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 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 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 7th, 1992

February 7th, 1992

Lexington Hotel, New York

Back in my second favourite city (it’ll always be you, LA!) where the wind chill tears rapidly through every layer of clothing, reminding me of the expression; “Chilled to the bone.”

Flight was absolutely horrendous with the most unpleasant bunch of passengers I’ve encountered in a long time. Thankfully, us crew managed to keep each other going, especially during the most trying moments when it seemed every call bell was binging and bonging. The worst passengers are the ones that think it’s acceptable to make a grab for you. Whenever that happens (a lot today!) I have to bite my tongue to stop me from hissing; “If you need a diet coke that badly, then perhaps you should’ve brought your own!”

In spite of the arduous flight, it was worth it for the chance to meet up with Christopher tonight. We met in the hotel bar as planned (he was early, I was late!) and had a quick drink before braving the arctic air and heading around the corner to his beloved Irish bar, which, given his ancestry is Eastern European, I find highly amusing.

We grabbed the last two stools at the bar and Christopher wasted no time ordering while I used my glove to brush what looked to be bread crumbs off the bar.

“Why do you like this place so much?”

“I don’t know,” he said, glancing around. “I just do.”

“It’s a bit run down. Definitely not the sort of joint I associate you with.”

“Or you,” he chuckled. “Would you rather go someplace else?”

“Nah,” I drawled. “I don’t mind slumming it for a few hours, but first I need to go and wash my hands!”

As usual, we fell into an easy conversation and it didn’t take long before the talk turned to my upcoming nuptials.

“Are you nervous?”

I shook my head. “Why would I be nervous?”

“No reason I guess,” he said with a heavy shrug and a long draw of his Guinness.

“You don’t sound very convincing. Is there something you want to say?”

“Yes,” he nodded, licking his lips.

I cocked my head to the side, expecting some pithy revelation. “This pint of Guinness,” he grinned, “Is the best I’ve ever had.”

I smacked his forearm. “Tell me what you were really about to say!”

Slowly twisting the coaster, he said, “I’m kinda surprised you’re not marrying Ben.”

Leaning back on the stool, I gestured for him to continue.

“I always figured you two would end up together.”

Taken aback, I blurted, “You have to be kidding! Ben’s a bloody nightmare!”

“Maybe so, but I know you loved him.”

I waved my hand dismissively. “That was during my insanity phase.”

He gave me questioning look and I tried not to laugh when, in a robot voice, I added;

“I. Was. Crazy. But. I. Am. All. Better. Now.”

Christopher cracked up laughing and for a split second I thought I might tell him I bumped into Ben at the cinema but I knew if I did, the conversation would take a turn, raising questions I don’t have answers to. He put his hand on my shoulder and gently squeezed. “I just wanna make sure you’re doing the right thing, you know?”

I cupped my hand over his. “Thank you. I appreciate your concern.”

He held up his almost empty glass. “Here’s to you and William.”

“And to you and Laurie,” I said, clinking my glass to his.

“Same again or are you ready to kick it up a few notches?”

I laughed. “If you’re thinking tequila, this might not be the best place.”

“True,” he smiled. “But we can get a whole lot more drunk here for a whole lot less!”

 

 

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!

 

December 31st, 1991

December 31st, 1991

Benalmadena, Spain

Mum was mightily surprised this afternoon, when she opened the door to find me standing there.

“Happy Anniversary!” I exclaimed, attempting not to drop the bag of Duty Free goodies, as Mum lunged at me for a hug.

“Tom! Tom!” She yelled. “C’mere!”

Dad was out on the balcony, his face turned to the sun.

“He can’t hear you, Mum, the door’s shut.”

“Och, yer a wee rascal,” she chuckled. “You should have told us you were coming.”

“Then it wouldn’t be a surprise,” I said, removing the bottles of Champagne and chocolates I bought at the airport.

“Ooohh,” Mum cooed, pointing to the cabinet behind me. “Glasses are in there. Did you just arrive?”

“Uh-huh, the flight got in at half two.”

“Did you get the train?”

I nodded. “So easy isn’t it, and really inexpensive. Plus, you know me, I like to people watch.”

Mum squeezed me tightly. “Dad will be so happy to see you!”

“Looks like you’ve been enjoying the sun,” I said, just as the Champagne cork popped, making Mum jump. “Gets me every time,” she laughed as I filled the glasses, the bubbles fizzing away.

“The sound of celebration,” I said, keeping an eye on Dad as we crept in his direction.

Slowly, Mum opened the door and stepped outside as I remained out of view.

“Och, Champagne, now that’s fancy,” Dad said.

“Aye well, it’s no every day you celebrate twenty-five years of marriage,” Mum uttered, as I peered out to see her leaning in for a peck, before handing the glass to Dad.

“Where’s yours, Liz?”

“Right here,” I said, stepping into view.

A look of what I can only describe as astonishment flashed across Dad’s face. “Ya wee rascal,” he said, shooting up, wrapping me in a hug.

“That’s what Mum said!”

“You’re meant to be in New York.”

I shook my head. “Sorry, that was a white lie.”

We raised our glasses and clinked them together.

“Happy Anniversary to my lovely Mum and Dad, and here’s to many more!”

“Thank you, hen,” Dad smiled. “What a brilliant surprise.”

“Certainly is,” Mum said. “Oh, and Happy Hogmanay.”

“That’s right,” I said, looking at my watch. “Only eight hours of nineteen ninety-one remain!”

“Here’s to my two favourite lassies,” Dad said. “Here’s to us.”

“Here’s to us,” Mum and I echoed with another clink.