February 26th, 1992

February 26th, 1992
New Hampshire, USA

Lizzie and Tommy have arrived in the U S of A and the motel they’re staying at is right out of a Hitchcock movie! Mum and Dad are the only guests and the old boy working “reception,” which consists of a shelf and a bench, asked if they’re local, which, given my parents have broad Glaswegian accents is pretty hysterical.

The Taj Mahal (Dad renamed it!) is located right off the main road at the bottom of a slope nobody bothered to shovel. Dad joked if they’re going to be staying there (they are!) he’ll need extra whisky to help him sleep.

This is Dad’s first time in America and my parent’s first time meeting the guy I’m marrying a few days from now!

 

February 23rd, 1992

February 23rd, 1992

At home, England

Tomorrow morning, when I board the flight to Boston, I’ll probably regret having had so much to drink tonight but as the saying goes; “Live and let live!”

Absolutely fabulous night here at home, thanks to Mum and Dad who arranged for everyone to come and celebrate my last night here as a single girl! Fresh from the most incredible trip to Kenya, I don’t know how Mum mustered the energy to shop and cook. I wasn’t supposed to know about the party, so I couldn’t offer any help! Dad did a brilliant job keeping everyone plied with booze and music that kept us on our feet most of the night.

I probably shouldn’t write any of this next bit but I feel I need to, if only to get it off my chest. I was shocked to hear Ben’s voice on the other end of the phone this morning. “I wanted to catch you,” he said, “before you jet off to Disney.” Hearing that immediately got me riled up and I knew I should hang up but I didn’t.

“Don’t be obnoxious,” I said. “I’m not going to Disney!”

“Disney. America,” he huffed. “Isn’t it all the same?”

Mum came home just as I was leaving and as usual she asked where I was going. I muttered something about getting some last-minute things to take to the States. I didn’t want to lie, nor could I tell her the truth, so I just sort of left it at that.

I drove to Willen Lake, where I’d arranged to meet Ben so we could, “Go for a walk and talk about stuff.” All the way there my stomach was churning from a mixture of guilt, excitement, nerves and who knows what else.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot I’d worked myself in a right old state and my hands were shaking. Gripping the wheel, I uttered; “I shouldn’t be here,” over and over again, before hesitantly and slowly reversing out of the parking spot, all the while half hoping Ben would show up, forcing me to stay.

Halfway home, I thought about going back but I knew the consequences of my reckless behaviour could be dire. Not necessarily for me.

 

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 21st, 1992

February 21st, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Over dinner last night at Carnivore, the conversation turned to travel, giving Mum the perfect opportunity to rattle off the countries we’ve visited. Thor agreed with Mum that Hong Kong is captivating but he has yet to make it to Australia, which is surprising, since it appears he travels extensively.

With no idea who Thor is or what he does, I made a sneaky call to Ian (our Captain) who promised he’d, “do a spot of investigating,” prior to Mum and I meeting Thor. It probably helped that Thor is staying at the same hotel, hence the reason for Ian’s prompt return phone call. Apparently, Thor is a regular guest at the hotel and has, “multiple business holdings in the area.” From the info Ian managed to garner, he said he felt assured that it’d be safe for us to venture out with Thor but just as an extra precaution (true to the nature of a Captain) he arranged to be in the lobby when we were due to meet Thor!

Back to dinner (which I have to say was hugely entertaining) where Thorasked if I have “a special someone.”

I nodded. “Fiancé.”

“Niiiice,” he drawled. “Any wedding plans?”

“Yes,” I smirked. “One week from tomorrow!”

Wine shot from Thor’s mouth, narrowly missing Mum by about an inch! Poor guy looked absolutely mortified as he dabbed at his mouth, then the tablecloth, all the while apologizing profusely.

Getting back to the conversation, Thor asked Mum what her future son-in-law is like and this time, he looked like he was about to fall off the chair when Mum nonchalantly replied; “I don’t know, I’ve yet to meet him.”

Thor’s response came out sounding as though Mum didn’t understand English.  “You haven’t met the man your daughter is marrying?”

“Tom and I will meet him next week.”

With Thor’s gaze firmly on me, he shook his head. “You know, I thought eating buffalo or ostrich would be the craziest thing about tonight, but….but…here you are, so close to your wedding, on a different continent!”

“And loving every second,” I retorted.

“Shouldn’t you be in Scotland making plans?”

Preparing to savour the moment, I smiled my biggest smile. “The wedding isn’t in Scotland. It’s in America.”

“Oh…this…story,” he uttered in his lovely accent, clutching at his heart in such a way it had me wondering if he was doing it as a joke or not.

“You must start at the beginning,” he smiled. “But first, some Champagne.”

 

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.”

 

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.

August 24th, 1991

August 24th, 1991

At home, England

My four day Seattle trip was cancelled (no idea why) and now I’m on standby. With a maximum of only four hours’ notice, I could get called to fly pretty much anywhere in the world. As cool as that sounds, the reality of it means I won’t be able to go to Spain with mum. After everything mum does for me, I hate to disappoint her but I know she’ll understand. Still, I was really looking forward to a nice little getaway that doesn’t revolve around the needs of hundreds of passengers!

 

August 10th, 1991

August 10th, 1991

At home, England

I can’t seem to get out of my own way at the moment. I keep thinking, “tomorrow, I’ll do that tomorrow,” then I get up and within a few hours, my energy is zapped. Pamsy said it’s only natural for us to occasionally feel knackered after so much flying and different time zones but I have a sneaking suspicion my lackluster mood is more related to my love life, or lack thereof!

Two nights ago, I spent a couple of hours on the phone with William, who talks as if we’re about to get married! I keep telling him I don’t want to live in America but he either isn’t taking me seriously or thinks I’ll change my mind. I suppose in one way it’s good he acts so “normal,” but in another, I envision a life where I end up living somewhere I dislike, with someone who doesn’t relate to me.

Pamsy said I have, “a slight tendency to over analyze everything,” but that as long as I’m not with Ben, she’s happy! Speaking of…he spent the night here last week, all so fantastic, until he left, after which I spent the rest of the day wandering around in a daze, so much so that when I went over to see mum and dad, mum pounced on me the second dad took Tini out.

“Something’s bothering you,” she stated. “Wit is it?”

“I think I’m just tired,” I said, not daring to look at her. As much as I try, I can never hide anything from my mum.

“Maybe you need a wee holiday.”

I laughed. “The last thing I want to do during my time off is get on a plane.”

“We could go up to Scotland on the train.”

“And see Nana,” I was about to say, quickly catching myself as a wave of sadness swept through me.

“I miss her as well,” mum uttered, reading my mind.

“I know you do, I’m sorry mum. And yes, maybe we could go up to Scotland for a few days, that’d be nice.”

“We could go to Edinburgh,” she said, all smiles. “Something different.”

“Oooh, I like the sound of that. Let’s go the first week of September.”

“Is that no a wee bit close to Sarah’s wedding?”

“With any luck, I’ll be taken prisoner in Edinburgh castle,” I laughed. “That way I won’t have to wear that awful bridesmaid dress!”

“Och,” mum tutted, stifling a giggle. “Yer an awful lassie!”

 

July 18th, 1991

July 18th, 1991

Night flight from DTW – LHR

I’ve heard it said how important it is to know what you want but that it’s more important to know what you don’t and I can say, without a doubt, that I don’t want to live in America. In the big scheme of things, I probably shouldn’t proclaim such after only a short stay in Massachusetts and less than twenty-four hours in Detroit, but that’s really how I feel right now.

I debated over ringing William but after too much wine with my crew, I caved in and found myself dialing the number that (for whatever reason) I can’t seem to commit to memory. After a few minutes, I blurted, “I can’t see myself living there!” which I expected to throw him for a loop but all he said was, “We can figure it out.”

What I failed to tell him is that I spent the most incredible weekend with Ben but I did tell him the ring he (William, not Ben!) bought me is back in its box, stuffed in my dresser drawer. He actually laughed, which I found quite confusing. After that, we talked easily about all sorts then all of a sudden, he said he needed to go to bed.

“Oh, ehm, ok,” I stuttered.

“I love you,” he said, leaving me feeling more confused than ever.