October 6th, 1990
A flat in Cologne, Germany
In bed last night, David was breathing so heavily, I thought he might be crying.
“Are you ok?” I whispered.
He pulled me closer and squeezed me so tight, I had to catch my breath.
“I love this,” he murmured, into my hair. “I love it so much.”
“Me too,” I breathed, suddenly feeling so overcome with emotion, I thought I might cry. David didn’t let go, so I fell back asleep with much of my body draped over his, the rise and fall of his chest offering a sense of comfort I haven’t felt in a long, long time.
“You look really pretty,” David said this morning, while we were enjoying breakfast on the tiny balcony.
“Thanks,” I smiled, feeling my cheeks flush. “You don’t look too shabby either!”
He laughed. “Your hair looks great, too.”
“Ditto,” I smiled, motioning to the busy street below. “It’s cool here but it’s not quite Manhattan Beach, is it?”
“You just reminded me,” he groaned. “I have so much to do when I go home.”
“With the move?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “That emergency trip to Delhi kinda messed things up.”
“You’ll get it all sorted,” I said, as he came towards me.
He kissed my ear and whispered. “Another trip to London.”
Several hours later, the phone woke us up. I lay in bed, listening, as David chatted effortlessly, in German, roughly four words of which I understood.
“That was Urdo,” he said, hanging up.
“My boss, he’s cool, you’ll like him.”
“Will I get to meet him?”
“There’s a jazz festival in town tonight, supposed to be pretty good. Urdo and his girlfriend are going, he was calling to ask if we’re interested in meeting them there.”
“Uh-huh,” I said, getting out of bed. “You need to make a good impression.”
He gave me a questioning look.
“If there’s a chance you can come and work here for, what did you tell me earlier?”
“Six months,” he said. “Maybe more.”
“In that case yeah, we’re going! I want him to tell your boss in LA that you’re the best thing since sliced bread and that the company simply cannot afford not to have you here!”
He laughed. “But you love LA.”
“Yes, but Germany is soooo much closer to England.” My voice rose at the thought of such a possibility. “Besides, it’s only twenty quid for me to fly here!”
“That’s all I’m worth to you?” His attempt at not laughing failed miserably.
“Maybe twenty-five,” I teased, perching on the edge of the bed. “But definitely no more than that.”
“You drive a hard bargain, lady,” he said with a little chuckle. “Hey, I just had an idea.”
“If it involves anything to do with London, the answer is no!”
He cracked up laughing. “No, that’s not at all where I was going.”
“In that case, I’m all ears.”
“If I get sent here,” he spoke slowly. “You know, with work, if they send me here, maybe you could spend time, kind of like a lot of time here. With me.”
I felt the smile spread across my face as he continued. “Would you like that?”
I shook my head no. He looked crestfallen. “You wouldn’t?”
“No,” I said, leaning in closer. “I wouldn’t like it. I’d love it!”
September 18th, 1990
Flight from JNB – NBO
Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya
Landing in Kenya this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the composer, John Barry, who wrote the music to, “Out of Africa,” one of my favourite films.
I imagined Mr. Barry looking down at Nairobi for the first time, mesmerized by the sight of the expanse of land that reaches all the way to the Ngong Hills. I have no idea if inspiration came to him in this way or if he created the music in a basement studio somewhere in London. Regardless, the score captured the landscape perfectly.
Sitting by myself at the front of the crew bus as it bounced its way over the dusty, makeshift roads, I closed my eyes and played snippets of my favourite parts in the film, all the while wishing I had a cassette of the theme music to complete the picture.
I opened my eyes just as we pulled up to the hotel and caught the infectious smile of the doorman.
“Jambo,” he said, in greeting as I stepped off the crew bus.
“Jambo, how are you?”
“Very good miss, very good. Welcome back.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling myself smile, after what felt like the first time in ages.
In my room, I drew open the heavy curtains and opened the balcony door, then I took a shower and gave myself a pep talk. By the time I got out of the shower, I felt lighter, which, after a long night flight and far too many heavy emotional days (and nights) felt more than welcome.
Instead of gorging on room service (like I did in Jo’Burg) I munched on an apple and started writing a short story, inspired by a quote from Karen Blixen, the Danish writer the film is about.
“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.”
Karen Blixen, 1885 – 1962.
I didn’t stop writing ‘til the sun went down.
September 5th, 1990
At home, England
Another overnight guest, this time Carl. I picked him up from the bus station this afternoon and we drove over to see mum and dad, who, after hearing about Carl’s antics, were looking forward to meeting him.
I love how friendly and easygoing mum and dad are with my friends. As mum said, “It’s always nice to put a face to the name.” Carl kept us amused with what I later referred to as, “The parent version of your sordid life in the sky.”
From mum and dad’s, we went to Houston’s for dinner, after which Carl coaxed me into seeing “Die Hard II.” Not exactly my first choice but it wasn’t as bad as I expected, although the airplane scenes were (especially for cabin crew!) pretty disturbing.
Toyed with the idea of having a drink afterwards but decided to come back here, which was lucky because while we were looking through a bunch of trip pictures, David rang.
“This is a surprise! Where are you?”
“Still in Tokyo but I’m getting ready to leave.”
Thinking of the cost I said, “I guess this’ll be a quick call.”
“I already tried getting hold of you a few times but…”
“I don’t have an answering machine set up yet.”
From the couch, Carl mouthed, “Is that the yank you’re shagging?”
“I have good and bad news,” David continued, as I waved my hand dismissively at Carl, trying not to laugh.
“Give me the good news first,” I said, trying to ignore Carl as he pranced around the living room, clutching his hand to his chest in an exaggerated fashion.
“I’m flying to Heathrow.”
I felt the smile spread across my face. “Seriously?”
“Uh-huh, I’ll be there tomorrow. You wanna take down the details?”
“Wait a sec, let me grab a pen.”
I gestured for Carl to pass me the pad and pen on the table.
“Ok, go ahead.”
“It’s the BA six. Arrives at..”
“I know the flight, I’ll be waiting for you when you arrive in T four.”
In my excitement, I forgot to ask what the bad news is.
August 4th, 1990
Mum filled me in on the family drama that occurred in Scotland but said, regardless of what transpired, they managed to give Granda, “A lovely send off,” which was nice to hear.
“Tell me something funny, hen. I need a wee laugh.”
“I met Mel Gibson.”
“Ye did? In Hollywood?”
“No,” I laughed. “He was on our flight out to LA.”
“Fancy that, is he handsome?”
“Not really, I mean he’s not unpleasant to look at but he’s not very tall.”
“Is he no? He looks tall.”
“He’s about my height.”
“He must wear platforms in all those films,” she laughed. “Did you talk to him much?”
“Well, I went up to First Class to grab some biscuits for crew rest and while I was there I thought I’d pop into the loo.”
“Oh, I remember those First Class toilets with all the lovely smelly things, different world.”
“Certainly is. Anyway, he was standing outside the loo and he smiled and I smiled back but we didn’t speak. I knew I recognized him but I couldn’t place him so I went back into the galley to pick out some biscuits and I asked the First Class purser if the guy waiting outside the loo was crew.”
Mum let out a hearty laugh.
“I know, right? So, Johnnie smirked and whispered to me that it was Mel Gibson, which of course when he said it, made me realize why he looked so familiar. Anyway, I picked out a bunch of biscuits and stacked them on a plate, then Mel himself came into the galley.”
“Wit did he say?”
“You guys are having too much fun in here.”
“Johnnie told him I mistook him for crew and he, Mel, cracked up laughing, then he grabbed a biscuit off my plate and disappeared back through the curtain.”
“Mel Gibson stole my lassie’s biscuit,” mum shouted, cracking up laughing. “Oh, hen, that’s brilliant, wait ‘til you tell dad, he’ll love that. He likes those Mad, what are they called, Mad Rex films?”
“Oh aye, they’re no my cup of tea but dad loves them.”
“Wait, there’s more.”
“Oh, go on.”
“Right before landing, Johnnie phoned and asked me to go up to the First Class galley and when I did, Mel was there. He handed me a page of First Class stationery with his autograph and…”
“D’ye have it?”
“Yeah, it’s in my bag somewhere. He said maybe in his next movie he’ll play a Flight Attendant, then he cracked up laughing and went back to his seat!”
“Oh, I love it!”
“Then, when I came out of the terminal with Mica, a lovely girl I was working down the back with, Mel walked past us, very nonchalantly with only a backpack, to a waiting car.”
“Was it a limousine?”
“No, it was actually beat up looking, you know the American station wagons with the wood panels on the side?”
“Oh aye, they’re auld.”
“Anyway, inside was a woman driving, who I assume to be his wife, and a ton of kids in the back.”
“He’s got quite a few kids.”
“That was probably them. Anyway, Mica stopped in her tracks and said, ‘Do you think that was Mel Gibson?’”
“Did you tell her you got his autograph?”
“No, I just said that bloke is too short to be Mel Gibson.”
July 15th, 1990
Night flight from LAX – LHR
Feeling utterly miserable as we wing our way home on the BA 282 which, thankfully, isn’t very busy. Some of the crew are taking advantage of the bunks on this two hour crew rest but I have too much I need to write.
The sadness began creeping in the minute the alarm woke us up at seven this morning, which, on a Sunday ought to be a crime. In between people watching on The Strand, we ate breakfast on the roof and chatted nonstop about nothing in particular.
In the car on the way to the hotel, David shocked me by asking how many kids I think I’d like.
“One,” I stated, with no forethought.
“No way. Only children are a nightmare,” he said, trying not to laugh, as I playfully whacked his leg. “Let’s try this again. How many kids do you see yourself with?”
He shook his head when I gave the same answer.
“Ok,” I said. “Your turn.”
“Three,” he said, with no hesitation. “Definitely three. At least.”
I laughed. “Wow, good luck with that!”
He squeezed my thigh and I watched him grin. He didn’t take his eyes off the road but his expression was so beautiful that I took a snapshot of it in my mind and know that image will be with me for a long time to come.
I felt the lump forming in my throat long before we got to the hotel and when we pulled into the parking spot I swallowed hard.
“Have a nice time with your family, I hope your mum enjoys her birthday.”
He squeezed my hand. “I wish you were coming with me.”
“Me too,” I said, my voice, cracking.
“Let’s figure out a way to get together again this month.”
“Yeah, why not,” he shrugged, gently wiping a tear off my cheek. “We can figure this out, I know we can.”
“I’d love that.”
“Deal,” I said, kissing him one last time.
The lobby was a hive of activity and I had a quick chat to some of my crew that were meeting for breakfast but aside from not being hungry, I knew I needed to cry so I went straight to my room.
I recognized Ben’s scribbly handwriting the second I opened my door and picked up the envelope. My first instinct was to tear it open but instead, I left it on the bed and went to take a shower. I’m a true believer that there’s no better place to sob your heart out, than in the shower and today was no exception.
By the time I emerged from what looked like a steam room, I felt much better but the prospect of spending the day alone was not at all appealing. Ben’s note taunted me from its spot on the bed and I tried to ignore it but clearly, willpower isn’t exactly my strong point.
Hey you give me a ring, I’m in room 301.
I met him in the lobby twenty minutes later.
“Fancy a stroll down to Venice Beach?” he asked, his voice a little shaky.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
As we walked, an awkward silence between us, the irony of us being together in a place we’d long talked about visiting and maybe even living someday, was not lost on me.
Ben was the first one to speak.
“Are you in love with him?”
“Why are you asking?”
He shook his head. “Has he told you he loves you yet?”
“Uh huh,” I muttered.
He stopped in his tracks. “When did he tell you?”
I stopped and stared at him. “Two hours ago.”
July 10th, 1990
The good news is David doesn’t have to go to India!
The bad news is I’ll only be with him for two nights.
But, as mum is fond of saying; “Enjoy yerself, yer a long time deid!”
July 5th, 1990
Hectic day with the young cousins at the pictures (dreadful film called, “Look Who’s Talking,”) followed by shopping and ice cream at John Lewis.
Managed to escape to Florence’s tonight.
“It’s not that I don’t like them,” I sighed, knocking back more than a gulp of wine that went down far too easily. “I’m just not used to being around needy kids.”
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“That you see them as needy when I see them as just being kids.”
“Ugh, they’re annoying!”
She cracked up laughing. “You’re such an only child.”
“I am, I really am! There’s no hope for me!”
“How’s your mum’s sister, is she getting on your nerves as well?”
“Don’t get me started. I mean, she can be fun sometimes but she’s even more needy than the kids.”
Florence nodded her head. “That’s the impression I got the other day. She’s nothing like your mum.”
“No, not at all. My mum, as you very well know could never be considered selfish.”
“Never. Liz is great. They do look alike though.”
“Totally but I don’t think you’d take them for ten years apart.”
“No, your mum looks much younger.”
“She does. Oh well, family stuff.”
“Tell me about it. I suppose it’s lucky you’re working again tomorrow,” she said, topping up my wine glass.
“Thanks, that’s lovely.”
“Where are you going again?” she asked. “I can’t keep track.”
“I don’t know, I’m back on standby first thing in the morning, so don’t let me drink too much.”
Florence never listens. I love that about her!
July 3rd, 1990
Flight from CAI – LGW
Couldn’t sleep at all last night so I finally gave up and started reading, “Life in the Palace,” by Carol Birch, which I managed to finish and no, it had absolutely nothing to do with Buckingham Palace!
I was on the last few pages (so sad) when call came at three am (ugh!) Roughly eight hours later we landed back at Gatwick. Crew transport took us back to Heathrow, then a two-hour drive home to a full house.
I had no idea mum’s younger sister was coming down from Scotland with her two of her four girls. We spent the afternoon in the garden and the girls each took turns posing for pictures in my uniform, which was very amusing.
Tonight, we went ice skating and I’m more than ready for bed!