December 31st, 1990

December 31st, 1990

Hilton Hotel, Perth, Australia

Ending 1990 on the other side of the world, in a hotel room, where I’m not alone.

Still fragile from the room party our gregarious Captain insisted upon, even although we arrived at eight this morning (!) I stayed in bed most of the day and didn’t get up ‘til I heard a knock on the door.

I peered through the peephole to see Perfect Penny and my initial reaction was to creep quietly away, until I spotted the plastic shopping bag in her hand, at which point I knew something was “off.” Perfect Penny isn’t the sort of girl to ever be seen in public in possession of a bag with any less status than one designed by a woman named Coco (whose real name, incidentally was Gabrielle.)

As soon as I opened the door, Perfect Penny strode into my room.
“Hey Penny, come on in, why don’t you!” I drawled, my tone snarky.

“Penelope. Please,” she hissed.

She looked pale. “I see you’re still suffering as well.”

“What?”

“From the room party? You-”
“I must use your loo,” she blurted.

“Be my guest.”

I scanned the room service menu to see if they offered chocolate mousse (they did) and thought I’d order one not only for myself, but also for PP, mostly because I knew there was no way she’d eat it, which brought a smile to my face but that quickly changed when I heard her piercing scream.

“Are you alright, Penny?” I called out.

“It’s Penelope,” she shrieked.

“Sorry!”

She opened the door and held out her hand, in which she held a stick from a pregnancy test kit. I glanced at the solid pink line and a little sound, indicating shock, escaped my lips.

“It might be wrong,” I stated.

“I hope you’re correct. I shall try again,” she snipped, slamming the door shut.

I paced around the room, the appeal of chocolate mousse suddenly gone, then I heard the bathroom door creak open. “What does that one say?”

PP held out the stick. The result was the same.

“I’ll try another one,” she uttered, this time closing the door, slowly.

“How many do you have?”

“Four,” she whimpered, from the other side of the door.

“I’ll make us some tea,” I offered, because I really didn’t know what else to say.

PP came walking out of the bathroom as though she was in deportment class at finishing school but I could see she was shivering as she sat down.

“Here,” I said, pulling the blanket off my bed, draping it around her bony shoulders. “And I made you a nice cup of tea. Drink it up and I’ll turn up the heat.”

I sat on the bed across from her and noticed her hands were trembling. We didn’t speak for a while until PP broke the silence. “I don’t….I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“They’re all-” I started to ask.

“Positive, yes,” she nodded. “All four of them.” Her voice sounded shaky.

“I’m sure you and Jeremy will figure everything out,” I said, in my most soothing tone.

She stared at the floor. “I can’t tell him. He’ll be furious.”
“Things don’t always go as planned,” I uttered, my mind wandering briefly to a momentous moment in a hotel room in LA just last month.
“I don’t think you understand,” she stated. “Jeremy and I have yet to…explore that side of our relationship.”

My questioning look prompted her to confess. “He thinks I’m still a virgin.”

“Oh,” is all I managed to get out.

“We planned on changing that on our wedding night, so you see, I…I can’t tell him.”

“Shit, Penny.” She glared at me. “Sorry, Penelope.”

“Thank you,” she sniffed, picking up the cup and saucer.

I didn’t know if she was thanking me for the tea, or for using her full name.

The evening arrangement was to meet in the First Class purser’s room at eight, then head to an Italian restaurant close by, where the Captain had reserved a private room. However, as the hours wore on, the reality of PP’s “condition” seemed to take hold of her and she went from being quiet and trembling, to crying hysterically.

She shared with me the entire sordid tale of the passionate affair she’s been having with the man who trains her horse (he’s twenty years her senior, married, with three kids.) He and Not So Perfect Penny have been having it off in the stables for the past six years!

After a few hours of trying to console her, I moved my suitcase off the spare bed and tucked her in. She was fully dressed and didn’t put up a fight, which is when I knew she’d gone over the edge. Within minutes, she was sound asleep, making murmuring sounds that led me to believe she was dreaming of her horse!

I can’t believe I feel sorry for her, but I really do. At some point, I’ll have to inform the Cabin Service Director, but it’ll have to wait, as I know he’s out celebrating with the crew.

Meanwhile, I’m 9,000 miles from home, trapped in a hotel room with sleeping beauty and her bun in the oven, thirty minutes away from 1991.

 

December 30th, 1990

December 30th, 1990

Night flight from MEL – PER

Short, uneventful stay in Melbourne, now on crew rest, as we make our way to Perth, the place where we’ll bid farewell to 1990, the year in which I travelled to;

Lagos, NIGERIA

Malaga, SPAIN

Jeddah, SAUDI ARABIA

Doha, Qatar, SAUDI ARABIA

New York, New York, USA

Montreal, CANADA

Detroit, Michigan, USA

HONG KONG

Washington, Dulles County, USA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Toronto, CANADA

Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA

Nairobi, KENYA

Dusseldorf, GERMANY

Kingston, JAMAICA

Amsterdam, HOLLAND

Bergen, HOLLAND

Los Angeles, California, USA

Abu Dhabi, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Miami, Florida, USA

Antigua, WEST INDIES

Durban, SOUTH AFRICA

Cairo, EGYPT

Harare, ZIMBABWE

Seattle, Washington, USA

Vancouver, CANADA

Caracas, VENEZUELA

Bogota, COLUMBIA

Puerto Ayacucho, VENEZUELA

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Newark, New Jersey, USA

Cologne, GERMANY

Bangkok, THAILAND

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Adelaide, AUSTRALIA

SINGAPORE

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

A total of 21 countries and 376, 279 miles!

 

December 29th, 1990

December 29th, 1990

Night flight from BKK – MEL

Winging our way to the land down under on this Saturday night, on a plane filled with crying babies that literally haven’t stopped since we left Bangkok four hours ago, which means we have another five to go.

Ugh!

 

December 28th, 1990

December 28th, 1990

Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Graeme left first thing to operate the flight to Melbourne, which was most welcome as he was just starting to get on my nerves. There are very few people I want to spend heaps of time with and I rediscovered Graeme isn’t one of them but hey, no regrets!

Spent most of the day with Penelope Platt-Balfour (from my crew) who’s make up and blonde chignon looked as immaculate at the end of the day as when we met this morning. Even after hours in the sticky heat, nothing about her appearance faltered. It was ridiculous, I mean, who goes shopping in the markets of Bangkok wearing pearls?

Penelope just got engaged to Jeremy (three carats) and they’re going to live happily ever after in their country house in Hampshire; “We plan to build on a parcel of land Jeremy’s mummy and daddy acquired.” A “Parcel of land,” in Penelope’s world is equivalent to half of Scotland and “Acquire” is posh talk for “Inherit.”

Penelope and Jeremy will have two point two children, named Rupert and Clementine (after her great-great grandmother, the rich old bag who left Jeremy’s Daddy oodles of dosh and “the land,” in Hampshire.)

Rupert (commonly known as Ropes) will play rugby and dabble in archery but he’ll fail to excel in anything, because his Mother will constantly compare him to his younger sister, forcing him to grow up feeling inadequate.

Clementine (affectionately known as Pudding, a name bestowed upon her by her doting Grandmama) with her striking resemblance to the old hag who left all the dosh, will play piano superbly, dance ballet beautifully, sing like an angel, and demand a pony before she can write her name.

Jeremy will continue to “work in finance,” but will fail to notice how much Penelope spends employing the five people who run her, “terribly hectic life.” When the head nanny (“We keep two just in case I manage to conceive again, it’s all been so dreadfully difficult”) loses weight and comes dangerously close to weighing the same as “Mistress,” Penelope will take to her top of the line Range Rover and drive across muddy fields (read as; “all the land we own.”)

During that particular trek, Penelope will devise ways to sack “Skinny Nanny,” before stopping halfway across the field to check her make-up. In the mirror, Penelope will admire her still glossy blonde locks but when she runs her hand across her pale, smooth cheek, tears will begin falling from her beady eyes. Penelope will scold herself for being a terrible person because she knows Skinny Nanny’s weight loss is related to the recent, sudden death of her younger sister.

Penelope’s tears will land on the freshwater pearls (handed down of course) she wore in Bangkok, years ago, during what she still secretly considers the happiest time of her life. A time before Mummy won the argument that, “Only common girls work.”
Ok, so perhaps I’m being a little harsh on Perfect Penny (“It’s pen eh la pee. Please refrain from calling me Penny. Mummy says it’s frightful to shorten one’s Christian name.”) After an entire day of listening to her high-pitched voice, I returned to the quiet of my room but in my head, I could still hear her prattling on about her horse.

In an effort to escape, I ordered far too much food on room service (all gone) then climbed into bed and watched, “A Room with a View,” with Julian Sands, who is much yummier than the three servings of chocolate mousse I mistakenly (yeah, right!) ordered.

 

December 27th, 1990

December 27th, 1990

Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

So, there might have been a little bit of kissing tonight. Ok, there might have been a fair amount of kissing. Oh alright, I confess, I had a major snog fest with Graeme!

I met Graeme on a trip last year, during which we fell in what I like to call, “trip lust,” which typically occurs in an exotic location, in this case the beautiful island of Bermuda with its pink sand and turquoise water.

Since that trip, there’s been a running joke between us that I continually lost Graeme’s phone number, when in fact I never kept it in the first place!

We met up again tonight in that most romantic (not!) of places, The Toby Jug, which crew seem drawn to like moths to a flame. I only agreed to go because it tends to be the first stop for crew before heading somewhere livelier (and less British!)

I soon realized I wasn’t in the mood for traipsing around Pat Pong in the heat so I came back to the hotel with Graeme, where we sat in the beautiful lobby bar with the huge Christmas tree and piano tunes to match. Conversation flowed as freely as the Mai Tai’s before he walked me to my room, outside which there was that awkward moment of, “Now what?”

Graeme gazed at me in that Christmas lights a glowing sort of way and his eyes sparkled accordingly, which, on reflection was at least eighty two percent alcohol induced but regardless, I’m a single girl, in Thailand, with a cute guy.

Added to which, it’s Christmas!

 

December 26th, 1990

December 26th, 1990

Flight from LHR – BKK

Presently on crew rest as we wing our way to Bangkok, and if my first impressions of the crew are accurate, I foresee a boozy trip, laced with several helpings of drama!

 

December 20th, 1990

December 20th, 1990

Fight from LHR – JFK

Lexington Hotel, New York

The atmosphere onboard was rather festive today and judging by the amount of booze we served, the passengers were well into the holiday spirit! With a flight time of just under seven hours, there wasn’t much time to linger but the passengers I talked appeared happy to be “heading home for the holidays.” Home, it seems for many people, isn’t necessarily where they live.

Working with a fun guy from Glasgow called Emilio, who knew every word to the Grease soundtrack the driver played as the crew bus crawled towards Manhattan. Along with the music, we enjoyed what crew affectionately call, “brown milk,” a delicious concoction that kept us well-oiled on what could’ve otherwise been a tedious journey.

I left a message on Christopher’s answering machine to wish him Happy Christmas and wanted to wish him luck proposing but I figured if Laurie heard the message, he might not be very happy with me!

 

Ventured out with a few of the crew but calling it a night (four am UK time!) because I have a mad desire to get up early and join the frenzied shoppers.

 

December 19th, 1990

December 19th, 1990

At home, England

In an attempt to save a few quid on my heating bill, I was curled up under two blankets on the couch, halfway through a bar of Galaxy and my latest book, when the phone rang.

“Argh,” I groaned, no desire to leave my cocoon, until the ringing didn’t stop. “Note to self,” I said, getting up. “Buy an answering machine.”

“I don’t believe it!” the voice boomed.

“Oh, hello Millie, how are you?” I said, sarcastically.

“What were you thinking?” she yelled.

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“You! And Richard!”

“What about us?”

“You shagged him!”

“Who told you that?”

“A friend of mine was on your little Philly love fest trip.”

“And?”

“And she told me you two couldn’t keep your hands off each other!”

“Well your so-called friend is wrong. I barely kissed him let along shag him but if I did, it’s nobody’s bloody business!”

“You knew I liked him!” She screamed.

“Oh Millie, puh leeze, don’t give me that. You were vile to him on the night stop we did together and-”

“Was not!”

“Yes, yes you were,” I shouted. “So, zip it!”

I expected her to either hang up or continue yelling but instead she started laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Us.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re like sisters,” she said, still chuckling.

“Then I’m glad I don’t have a sister!”

“Aw,” she uttered. “That’s mean.”

“Sorry but it’s sort of true. Is this really how sisters act?”

“Pretty much.”

“Sounds terrible.”

“It’s not, anyway, not to change the subject but will you be seeing Richard again?”

“I don’t know.”

“He really likes you.”

“How do you know?”

“Fiona told me.”

“Fiona’s your friend? That bloody flight deck floozie! Honestly Millie, she’s the one that was all over him, not me!”

“Yeah, she’s a bit of an old slapper, our Fiona.”

“You can say that again.”

“Regardless, I hope something good happens for you, especially after the fiasco with Mr. LA, you deserve some happiness.”

“Only some?”

She laughed. “You know what I mean and do you know what else?”

“What?”

“I wish we were on the same trip on Boxing Day, I’m so disappointed we won’t be spending New Year’s Eve together. I was really looking forward to that.”

“Me too, it’s such a shame.”

“I was thinking we could request another trip, maybe the fourteen day Antigua again.”

“No way!” I shrieked.

“Why not?”

“We can’t go back there, not with our fake names and identities and all that.”

“I doubt anyone would even remember us. Besides those military boys move around a lot.”

“That’s true,” I said. “Then maybe we should request another Antigua to start off nineteen ninety-one in style.”

“Madison and Millie return to Antigua, ooohh I can’t wait,” she squealed. “Something to look forward to.”

Definitely!

 

December 16th, 1990

December 16th, 1990

Flight from LHR – PHL

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The flight over was made all the more pleasant by Richard’s visits to the rear galley, all of which were met with raised eyebrows from our fellow crew members and no doubt got a few tongues wagging, which I imagine continued when Richard grabbed the seat next to mine on the crew bus.

Speaking out of the side of his mouth, he uttered, “Seems the Captain is insisting we make our way to his so called favourite sports bar.”

“Ugh,” I replied, not looking at him. “Not exactly my cup of tea.”

“We don’t have to follow the crowd.”

“I know but if we don’t make an appearance, I imagine tomorrow’s flight will be rather unpleasant for you.”

“Yes, I do believe so.”

“Ok, in that case, let’s just go.”

He turned to me and mouthed, “Thank you.”

Richard perched his slim frame on the stool next to me and as is typical in such a setting, we each carried on several conversations with other members of our crew but as the time wore on everyone split into groups, leaving just the two of us.

“There’s something I’d like to ask you,” he said.

“What’s that?”

“No pressure to answer if you don’t feel comfortable.”

I motioned for him to continue.

“What happened with your chap in LA?”

“He told me he’s gay.”

Richard’s head dropped in an expression of disbelief. “You’re serious?”

“Deadly.”

“Good gracious! What happened?”

“He came to the room to pick me up, or so I thought and instead he broke down and told me he met someone else.”

“Gosh, I really wasn’t expecting that.”

“Nor was I.”

He stared at me and reached his hand over to cover mine. “I’m so sorry. That must have been a dreadful-”

We were interrupted by Fiona, who, by the look of it, had clearly imbibed a tad more than us.

Standing behind Richard, she pressed her ample bosom into his back then draped her arms over his shoulders, dangling them over his chest. He shot me a look that screamed, “Help!” as she swayed and whispered something in his ear. His eyes darted in my direction again and I was both amused and thrilled by his obvious lack of interest in her.

“Actually,” he stated in his pilot PA voice, peeling Fiona’s arms off him as he turned. “Karen and I are about to go for a brisk walk.” He threw a pleading look my way.

“Yes, yes, we are,” I said, standing up. “Needless to say, Fiona, you’re welcome to join us. As long as we bundle up, we shouldn’t freeze too much.”

Fiona slurred something in her plummy accent about, “Ree main ing he are,” then slithered her way over to join a group of what looked like college age guys, sitting around a table.

“How do you feel about country and western music?” Richard asked once we were outside.

“I have mixed feelings, why?”

“There’s a super little place not far from here, they usually have a band and I thought perhaps we could have a bit of a boogie.”

I cracked up laughing. “Richard, you do know it’s nineteen ninety, don’t you?”

The bar reminded me of the place I went to in Florida with Gabriel last year but this time I didn’t mistake my drink for a soft one and down it in one. The band consisted of a dark-haired singer with a smoky voice and sultry look, accompanied by two pale men in Stetson’s.

We danced several times but when the music kicked up it seemed we were the only two people who hadn’t mastered line dancing, so we gave up and continued talking and drinking.

We walked hand in hand back to the hotel in the bitter cold and had our first kiss in the lift. The kiss was tender but purposeful and with my eyes shut, I wanted more but when I opened them, I longed to see David’s face, which is why I didn’t invite Richard to my room for a night cap.

 

 

December 15th, 1990

December 15th, 1990

At home, England

London is a magical place to be at Christmas, with twinkling lights everywhere, carol singers, the smell of roasting chestnuts on every street corner and the heavy bustle of shoppers, laden with gifts.

“Are you enjoying our day?” Richard asked as we meandered our way through Covent Garden.

“Very much so.”

“I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of making a reservation for something I expect you might enjoy.”

“Ooh, I’m intrigued.”

“Would you like to know what it is?” He asked.

“No, just surprise me.”

He looked doubtful. “Are you sure?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Ok, well we’ll go by taxi but I’ll discretely inform the driver of our destination so as not to spoil the surprise.”

“Do we need to go now?”
He looked at his watch and nodded. “Yes, we probably ought to head in that direction.”

“You’re taking me to a hotel?” I teased, as the hackney cab pulled up outside Claridges.

“Yes, but nothing sinister,” he smiled. “I promise.”

“Aw, that’s a shame,” I joked, making him laugh.

Over the most scrumptious array of afternoon tea delights I’ve ever seen, we discovered much about each other, including the fact we’re both operating the same flight to Philadelphia tomorrow!