I found learning all about our new house a bit like being in a new relationship – a knot in my stomach at the thrill of the unknown, mixed with slight apprehension that it wouldn't work out. For the first few weeks we all felt like we were on holiday, ‘but,’ as my daughter put it, ‘without the folder that tells you all about the house and what’s in the local area.’
We got used to eating with just a few teaspoons and forks because we couldn’t find the rest of the cutlery that was still hidden somewhere at the bottom of a box and that every time I turned the grill on, the electrics would have a tantrum and trip the switch on the whole house. ‘It’s an adventure and exciting things always happen on adventures,’ my children reassured me. I tried to keep calm and pretend that it didn’t matter; telling myself that in every new relationship there’s bound to be a few hiccups to start with.
Before we moved, life had been on automatic. I knew that on Sunday night I’d better take the dustbin out, because otherwise it wouldn’t be the dawn chorus drifting into my dreams but, ‘caution, vehicle reversing’ as the refuse truck rumbled along the road. I have been known to scramble into the road in my PJ’s, cursing, as I watched the back of the truck going off around the corner. So rather than bother my new neighbours before I’d had a chance to meet them properly, I surreptitiously started to watch the movements of the next door dustbin.
The days seemed to dawdle along; we learnt that wild rabbits liked our garden best as it had the untidiest, but tastiest vegetable patch and walking the dog was a good excuse to explore the area as I tried not to worry about the endless packing cases waiting to be opened even though they always seemed to multiply whenever I looked at them. Then, still in our sunny mood, we had some townie friends to stay for the weekend. I know it was a low-down attempt to seduce them to the wonders of country living but I hurried off to our local, farm shop and stocked up on steak, sausages, bacon and free range eggs. Fortunately for them, after a hearty weekend of feasting, the catastrophe did not occur until they had gone home and we were rushing about with the Monday routine. The drains had blocked. Not a savoury subject I know and I assure you I won’t go into too much detail.
Insanely my first thought was to try and flush the toilet. Silly move – as soon as I’d pressed the handle I took a step backwards and thought of rushing for my wellies and mop as the murky water rose ever higher in the pan. Anxiously, on tip toes, I braced myself for the aftermath, when without so much as a whimper, something gave way and the level sank at a snail’s pace to somewhere resembling imminent disaster over.
Alarm bells rang in my head as I tried to reason the quickest and driest way to rectify this conundrum. We’ve only recently moved to the area. Not knowing our neighbours very well I didn’t think the quirky take on introducing myself and asking for help with the drains would particularly catch on; even if carrying a sugar bowl. The local yellow pages seem to have died a death with the advent of the internet. But after searching through a few websites I was not reassured by the ‘no call out fee’ offered by some, just seeing the pounds signs spinning before my eyes. I decided that the DIY option on how to locate and clear a blockage was a good place to start.
When I say I -you know I don’t mean me, exactly. Whilst I stayed at a safe distance looking out of the upstairs window, my newly appointed drainage expert, aka husband Nick, attractively dressed in protective boots, gloves and ripped old clothes ( although without the peg I offered for his nose) removed the manhole covers. After poking makeshift rods along the brown piping in an attempt to restore the flow, he finally managed to hose the last of the offending articles along their way and out of our lives. Whilst I, from my vantage point, rigorously defended the drains against the verbal abuse they were receiving.
It wasn't all bad; at least now we have a map of the seven manhole covers that hopscotch across the garden, joining up with one another on the other side of the house, then collecting the neighbour’s deposits and continuing off into the sunset. And to be fair to our friends, they may have just been the straw that broke the camel’s back, with so many bends in shallow drains - it’s surprising it hadn’t happened earlier.
But it seemed this was part of the adventure that even the children failed to find exciting.
About the same time as the momentous mealtime, Nick returned from a project in Lewes one day, enthusiastic about its charms. I accompanied him on his next visit, and was immediately enraptured as I wandered down the High Street. Lewes’s unique character in its jumble of attractive architecture and individual shops convinced me that it had all that we were looking for in a town. If we found a property in a nearby village, I would be able to escape the confinements of row upon row of cramped terrace houses and swap it for green, open spaces.
Once the decision to move had been made I attacked the problem of finding a home with vigour. Changing lifestyles ultimately meant that I could also change jobs. A large, Victorian semi already set up for Bed and Breakfast popped onto the screen. I’m sociable. I’m organised. I’m willing to work hard. What if we pushed the boat right out and saddled ourselves with a massive mortgage but ran a business at the same time that should help us pay it off? It was one way of getting the kind of property that dreams are made of and, living in a beautiful, if touristy, Sussex village. I chose my moment to run the idea past Nick.
‘You can still do what you’re doing but I could give up teaching and run the B & B,’ I argued. ‘Anytime I have left over I could concentrate on my writing. If I get stretched, the children can help.’ Mad idea I know but...it sounded black and white to me. Knowing I'd have to work harder to convince Nick, I not only bought a book about it but I spoke to a friend with her own B & B about what was really like.
‘On the good side,’ she offered not too enthusiastically. ‘We would never have such a beautiful home in such a wonderful part of the country if we didn’t let out the rooms. But it is such a restriction on your life and do you really want strangers tramping through your home?’ Her parting words of ‘I can’t make the decision for you but I would think carefully about how you want your life to be,’ should have set the alarm bells ringing, but I became momentarily deaf.
I was hooked. It seemed the ideal situation. I would have an aga to keep the locally produced sausages warm whilst I rushed the children to school on the mornings Nick had a meeting. Surely people wouldn’t mind waiting a few minutes whilst I did the school run? If everything else failed I could hire help. Three buses a day into Brighton would mean we could go green and get out our obsolete bikes, I reasoned with the children, getting a ‘whatever’ in response – all the time secretly knowing they were on-to -me and knew I’d be adding ‘chauffeur’ to my job description.
With only four months left before child #1 had to start her courses at College (a testimony to my faith that I would move to Lewes that we enrolled her in the first place) my dreams of moving from London’s suburbs to a life in the country were beginning to fade.
Our idea of running a B & B had failed -abysmally. The Gods had obviously seen my cooking skills and decided to save the masses from my attempts at full English breakfast, regardless of my championing local produce. After finding the perfect B & B property we made an offer and were at the discussing 'fixtures and fittings' stage when the vendor pulled out. Not to be discouraged in my attempt to spend my days changing beds and folding my towels into thirds so I could tell if they had been used, I then pursued two more properties with B & B possibilities, compromising on location and budget with a capital C and B. With gazumping fast becoming part of my new vocabulary, I started to take the hint and re-visited our original brief: somewhere near Lewes, needs renovating, affordable so no B& B required. (Why, oh, why did I ever think I wanted to run a B& B in the first place - I blame it on my hormones).
I’m convinced that our house chose us. I had not reckoned on fate. Not that I believe in it, of course, but shortly after giving up my idea of being a B & B expert our current house popped onto the screen and into the equation and we found ourselves with the proud owners of a typical, Sussex style, white, timber clad house, just waiting for a loving hand to bring it into the 21st century.
Seven weeks later, on moving day, we had to wait three hours for our two cats to appear. Sitting outside our old home watching the new occupants move their contents in was one of the negatives of that day, along with dropping a packet of turmeric all along the hallway carpet just after the vacuum cleaner was packed into the removal lorry. It took our neighbour who spotted us sitting miserably waiting in the car, then offering us a pot of tea and a family pack of chocolate cookies, to console us. On the upside, when we arrived in Sussex, our new, next door neighbours had taken in a delivery of flowers for us and came over to introduce themselves with more of their own.
That evening, after making up the beds and finding our toothbrushes, (the removal lorries had trouble accessing the drive and had driven away with half the contents of our home in the back - I was too tired to check eBay to make sure they weren’t selling my china) we walked across the road to the local pub where it was an unusual sensation to venture inside and find a table readily available, rather than elbowing our way through a crowd. As the sun set, I stood at the end of the drive and looked at the lights twinkling from the children’s bedrooms, a mixture of excitement and apprehension overwhelmed me; was this really a new beginning or was it all going to be just a huge mistake?
Relocation looks so easy on the television. The idea of moving started as a chance remark, one that almost passed unnoticed. But when my eldest muttered, ‘I … Sixth form …elsewhere,’ I took it as a green light that I could seriously consider a long harboured desire to escape the congestion of South London and move one husband, three children, two cats, one dog and a lifetimes worth of clutter to the unknown wilds of rural Sussex.
Maybe it was the monotony of the weekly repetition of Monday night’s risotto [I’m not the world’s most inventive cook, seven dishes for seven nights - seems fair to me] that made #1 child speak out. Now, for those of you not coherent with teenspeak, especially teenspeak with a mouthful of food, it can be preferable to the Kevin - like, solitary grunt as, although it is delivered faster than the speed of sound, you can sometimes get enough clues to fill in the missing words.
As soon as the statement was out of her mouth it was swallowed up among the tangle of conversations at the table; arguments between the younger two about whose turn it was to wash up, accusations that it just wasn’t fair that my youngest, # 3 child was allowed, yet again, to worm his way out of chores because he seemed to have another bout of wiping -up constipation. Rather than go into battle head-on, my husband, Nick and I decided the safest course of action was to direct operations from the table, finishing the last of the Merlot.
It was only me that registered the profundity of the earlier statement from # 1. I tucked the notion of moving away whilst following through my threats of; no time on the computer, [the ultimate threat for # 3] unless all chores were finished, homework completed, shower taken and just as a final flourish, ‘without arguing.’ I decided to confront #1 later as to the sincerity of her remark. Although we were keen to escape suburbia, Nick and I had resigned ourselves to staying put for eternity in our cosy semi whilst the three offspring completed their education. I was busy masquerading as a responsible adult, juggling part- time teaching (slowly losing my enthusiasm) freelance writing (loving every minute but not making enough money to love more than a minute) and occasionally wearing my secretarial outfit (strictly in the office only)whilst running our Project Management company.
I had often dreamed of the rural idyll, especially during those moments when staring into space at the computer waiting for the brain blockage to become free flowing again. But I was fearful that uprooting the three children would lay us open to future accusations. The offspring, to my knowledge, hadn’t come across Larkin, but I was wary that it could be used in future years that the reason they ‘didn’t achieve or weren’t able to’ do all those things that as a child you blame your parents for, would come winging back to me in verse form. Having stayed in the same area for most of my life my knowledge of local amenities had grown alongside my shoe size, making me realise that the enormity of relocation was paramount to climbing Everest and leaving Sherpa Tensing at base camp. Where on earth did we start to consider moving to and how insane was I to even consider it?
But, I’ve always had a thing about the South Downs. When I was a child my siblings and I would eagerly count down the days until we could pack the car and make the journey to Bracklesham Bay for our two week, bucket and spade holiday. The morning would arrive and pandemonium would entail as my parents struggled to pack their unruly brood of six into the hired minibus. Although well past the age of enjoying being squashed between my sister and a large suitcase, whenever I drive down the A23, I experience the rush of childhood excitement when the Downs come into view.
I had mixed feelings towards our current residential area in South London. When we moved in it was a green and pleasant land. Neighbours spoke to you and the local parade of shops had a greengrocer, butchers and post office. Now, we had a corner shop that sold all, regardless of your age or degree of sobriety; a pub that held late night slanging matches, mud bath level, no ticket required and a special collection of run down billboards where the schoolchildren could check their spellings from the graffiti on display.
I was uneasy that the congestion of London was beginning to spread its fingers out ever further, grasping all that came into its path; the handcuff of the M25 seemed struggling to contain its hunger. It took so long to cross a road, find a parking space or chat to a neighbour that I feared I would be wrinkled and grey before I took the first step. I no longer wanted to see the man across the road choosing his daily wardrobe whilst I was still in my bed, however attractive his underpants were. Claustrophobia was cementing itself in my bones and I felt as though the council’s planning department had a vendetta against my condition.
But like any right minded woman, I wanted it all. I loved that within half an hour of slamming my front door I could be in the heart of the London, sniffing a fix of taxi fumes, watching the eccentric buskers in Convent Garden or pretending to be posh in Fortnum’s. Maybe it was time to realise that I should come clean and rid myself of London’s drug; I could always visit occasionally to get my fix. Besides being able to have a choice of shops to pick up speciality breads and choose your Friday night takeaway, still getting it home piping hot, were not priorities on which to base one’s life.
With a spark of hope that we could break free and make new roots outside London, I decided it was time to test the waters and step out of my comfort zone. We had one year in which we could safely pluck #1 from her school to a Sixth Form College elsewhere, find #2 her secondary school and settle #3 into a Primary, before he understood that he should have complained but didn’t realise he could.
Later that evening with the natives securely settled in their beds - well, the two youngest, #1 being 16, was well past the age when I could tell her what to do, although I did dream sometimes that she was still five and under my control - I sneaked my way past Nick, ensconced on the sofa, to my secret weapon and asked the search engine to do its magic. Perhaps if I had an idea of what was out there to move to, I would be able to make up my mind where to go?
This view from my bedroom is my favourite - especially first thing in the morning or like this, when the sun is leaving the Downs at the end of the day. It never fails to pick me up and remind me how blessed I am.
Here's what I've been doing apart from running East is East.
It is the printed manuscript of Love Suzi, Diary of a Long haul Stewardess, all 86,000 words of it!
Feeling pretty smug at the mo.
For new visitors to my blog - Diary of a Long haul Stewardess, is about 24yr old, Suzi's mad existence as cabin crew. If you go back to the beginning to fill in the details, I've started to delete some of the earlier posts so you may feel that there are parts missing. Here's a very quick round up:-
'Whilst flying round the world with her job, back in England, Suzi's stuck between two men. Matt Murphy, her old boyfriend, who's now about to marry her housemate, Debbie, and Ed McEwan, First Officer and fitty,who was going out with Candy. Debbie is unexpectedly pregnant with Matt's baby and Matt turned up on Suzi's doorstep to proclaim that he only loves her and doesn't want to marry Debbie. Suzi, meanwhile, has invited Ed to accompany her to the wedding but Candy arrived at Suzi's house to announce she is going to marry Ed.
If that all sounds complicated - it is. Ed turned up late to the wedding and tried to convince Suzi that it's all over between him and Candy and that he's only interested in her. Suzi is sitting in First Class and off to the Caribbean with Ed on his next trip.
Diary of a Long haul Stewardess
I have seen the light. Flight Deck are Gods. I know that in the past I’ve been scathing about all those stewardesses setting their caps on catching a pilot but as I sat in my very large, comfy bed seat in First Class, I realised that those stewardesses were much clever than I thought. Why settle for less? First class darh…ling, was the only way to travel.
After the wedding I had a few days leave owing, so in an effort to make up to me for being so late to arrive, Ed persuaded me to join him on his next trip. Not that I needed too much persuasion when he mentioned it was to the Caribbean. It was as I turned left instead of right on entering the plane that I knew Ed was a god. What I hadn’t realised was that the flight was half-empty and he would be able to upgrade me to First Class. When he told me it seemed churlish to refuse. How shallow am I? An offer of extra leg room, endless champagne and I was putty in his hands.
The man in 1A, though, needed a good slap, a colouring book and then told to sit down and be quiet for the rest of the journey. He had the stewardess running around him like an express train as she scurried back and forth to the galley to get his every whim. He may be worth a bob or two but that was no excuse to treat the crew like his personal servants. But unfortunately that’s what some people think they have paid for along with the price of their ticket.One of the crew approached me.
‘He’s a bit of a pain,’ I sympathised nodding in 1A’s direction.
Kneeling beside me in the aisle the steward whispered in my ear. ‘Tell me about it. Unfortunately he’s high up in the corporate world so we have to bow and scrap. He’s probably not even paying for his ticket but if he plays up any more I’m going to spit in his dinner.’
‘Not if she’s done it first,’ I grinned as 1A rang the call bell once more making the stewardess scurry back to his side.
In contrast the man in jeans opposite me sat quietly. He was flicking through a magazine and only looked up to smile and thank the steward politely when he was handed a glass of champagne. For all 1A’s pretensions my money was on Mr Jeans for having bucket loads of dosh. Those passengers that have to proclaim their wealth usually haven’t got as much as the quiet ones. The steward passed by my seat again. I grabbed his arm.
‘Anyone worth squinting at?’ I asked.
‘Who is he?’ I asked indicating Mr Jeans.
‘Don’t you know your rock stars?’ He mocked. ‘Only the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the US.’
Crew look after each other on trips, so I was well plied with champagne throughout the flight. Which was lucky as we hit a bit of turbulence along the way and I watched as 1A turned a shade of green and reached for his sick bag.When the seat belt signs were finally switched off he staggered off to the toilets behind us. That would teach him to drink too much free champagne.
It was a while later that I had the need to follow him. None of the toilets on aeroplanes are savoury but the first class ones are slightly better than the rear. For a start they have less traffic visiting them and secondly along with the other free F.C. handouts, they have posh soap and usually smell good, or at least as good as a toilet on an aircraft can smell. I stood outside the door and waited patiently. A groan came from inside. Was he in pain or just dying in there? Another groan. Crew can open the toilets from the outside if necessary, but I decided against it. I was officially a passenger on this flight. I knocked on the door and inquired if he was ok.
A muffled voice replied.
I walked away and waited so that it wouldn’t appear I was stalking him. The door opened. I saw 1A walk out rearranging his clothing and go back to his seat. I walked towards the door only to bump into a well dressed woman who exited the same toilet and walked off towards the back of the aircraft. Really! I’d heard about the existence of the Mile High Club but I’m sure she wasn’t just checking on him too. I don’t know how they managed it. All the toilets are small for one person let alone two getting up to gymnastic feats. I suppose if you are going to become a member of that exclusive club, a First Class toilet has to be the place for the initiation ceremony. I'd rather miss out on the vomiting ritual before hand though.
Just before landing Ed appeared. ‘Nice to see you awake. Last time I came down you were snoring, laid out there. Want to come up and sit in the cockpit for landing?’ he asked.
‘It’s a tempting offer. But why would I want to swap the comfort of this very large seat to be squashed onto that hard jump-seat, in a tiny room where you three have been farting your way across the Atlantic just to watch you do what I know you can do very well.’
Ed looked a little crestfallen that I had refused. ‘Hmmmm…Was so tempting though,’ I repeated. He smiled at my sarcasm and turned to go and talk to the other passengers.
I watched as he walked about the cabin doing PR; chatting to the passengers and inquiring after their well being. I thought about the man in 1A and what I’d witnessed. Best not to go there. We couldn’t afford to crash land if it put Ed off his job.
Flight Deck are often accommodated in a different hotel from the rest of the crew and on our arrival in Jamaica I found myself being driven along a familiar driveway and up to the front of a hotel.
‘I’ve stayed here before,’ I exclaimed to Ed excitedly.
‘Have you?’ he questioned. ‘I thought crew didn’t darken these hallowed doors.’
‘They cocked up once with our inferior accommodation,’ I laughed. ‘And they had to move us here. It’s got the most amazing infinity pool.’
‘And the hugest beds,’ I added. ‘With petals strewn all over them.’
‘I know,’ Ed repeated grinning at me.
We walked into the lobby and I hung back as Ed checked in.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ he said as we made our way to his room. ‘You open this,’ he reached into his bag and took out a bottle of champagne and two glasses. ‘Whilst I hold these, then we’ll go down to the pool to check it out.’
‘Do you do this every time you land?’ I asked.
‘Produce a bottle of bubbly from your bag.’
‘No, only when I want to impress someone special.’
I took the bottle from him and started to peel off the paper top and the wire cage surrounding the cork. There was a loud popping noise as I twisted the bottle and he held the glasses out for me to pour in the sparkling liquid. ‘Come here, Suz.’ Ed took my hand and led me out onto the patio that wound down to the beach. I felt the soft white sand beneath my toes and the late afternoon sun’s warmth as it rested on my limbs. The sea was azure blue and twinkling as the small clear waves rippled on the shoreline. Taking my arm and entwining it with his, he raised his glass and looked me straight in the eye. ‘Now, Suzi, what would you like to do whilst we’re here?’
‘Well,’ I started. ‘Tomorrow I want to climb the Dunn’s River Falls. Last time I was here I had to do it on my own. There’s a natural slide half way up and I want you to stand at the bottom and catch me.’
Ed raised his eyebrows questioning.
‘Don’t worry it’s just something I saw last time and I wanted it to happened to me although I wouldn’t ever admit it at the time.’
‘Not quite what I had in mind first but okay. And before that?’
‘Before that I want to try out that rather large bed in there. Last time…’
‘Last time, last time…’ Ed smiled as he pulled me near to him and held me close. ‘No more last time, Suzi.’
I smiled at him, wrapped in his embrace. 'This time... ’ I said, but my words were lost in his kiss.
I had a day off yesterday and went to the tennis at Queens - such a treat! No rain, a tasty picnic (supplied my chez moi) good company (have to say that in case Nick reads this, bless) AND an excellent day's tennis with all matches going to three sets. I know those of you who aren't into tennis will be saying 'so what' but for me it was the FA cup final. Then just as the rest of the ground was beginning to wind down they had a change of fixtures and we got to watch an exciting battle between Roddick, Hewitt, Lu and Querrey. NOW I know what's going wrong with my doubles tennis. Didn't realise you had to move your feet, ha-ha! Lu danced around like a little bird. All had such speed and great reactions, especially at the net. Roddick dived about the court taking shots I wanted to offer to get the grass stains off his shorts( I'm a pro now that my son plays cricket.) The woman sitting behind me told her mate how she used to have a crush on Roddick - I was just happy watching all the fit young men perform in front of me. Not in a pervy way, of course, I was studying their moves to improve my tennis!
So here's the promised picture of what I was so busy doing that I couldn't write the next episode of Suzi and her Diary of a Long haul Stewardess.
Those of you who have ever had a stall at a show will know just how knackering it is - and I take my hat off to those of you who do it as your regular job. It's taking me a few days to recover.
Had a good time though and met some fantastic people. Now have to work through the aftermath. ( Must just write a bit more of Suzi first though:)
Ps. Had trouble keeping my livestock in order some days. The flamingo and bird especially with all the wind we had.
I'm sorry this post has taken longer than usual to appear. I've been wearing my other hat recently and took East is East to the South of England Show, (picture to follow.) Had an exhausting three days, met some fantastic people and got lots of positive feedback about my home accessory products on wwweastiseasthome.co.uk Now I have to spend the next few days catching up with everything to get back my equilibrium. Couldn't resist writing another Suzi though - she's always on my mind which ever hat I'm wearing. Teresa xFor new visitors to my blog - Diary of a Long haul Stewardess, is about 24yr old, Suzi's mad existence as cabin crew. If you go back to the beginning to fill in the details, I've started to delete some of the earlier posts so you may feel that there are parts missing. Here's a very quick round up:- 'Whilst flying round the world with her job, back in England, Suzi's stuck between two men. Matt Murphy, her old boyfriend, who's now about to marry her housemate, Debbie, and Ed McEwan, First Officer and fitty,who was going out with Candy. Debbie is unexpectedly pregnant with Matt's baby and Matt turned up on Suzi's doorstep to proclaim that he only loves her and doesn't want to marry Debbie. Suzi, meanwhile, has invited Ed to accompany her to the wedding but Candy arrived at Suzi's house to announce she is going to marry Ed. If that all sounds complicated - it is. Suzi's at the wedding with her two friends Samantha and Sarah-Jane and there's no sign of Ed. Evelyn (Matt's mum) has just been bitching to Suzi about Debbie and Cynthia (Debbie's mum) overheard.Diary of a Long haul StewardessIf ever there was a time for the ground to open up and swallow, it was now. Ignoring us, Cynthia walked straight past to the wash hand basin and after dousing her hands under the running water, not even bothering to dry them, she walked towards the door. She turned to face us. ‘I believe the cake is about to be cut.’ And with that she was gone.
Evelyn turned to me, her eyes wide open and raised her eyebrows. ‘Think I’ve just put both feet right in the shit up to my armpits,’ she announced. ‘Ah well, not the first time. Better go and face the music.’ And with that she too left the room.
There was nothing left to do but follow the two mothers out of the loo and back into the fray. I heard a cheer go up which must have meant that Debbie and Matt had sliced into the cake as I’m sure it didn’t signify Cynthia grabbing the knife and slicing into Evelyn after hearing the remarks about her daughter.
I wandered back out onto the terrace, grabbing another glass of bubbly on my way. Everyone had disappeared to watch the cake cutting and I could hear twanging as the band started tuning up for the dancing. There was to be more merrymaking. Would this night ever end? I brushed some loose stones off the shallow stone steps leading down onto the grass and sat down on the penultimate one, sipped my drink and kicked my shoes off. For consuming numerous glasses of the bubbly stuff I still felt remarkable sober. Not the oblivion I was hoping for. I would have to try harder. Must have been the bread soaking it all up. Music started playing with gusto drowning out the volume of chatter from inside. I heard a tripping of high heels and Sam appeared at my side to sit down next to me on the step.
‘So this is where you’re hiding out. The band has started. Are you coming in? SJ’s going for it already on the dance floor.’
‘Hmmm… not sure I’m feeling that at the moment. You know, I think I may just ring for a cab to the station. I think there’s a train soon.’
‘Oh, bloody hell, Suzi,’ Sam chastised me. ‘Just lighten up and enjoy the evening.’
‘I can’t help thinking that if I hadn’t taken my job I would be standing there instead of Debbie?’
‘Do you really want to be pregnant and married to Matt?’
‘No. I wouldn’t mind getting married, but not to Matt,’ I answered.
‘Well, what is it then, that’s making you so moody?’
I couldn’t evade the question anymore. I knew what the matter was and it wasn’t Matt and Debbie. ‘I can’t understand where Ed is. Do you think he’s really got back together with Candy?’
‘I think,’ Sam wisely counselled. ‘That you won’t know the truth until he appears and can tell you himself. In the meantime, you’re becoming a real bore. Sort yourself out and take that bloody miserable look of your face. So,’ she concluded in her best school marmish voice. ‘Smile. Come back, stick beside me and we’ll get through this together.’
Okay, nobody likes hearing harsh words but I knew she was right. I had let the whole situation overwhelm me. No man was worth that. ‘Just give me a minute and I promise I’ll come and join you,’ I replied.
‘Promise? Otherwise I’ll track you down again and force you to do a solo spot on the dance floor with Matt’s dad.’
I smiled. Let me tell you that was a real threat. Matt's dad was renown for his extrovert ways after a few drinks. ‘I’ll just finish this and come and find you.’ Sam seemed convinced and got up clip-clopping her way up the steps and back into the building.
What a day! What was I getting so worked up about? So what that I’d thought things were going somewhere. I couldn’t hold back my tears and I raised my hand to wipe them away. Well, there was nothing else for it. I needed to pick myself up and carry on. There was nothing I could do until I spoke to Ed. Even if Candy was right and they were engaged there were plenty more fish in the sea. I was behaving like a wet fish and would never catch anyone like this. Whereas if I became a party animal I would be bound to catch something, maybe in that very room behind me if I was lucky.
The sound of footsteps behind me made me quickly pick up my glass and swig it down. I searched for my shoe with my toe preparing to get up and disappear amongst the throng. I didn’t need another confrontation. But before I could move Matt sat down beside me.
‘Hi. You alright?’
‘I guess so,’ he answered soberly twisting his bottle of beer in his hands.
‘You scrub up nicely,’ I added hoping to tease him into a better mood.
‘Not bad yourself,’ he said and leaned over to nudge me. ‘Can we be friends again, Suz?’
‘Of course, I thought we always were.’
‘I realised it was insane of me to come round last night. I shouldn’t have done it. I don’t know what I expected you to do. Put it down to last minute nerves.’
‘Okay. You alright now?’
‘Yeah,’ he said and grinned at me. ‘Anyway what are you doing out here? Come and have a dance. Help me celebrate my incarceration.’
‘Bloody hell. You’re brave aren’t you? Just had the first dance with Debbie and out here so soon.’
‘I’m not afraid of her.’ We both turned round as we heard someone call his name. Debbie had come out onto the terrace through the other set of French doors and was walking towards us. He grinned at me. ‘Well, not too afraid.’
I smiled back. ‘Go.’
Matt got up and went to join Debbie before she reached us. He took her elbow and led her back into the wedding.
I picked up a shoe and started to put it on but heard yet more footsteps behind me. It was getting busier than Trafalgar Square round here.
‘Seems like I’m just in time, Cinderella,’ a familiar voice said. Turning round I saw him. Ed. He handed me a full glass of champagne before picking up my shoe and sat down beside me on the step.
‘I’m so sorry I’m late, Suz,’ he said. ‘The flight was diverted from Heathrow and by the time we’d got to Gatwick ,filled in all the paperwork, and sorted everything else out I just about had time to get home to change and get over here. Didn’t think you’d want me arriving in uniform.’
I stared at him. My heart did a little flutter and I felt my mouth go dry. Damn him. I had to be cross with him, not this pleased to see him. He leaned against me and kissed me gently on the cheek. I smelt that familiar smell of Eau-de-Ed. If I thought Matt scrubbed up well, he had nothing on Ed. His jacket clung to his broad shoulders and he looked gorgeous. ‘I really am very sorry,’ he apologised again. I sat speechless. I didn’t know what to say. Half of me was angry and the other half relieved. Luckily, right now, the angry side was more dominant.
‘Why didn’t you phone?’ I said.
‘Didn’t you get my text?’ he said looking concerned.
‘No. I haven’t heard anything from you for over a week now. The last message I got was when you promised to be here.’
‘Didn’t you get my new number?’
‘I had to change my number to get Candy off my back. She was driving me nuts with her persistent messages. I decided the best thing to do was get rid of it and have a new one. I sent you a text telling you all this.’
‘Well, I didn’t get it. All I got was a visit from Candy last night telling me you were both engaged. I’ve been ringing you to find out the truth.’
‘Bloody hell. I knew she was up to something but I didn’t realise she would go that far. She’s nuts, Suzi, honestly.'
‘She was sporting a rather large diamond ring as well.’ I hesitated. Time for honesty. ‘Ed tell me straight. Are you and Candy engaged? I need to know.’
It was then that Ed took me by surprise. Placing his arm around my back he pulled me to him and tenderly kissed me. His other arm encircled my waist. He pulled away slightly but not before he cupped my face in his hand.
‘Suzi Frazier. I am not engaged to Candy, nor ever will be. It’s you I want to hang on to and be with.’ I looked into Ed’s eyes and knew this was my Mills and Boon moment. No one could mean what they said and have such genuine puppy dog eyes at the same time.
‘I’m so sorry I’m late and wasn’t here for you. Now, how about we go into that room and I’ll show you my best moves.’ He got up and taking my remaining shoe knelt down in front of me to fasten it onto my foot. Standing up he held out his hand to me.
‘Coming to the ball, Cinders? It’s time to party.’ Suzi x
For new visitors to my blog - Diary of a Long haul Stewardess, is about 24yr old, Suzi's mad existence as cabin crew. If you go back to the beginning to fill in the details, I've started to delete some of the earlier posts so you may feel that there are parts missing. Here's a very quick round up:-
'Whilst flying round the world with her job, back in England, Suzi's stuck between two men. Matt Murphy, her old boyfriend, who's now about to marry her housemate, Debbie, and Ed McEwan, First Officer and fitty,who was going out with Candy. Debbie is unexpectedly pregnant with Matt's baby and Matt turned up on Suzi's doorstep to proclaim that he only loves her and doesn't want to marry Debbie. Suzi, meanwhile, has invited Ed to accompany her to the wedding but Candy arrived at Suzi's house to announce she is going to marry Ed. If that all sounds complicated - it is. Suzi's arrived at the wedding with her two friends Sam and Sarah-Jane and there's no sign of Ed.'
Diary of a Long haul Stewardess
I saw Sam look at Sarah-Jane in her motherly sort of way as I finished that glass as well.
‘I promise not to be embarrassing and vomit,’ I offered as they both came either side of me and propelled me to the corner of the room.
‘Steady on,’ SJ cautioned. ‘At least wait until we’ve had a bit of nosh to soak it up.’
I waved her arm aside and walked out through the French doors onto the patio to watch the happy couple have their photographs taken in the grounds beyond.
‘At least she looks happy,’ Sam said joining me as we watched Debbie smiling as she posed next to Matt in front of a large stone urn. ‘Probably with relief that Matt went through with it,’ I said. Bitchy. But what the hell. I felt bitchy.
I usually like weddings. They have the correct ingredients for a perfect event. Everyone’s dressed up, alcohol and food flow freely and everyone’s in a good mood but as the afternoon wore on I found myself getting more and more fed up. And no, it wasn’t due to the amount of champagne I was consuming. I’d spent the entire time trying to avoid bumping into Matt’s family, especially his mum which a little difficult considering there weren’t initially many guests and it was a buffet, but as more people arrived for the evening I found it easier to disappear amongst the many groups of jovial friends.
It was as I approached the buffet table for my umpteenth slice of French bread to smother with Brie after making sure that the coast was clear of Matt’s relatives that I bumped into Debbie’s mum, Cynthia. Literally. She backed into me without looking and her champagne sprayed from her glass all down her purple dress in a wide arc. I rushed for some napkins piled high on the end of the white table cloth and helped pat her down and soak up the worst.
‘Least it’s not red wine,’ I offered humbly. ‘There, you can’t even see it now.’ I finished dabbing and stood up from my position, bowing before her as I had mopped.
‘I’d rather not be feeling it as well though,’ she replied, her face resembling a dried up prune as she smoothed down the damp material. ‘It’s… er…Suzi, isn’t it?’ Cynthia looked at me with a look that made me wonder whether she had just crapped her pants or it was just me who looked like I smelt. Bitch. She knew damn well who I was. We had met on several occasions at the house and I’d even shared a tea towel with her as we washed up in the kitchen after Debbie’s party. All sympathy for her wet dress disappeared. I wished it was red wine that I’d knocked over her and that had been a bucketful, not a glass.
‘Yes, Debbie’s housemate for the last year,’ I replied without a flicker.
‘Ah, yes,’ she said and a bit of spittle spewed from her mouth. I felt it land on my cheek. So here’s the situation. We both know what she has just done. I can feel the wetness of her saliva as it slips down to my jaw line. She can easily see the evidence of her action. What to do? Should I just wipe it casually with the back of my hand and carry on? The least I’d expect from her was a profuse apology. But no, nothing, not even an admission of guilt. Not one word came from her orange coated lips. She stood staring at me as though I was dirt. I took her challenge.
‘What a lovely bride she makes,’ I said as I wiped my cheek with a spare napkin still in my hand and turned to where Debbie was bending over the buffet at the other end of the table. She was reaching for a chicken leg on the plate at the back that was proving difficult to secure. And, just to stab the knife in and twist it a little I added. ‘You’d never know she was pregnant in that dress would you?’ Touché. From where we stood we could see the side zip of her dress straining for mercy.
Debbie’s mother walked away without a word towards her daughter and started to whisper in her ear. I watched as Debbie relinquished her hold on the chicken drumstick, reluctantly leaving it on the plate, and picked up a piece of celery garnish from a round of neatly cut sandwiches in front of her.
I walked out onto the terrace and leaned over the stone balustrade as I surveyed the extensive gardens laid out before me. Sam and SJ were seated at the far end of the terrace surrounded by our friends. I’d had enough of them all gathering round me and asking in hushed tones ‘How was I?’ whilst stuffing down a coronation chicken vol- au-vent. Anyone would think I was at a wake not a wedding. It was only Ash’s comment that he believed I’d made the right decision that gave me any hope that I had their backing and they weren’t commiserating with me for cocking up in breaking up with Matt.
Ed’s non-appearance had really upset me. Why had he played it so keen on the beach if he didn’t mean it? That whole time at my Dad’s had convinced me he was genuinely interested in something developing between us. Well, I had definitely learned my lesson now. All male airline staff were off bounds from now on. Even the baggage handlers would be shunned if they dared wink at me whilst chucking my case from its stowage in the hold and onto the trucks. Security staff would be the only ones to see me naked through their x-ray scanners and if a steward even hinted at anything even slightly romantic whilst serving at the other end of my trolley there would be an immediate incident of clear air turbulence resulting in whichever drink or meal was in my hand at the time flying in his direction.
SJ looked up and waved to me. I couldn’t face another round of sympathy so holding my glass up and gesticulating that it needed filling, I escaped to the Ladies. I’d lasted as long as I could, my face was aching in its fixed position of a smile and I needed to seriously consider having it botoxed to remain there.
Just as I opened the door to the Cloakroom I heard someone announce that the cake was about to be cut. Well, if they needed someone for Debbie to aim the knife at it was best if I wasn’t there.
The pale yellow walled room appeared empty. All four cubicles displayed their 'green for go' signs on the doors so I leaned against the basins and scrutinized myself in the mirror. Scent from the floral arrangement in the corner of the room filled the air with a heady, cloying smell. The room was far too small for such a large perfumed bouquet. I ran the cold water over my hands and pumped the soap bottle so that I could wash the remains of any champagne and spit from my fingers. The door swung open and as I looked up to see who had walked in my face must have given away my feelings as Matt’s mother met my gaze. Just my luck. I had successfully avoided her all afternoon only to have a private audience in the loo.
‘Suzi. How lovely to see you. We’ve missed you.’
What could I reply to that? Non committal and polite, that’s what I’d be. ‘Lovely to see you too, Evelyn.’
‘You know,’ she continued walking over to the wash hand basin and running the tap. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this but we did hope that you and Matt would one day…’ she paused. ‘You know, tie the knot. It was just your job I suppose.’
‘What was my job?'
‘Well we thought it would be a passing phase and that once you’d got the travel bug out of your system you’d see sense and want to settle down. But I suppose Matt couldn’t wait. Silly boy. He should have given you a bit longer.’
I didn’t know whether to hug the woman or slap her. At least she thought it was Matt’s fault that we’d split up and that he’d got impatience with me. But the way she described my job as a phase that I would get over, a bit like a disease, made me want to scream. Why was wanting to see the world in all it’s glorious Technicolor a flaw in my character? I wanted to experience more than her son’s monogram life.
‘You must be pleased though, with a grandchild on the way?’
‘Well, between you and me and the gatepost,’ she said conspiratorially. ‘It’s all happened so quickly we’re not convinced its Matt’s.’
We were both facing the mirror. Behind us a toilet flushed and one of the cubicle doors slowly opened. I just caught a flash of purple before I realsied it was Cynthia standing there staring at us.