Is it just me, or does everyone choose one member of cabin-crew to fall in love with during a long haul flight?
I say 'long-haul', but in fact I had just finished the trans-Atlantic flight and was now on the hop down to Orlando again, three months after I had re-erected the pile of battered masonry which was the Paul Simon lookalike's main focal-point in the vast and inhospitable house.
I also say 'fall in love', but I think 'lust' might be more accurate. Ever since Patty Hearst married into the Simbalese Liberation army and had herself photographed cheerily toting a full-sized sub-machine gun, we have begun to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the complex pattern of conflicting emotions and thought processes that occur when someone is kidnapped against their will and - over a period of time - falls in love with their captor. I think my infatuation with the 40 year-old air hostess had a lot to do with my previous 8 hour flight, and this woman was now the equivalent of a Taliban member who has just been given a fresh hostage after a drawn-out process of hand-over protocol which took place in La Guardia airport a few hours before.
She was now everything a woman could be rolled into one, and - with the analysis of hindsight - was as much of a mother to me as Oedipus's was to him. She and she alone provided me with food and drink; she had the ultimate say as to wether or not I could stand up or sit down; she decided when and if I was allowed to go to the toilet; she was the one who unlocked the door and allowed me to leave, but only when it was safe for me to do so. She would have - if asked - placed a pillow behind my head so I could go to sleep. All this and more, but only after having consulted the ultimate authority in the house, 'Daddy' - the pilot.
The smile never left her face for the whole trip, and her face had a natural tan which was enhanced with a good deal of make-up. She wore slacks and a short-sleeved shirt which exposed her brown arms. I couldn't wait to get off the damn plane, just so I could get a bit of mental peace by not having to constantly imagine where that tan began and where it ended.
Getting through immigration was a lot easier this time around because I had sent on in advance the specially prepared lime-mortar along with trowels and spatulas, so all I had with me was a change of clothes and a toothbrush. I could now pass for a genuine tourist - almost.
I got the same astounding deal from Hertz as last time - a car with about 500 miles on the clock for about 8 dollars a day, given to me by a pretty girl who wished me a nice vacation, and I drove the few miles to the Days Inn on Sand Lake road. The first time I was there, I pulled into the hotel gas station, and filled the car up to the brim. The pump told me I had put $13 of petrol into it. When I went to pay, the attendant asked me if I was a resident, and if this was the first time I had filled up. I replied yes to both questions, so he said that I was entitled to one tank at half price, so I paid $6.50. This place used to be so easy to live in.
I asked for the same room at the hotel, and I got it. That night, as the sun started to sink and the frogs started to howl at each other across the lake, I made my way to the Tikki bar for a few beers. Bob and I greeted each other like old friends - again - and I felt like I had come home. Right on time, the huge burst of distant fireworks over Disneyland filled a small patch of the sky, and I sat back and relished the moment. I had left freezing England in January (that's in Europe, ain't it?) and was now sitting outside with a cold beer, wearing a t-shirt.
Bob remarked that I had lost a lot of weight, and I told him that I had, indeed, lost three stone in three months. He asked what a 'stone' was and after I had thought about it for a second, told him '14 pounds'.
"Wow - 42 pounds - that's a lot of weight to lose. Have you been ill?" Nope, I said, I have been fat. My father had been ill, however - so ill that he died, and maybe that is one of the reasons I lost so much weight so effortlessly. I had also just begun the process of fattening up Her Indoors back home which was another major factor.
I sat at the bar, contentedly watching the other customers and looking forward to working the next morning, when a cockroach dived from cobwebs of the thatched roof and straight into my beer, with a small 'plop'.
I got up next morning before dawn, had a shower then went down to the cafe at one minute to seven to order my usual breakfast of bacon and eggs from the bored looking, young, black girl at the counter. She looked at me through sleepy eyes and - suddenly recognising me - said,
"Oh. You again. You must really love this place."
to be continued