised. “My fiancé is from Massachusetts.”

“Ah, New England,” she smiled. “A Summer wedding?”

I shook my head and tried not to laugh, “No, it’s eleven days from now!”

We continued chatting and by the time the bucket was empty, we’d learned that Betty was born in Maryland and shared with her (third!) husband, a great passion for animals and their wellbeing. Sensing she had more to impart, I wasn’t surprised when she asked if we’d like to join her for tea. Mum glanced at me with an, “It’s up to you,” expression.

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you but we have a driver waiting to take us to the Karen Blixen museum.”

“Karen Blixen was a woman ahead of her time,” she stated. “The museum is delightful, you must go and enjoy it but promise you’ll return and tell the giraffes all about your winter wonderland wedding.”

 

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 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!”

 

 

September 24th, 1991

September 24th, 1991

Anchorage, Alaska

It’s the last night of this two week trip that took us to Osaka, Narita and Fukuoka in Japan and of course Anchorage. One of those trips where you spend a lot of time with your crew and somehow fall into a routine of meeting for breakfast/dinner, even after lengthy flights through crazy time zones that often left us feeling dead on our feet.

This afternoon, just as I was pondering the possibility of a nap, Creona rang to ask if I fancied going to the pictures. We saw “Thelma and Louise,” which I enjoyed but Creona, in her thick Irish accent, said was, “absolute shite, except for the pretty boy with the floppy hair,” whose name I don’t recall. As good as it was, I much prefer Geena Davis as Muriel in “The Accidental Tourist.” When I told Creona this, she rolled her eyes.

“Don’t tell me,” she huffed. “William Hurt?”

“Love him,” I gushed.

Creona responded with a litany of profanities that I don’t wish to repeat!

As much as I’ve enjoyed the crew and seeing incredible sights, like the glacier in Portage, I’m very much looking forward to getting home to my own bed.