August 23rd, 1990

August 23th, 1990

Caracas, Venezuela

Spent the morning on the balcony with Millie and Dolly, gorging on tea and toast, recounting; “Tales from the Amazon,” which kept us laughing until the temperature spiked, forcing us inside, where the air conditioning was broken, which led us to the beach!

Floating in the water, I couldn’t help but think of David and how much I miss him. I’ve already sent him two postcards and a mega letter but I wish we could talk. He’s in Tokyo and I know where he’s staying but with a mortgage to pay, there’s no way I can afford or justify the cost of even a short chat.

Tonight, the hotel disco was the place to be, teeming with all sorts, including the Alitalia crew who arrived a few hours prior. Every one of them was stunning looking (average weight seven stone!) dressed to the nines, looking as if they just stepped off the catwalk (some of them acted as though were still on it!)

I got chatted up by an amazing dancer, dressed in a Prada suit (I clocked the label when he opened his jacket on the dance floor, oh, imagine the moves!) Unfortunately, he was deeply in love with himself but still managed to tell me his name is Massimo and that he liked my “style.” I ignored most of his subsequent questions and comments and continued dancing but he wasn’t taking the hint. “I’m on the dance floor to dance, not talk,” I wanted to say.

After a few songs, Massimo started getting a bit full on and when I turned to leave, he grabbed my arm. I attempted to pull away but his grip was firm.

“Let go,” I yelled, thinking my next move would be to, as mum would say, “Kick him in the goolies.” There wasn’t enough room to step back so I figured I’d knee him instead, which I was just about to do when Roberto appeared.

Roberto took one look at me and yelled something in Italian that made Massimo promptly release his grip.

“You ok?” Roberto mouthed.
I nodded yes and he tilted his head in the direction of the bar, where most of my crew was gathered.

“What was all that about?” Millie asked when I finally made it to the bar.

“Just some dickhead trying it on.”

“Looks like your knight in shining armour took care of him,” she said, gesturing to Roberto as he made his way towards us.

“You sure you’re ok?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks. What did you say to him?”

He laughed. “I can’t repeat it. Far too rude.”

“Well whatever it was, thank you.”

“Yeah, thanks for taking care of that slime ball,” Millie said, passing a drink to Roberto.
“For me?” he asked.

“Uh-huh,” she smiled. “It’s a Mojito.”

“My favourite. Thanks, Millie,” he said, clearly surprised.

“No problem,” she said, passing the same to me. “One for you as well, Madison.”

“Yummy, thanks, Millie, oooh, the mint smells so good.”

“Cheers you two,” she said, clinking her glass first to mine then to Roberto’s.

“Cheers,” Roberto and I said in unison.

Wonders will never cease!

 

August 22nd, 1990

 

 

August 22nd, 1990
Flight from Puerto Ayacucho to Caracas as passengers
Caracas, Venezuela

I would not recommend drinking straight vodka on an empty stomach!

With the absence of a lock, Nigel suggested we drag the dresser (with all three drawers missing!) in front of the bedroom door, which Dolly and I attempted to do, whilst Millie, visibly sloshed, looked on and asked why we were blocking the kitchen door with the drinks trolley!

Thanks to the humidity and the boxy room with not a lick of cool air, I felt utterly drained but each time I tried to sleep, either Millie or Dolly would let out a piercing scream anytime a bug landed on them.

Morning couldn’t come fast enough and we literally crawled outside to the table set up on the street (no dining room in the hotel!) The toxic fumes from the speeding cars only added to the flavour of whatever it was we were eating and at one point, we watched in horror as one of the lovely ladies plying us with food, narrowly escaped being hit, as she crossed the road, her arms laden with several baskets of freshly baked bread we could only assume she brought from her kitchen. We devoured every last crumb and left a hefty tip for her and the other woman, who, through body language, told us they were both widows, with seventeen kids between them!

Ample carbohydrates and Millie’s temper proved a lethal combination when she confronted Juan, after he finally showed up two hours late to whisk us off on what the flimsy pamphlet
touted as; “The Jungle Jeep Tour.” From the back seat of the van, Dolly asked if there was any vodka left and Nigel laughed heartily and said this is the best trip he’s ever had!

For what felt like hours, the rusty van wound its way through makeshift roads, then out of the blue (more like brown) we came upon a vast, open area, with young children running in our direction. Juan was all smiles as he got out and introduced us to each of them and Millie wasted no time pulling out her sketchpad. As well as drawing the huts dotted around, she drew a picture for each of the children while they made funny faces that made her giggle in a way I’ve never seen.

A few hours later, Juan looked more than relieved to be dropping us off at the airport, by which time we were dying of thirst. The only drinks available in the terminal were lukewarm bottles of coke that Millie enhanced with the last of the vodka.

The return flight was on a Boeing 727 Avensa that had clearly seen better days and a crew I’d say the same of, all of whom seemed intent on chewing gum, inspecting their nails and re-adjusting their sloppy ponytails throughout the fifty-minute flight, during which none of them moved from their jumpseats!

At the hotel, we immersed ourselves in the ultimate in luxury; guzzling ice-cold drinks in an air- conditioned environment, free of fumes and insects.

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!

 

August 20th, 1990

August 20th, 1990
Caracas, Venezuela

“Morning Madison,” Millie chirped, when she rang first thing this morning.
“Hello,” I replied, my tone curt.
“Fancy some tea and toast?”
“Not really.”
“Oh, come on,” she said. “We always have tea and toast together. I’ll be there in two minutes.”

She barged into my room, smiling widely and made a beeline for the balcony.
“We can have it out here,” she said, swinging open the doors.
“It’s too hot out there,” I said, closing them. “Besides, I don’t want blotchy skin and straw hair.”
“You’re not still on that, are you?”
“Seems I am. Speaking of, what do you have to say about your behaviour yesterday?”
“I’m sorry.”
“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”
She sighed. “I think the heat was getting to me.”
“That’s your excuse?”
“I just said I’m sorry, didn’t I?”
“I don’t know Millie, sometimes I don’t understand the way you act. It’s confusing.”
“I don’t like Roberto,” she blurted.
“That’s pretty obvious.”
“Why do you like him so much?”
“He’s a really nice guy.”
“He’s fake.”
“Well that’s your opinion and I just happen to disagree with it.”
“I don’t like guys like him, he’s just so…”
“Fine!” I yelled. “That’s fine, nobody’s forcing you to like him.”
“I just don’t…”
“Enough. Seriously Millie,” I said, throwing my hands up in surrender. “That’s enough.”
“Ok,” she smiled. “Let’s invite Dolly for tea and toast then we’ll go to the pool. OK?”

The rest of the day passed without incident and we had fun by the pool making the final arrangements for our trip to the jungle. Nigel, our purser, is coming with us and I’m going to suggest he bring a cricket bat, just in case the heat starts getting to Millie!

August 19th, 1990

August 19th, 1990

Flight from CCS – BOG – CCS

Caracas, Venezuela

 

While the aircraft was being catered on turnaround in Bogota, Millie appeared in the galley.

“Phew, it’s bloody roasting, isn’t it,” I said, fanning my face.

“Not really.”

“You’re not boiling in this heat?”

“Your face looks blotchy.”

“It’s the humidity. It doesn’t like me.”

“Your hair’s a mess as well.”

“Gee, thanks friend.”

“It looks like straw.”

“And you remain as flawless as ever,” I said in a sarcastic tone.

“You look bedraggled,” she hissed.

“You can go back downstairs anytime, you know.”

“I’m not needed down there.”

“You’re not needed here either with that attitude.”

“You’re vile when it’s humid.”

I’m vile?”

“Uh,” she said, shaking her head. “You get really snarky.”

“I’m not the one being snarky!”

“You are. You’re upset because you look like shit.”

I opened my mouth but no words came out.

“See you later,” she said, turning to go, just as Roberto came into the galley, his mouth agape.

“What the hell was that all about?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea.”

On the crew bus back to the hotel, Millie sat by herself while Dolly and I attempted to make eye contact with her, but she wasn’t having any of it.

So much for a fun request trip!

 

August 18th, 1990

August 18th, 1990

Caracas, Venezuela

Lovely, relaxing day by the pool (uncovered and not in the shade!) with Millie, Dolly and a ridiculously handsome guy from our crew called Roberto, who had me in stitches with a rating system he devised for the guys, which I have to say was utterly brutal and lead me to believe Roberto’s standards are way higher than mine!

Most of our crew met for dinner at a place called, The Solimar, just a short walk from the hotel. We were just about to tuck into dessert when Pauline’s boyfriend (clearly very drunk) called Roberto a poof. Mouths dropped around the table and the Captain wasted no time getting up and telling (not asking) “Just call me Trev,” to go outside so he could, “Have a word.”

About ten minutes later, JCMT returned looking sheepish and told Pauline the Captain wanted to speak to her. She burst into tears and almost took the entire tablecloth with her when she mistook it for her napkin!

While Pauline was outside getting what I imagine was a right telling off, Just Call Me Trev made his way over to Roberto. Around the table, we did our best pretending not to watch or listen as Roberto nodded his head in response to JCMT’s obvious attempts at an apology, which ended, surprisingly, with the two of them shaking hands.

Pauline came back inside, all smiles and made a fool of herself by proposing a toast to; “The best crew ever,” as JCMT gazed longingly at her, or maybe he was still glassy eyed from too many Cuba Libres.

While Pauline was rabbiting on, Millie kicked me under the table and mouthed, “They belong together.”

My sentiments exactly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 17th, 1990

August 17th, 1990

Flight from LHR – CCS

Caracas, Venezuela

First time in South America and it’s hot!

Worked on the Upper Deck, a position I rarely get but always enjoy. One of the duties is to take care of the flight deck crew, who are super nice and made my job on the thirteen-hour flight very pleasant, as did the passengers who were mostly Venezuelan.

Millie and Dolly came up to visit a few times and needless to say we’re very excited to be on this request trip, even if the timing for me isn’t exactly great.

Can’t wait to go out tomorrow and see what Caracas has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

August 9th, 1990

August 9th, 1990

Flight from SEA – YVR – SEA

Seattle, Washington

 

Woke up with David on the phone.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself, this is a nice surprise.”

“I wanted to call like an hour ago but I figured with the time change, you’d be wiped.”

“What time is it?” I asked.

“Just after seven.”

“That’s fine, you can ring me anytime.”

“Cool, I’ll remember that.”

“How’s life on the roof this morning?”

“How did you know I’m up here?”

“I can hear the waves.”

“How do they sound?”

“They’re calling my name.”

He laughed. “You can’t ignore them.”

“Trust me, if I didn’t have to work the shuttle today I’d hire a car and land on your doorstep.”

“That’d be awesome. Where’s the shuttle going?”

“Vancouver, there and back.”

“What’s that flight time?”

“Just over an hour or so.  Not a bad work day.”

“Have you been watching the news coming out of Kuwait?”

“Yes, it’s all everybody is talking about. What do you think will happen?”

“I think we’re about to go to war.”

“You do?”

“It’s not looking good. Thousands of foreign nationals are trapped and…”

“I know, it’s awful. That must be terrifying.”

“British Airways fly to Kuwait, right?”

“Yeah but I haven’t been yet.”

“You’re not going!”

“I might not have a choice.”

“There’s no way I want you going there. No way.”

“So, if I get rostered a Kuwait what do you suggest I do?”

“Say you’re sick. Or that you don’t feel comfortable going to that part of the world.”

“I can’t say that. I’d lose my job.”

“I’m serious Karen. I don’t want anything bad happening to you. Promise me you won’t go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 16th, 1990

July 16th, 1990

At home

Ben is home visiting his mum and dad for a couple of days, so he asked if I’d pick him up at Gatwick, which meant backtracking because I landed at Heathrow but with the not too distant memory of lugging a heavy suitcase on the tube and train, I agreed to go get him.

It felt strange waiting for him, knowing we’d said goodbye only twelve hours before, six thousand miles away in what really does feel like a different world. One I really, really like!

I watched as Ben came out of the terminal and when he spotted my car, he gave a little uncharacteristic wave that, for some reason, made me chuckle. I got out and opened the boot, by which time he was by my side.

“Can I put mine on top of yours?” He asked, his tone, flirtatious.

“If you must,” I said, helping him ease his suitcase into the small space.

Knowing how much I dislike driving in heavy traffic, Ben didn’t speak until we were well on our way.

“How was your flight?”

“Miserable.”

“Horrible passengers?”

“No, the passengers were lovely, the flight wasn’t even that busy.”

“Oh, the lover boy thing?”

“Stop calling him that!  His name is David.”

“Ok, ok,” he said, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.

“Let’s talk about something else. Like, for example, your love life.”

“My love life is going swimmingly,” he grinned.

“With?”

“Mandy of course.”

“That’s still on?”

“Yeah, why? Did you think otherwise?”

“I have to admit, I did, yeah. I thought that was over ages ago.”

“What can I say? The girl can’t get enough of me.”

“Lucky her,” I said, sarcastically.

“I wasn’t that bad, was I?” he asked, suddenly sounding serious.

“No, not at all,” I lied.

For the next minute or so, he fumbled with the dial on the radio, skipping from station to station.

Finding nothing suitable, he gave up and relaxed into the seat.

“Love’s a funny ole thing, isn’t it?”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, you think it’s going one way then it takes a turn and you end up with somebody you didn’t expect.” He paused. “Do you feel like that?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t feel at all like that.”

“What would you say if I told you Mandy and I are moving in together?”

 I’d say Big Mistake. For her!

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, we’ve been talking about it for a while, I think it’s time to bite the bullet.”

“Wow, well, eh, good for you.”

Bad for Mandy!

“Do you think you’ll end up moving to LA?”

I sighed. “I don’t know.”

“I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind.”

“I can’t say it hasn’t.”

“Especially now.

“Why now?” I asked.

“Now you’re in love and all that.”

Yes. Now I’m in love. Again.

 

 

 

 

 

July 13th, 1990

July 13th, 1990

Flight from LHR – LAX

At David’s, Manhattan Beach

I’ll start at the beginning and try not to get distracted!

Mum made me laugh this morning as she waved me off shouting; “Live it up!” Great advice, as always.

Nice crew on a ten-hour plus flight that transported us to the land of the beautiful people. The place where the light looks different to anywhere else in the world. The place where David lives.

Couldn’t wait to get to the hotel and take a shower, which, after a long flight is most welcome. Went down to the bar to meet my crew while I waited for David. Everyone was in good spirits, taking full advantage of the free drink chits the hotel provides. I promptly ordered a Long Island Iced Tea and when, a short while later, I spotted David through the glass partition, coming into the lobby, my heart did the flippy floppy thing I’ve so missed.

I could barely contain myself when he kissed me hello and hugged me tight before I introduced him to my crew, all of whom, at some point, gave me a thumbs-up or in Michelle’s case, a resounding; “Cor blimey, get a load a you!” Thanks for that Michelle!

We held hands while we drank (my second, David’s first) Long Island Iced Teas then without speaking we agreed to leave. We were just about done with saying bye to everyone when Michelle piped up; “Ooh, look. The Virgin Atlantic crew just arrived.”

I turned to take a look, just as Ben came walking into the lobby!

The word gobsmacked doesn’t begin to cut it and judging by the look on Ben’s face, he had the same reaction. David and I made our way towards the exit but there was no way to avoid Ben.

“Hey you,” he smiled, kissing my cheek. “Long time no see.”

Yeah, I thought, it’s been over three months.

The all too familiar scent of him caught me off guard and I felt myself sway a little, hoping David, who was still holding my hand, wouldn’t notice. I introduced David to Ben (argh!!!) and watched them shake hands; my two worlds colliding.

“What’re you lovebirds up to?” Ben asked.

“I’m showing Karen the sights,” David said, squeezing my hand.

“Oh, ehm, yeah, we need to get going, so eh, Happy Birthday for tomorrow,” I stuttered.

“Yeah, thanks,” Ben said, not looking at me.

“Later, man,” David drawled.

 

“You ok?” David asked the second we were outside.

“Eh yeah, I’m fine thanks,” I said, forcing a smile.

“So that’s him, huh? That was Ben?”

“Uh-huh, that’s him,” I said, trying desperately to sound calm, hoping my voice wouldn’t give me away.

He held the car door open. “You sure you’re ok? You look a little pale.”

“Just hot,” I uttered, using the time it took for David to walk round the car to take the deepest breath ever.

“You wanna get outta here?” he said, putting on his seatbelt.

“Yes please,” I said, willing myself not to peer into the lobby when we drove past.

 

Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for me to meld back into David’s world, where on a balmy Friday night everything looked and smelled amazing.

Our first stop was at the Bel-Air Hotel, a place I’ve only ever read about. It certainly lived up to its name and we had some fun walking through the lobby, quickly scanning the well clad guests. From there we went to a sushi place that just opened, the name of which I’ve already forgotten.

“You doing ok?” David asked.

“Yes, this is amazing, thank you.”

He put his chopsticks down and looked at me. “I didn’t mean the food.”

“I know. I’m sorry about what happened at the hotel, I had no idea the Virgin crew stay at the same place.”

“You seemed pretty surprised.”

“I was.”

“You really loved him, huh?”

“I did, yes.”

“Are you still in love with him?”

I shook my head. “No, no I’m not,” I said, meeting his kiss.

We took a drive along Rodeo Drive, where affluence and pretension screamed from every corner and as much as I don’t thrive on any of that, it was still quite a sight to see. David said I needed to experience LA in its entirety, so from there, we went to a really dodgy bar in Hollywood that smashed all my preconceived notions of glamour and lavishness.

By the time we got back here, it was really late and I felt exhausted. Up on the rooftop terrace, under the stars, with the sound of the ocean, it didn’t take us long to find our way deep into the folds of the very comfy couch, the scene of many magical moments I remember as blissful and heavenly.

That was just a few short hours ago but thanks to the eight-hour time change, I’m back up on the roof, feeling wide awake and hey ho whaddya know, David just appeared, wearing only shorts, mumbling something about making Mimosas and watching the sun come up.

I wonder if mum and dad will miss me when I move here!