I met my partner John Jackson in the stand-by queue at Malaga airport on the Costa del Sol in Spain in April last year. I have been going there since 1996, as it’s summer there when it’s winter here.
During that time everyone had spoken about this John Jackson person, and he had heard about this John Cork person who had come from Australia.
It was a funny situation when we finally met. We were jumping queues, going from airline to airline. I had to get back to London for work. I am a first class flight attendant with Qantas, and John, my partner, does the same job with British Airways.
As we were waiting in the queue, John took me under his wing and said, I know this queen over at Monarch. He’ll get us on.
Sure enough, we got on, and we sat and talked all the way back to London, which was about two-and-a-half hours away. I said to him, Look, I’m coming back in June for my regular holiday. He said, My birthday is in June, so come to my birthday party.
We exchanged details and by the time I got back to the hotel I had a text message from him. Then we swapped emails and I thought, This guy could be interesting.
As soon as we got back to Spain in June, we set off on a bus tour. It was on that day that he reckons he knew we would stay together, because I picked him up and threw him in the water.
Later that year, we were sitting with a group of friends in Brighton in England, and we said, We should get together in a year’s time back in Spain and have a drink around the pool and watch the sun go down over Africa. To our amazement, everyone agreed. It was planned as a social gathering only.
Parallel to that was current Spanish prime minister Jos?uis Rodr?ez Zapatero coming to power. One of his platforms was same-sex marriage. So that’s when the bell started ringing.
We were looking into John coming to Australia and getting permanent residency. We thought a wedding certificate would be good to use as proof of our relationship. So we’ve blended the two things together.
In the process of researching Spanish marriage law, I saw an internet link to same-sex unions in Spain. I found this wedding planner who just happens to live in the Malaga area.
While the ceremony was low-key, the reception got out of control. It started off with five people in a restaurant in Brighton and in the end there were about 75 people.
One of the straight guests was a lady called Gina Foster. She’s an ex-actress from England who has this huge villa, which is where we held the reception.
Our plans are to live in Sydney, and we will both keep working as flight attendants. I have been working as a flight attendant with Qantas since the late 1980s.
At that time, I was touring with a transsexual Australian performer called Holly Brown. I had done two tours with her and I came back to Australia and someone said, Qantas is looking for people and you’d be good at that.
Call it selfish, but I thought if I got that job I could continue to visit my friends and it would cost me a lot less. So now, 16 years later, I’m still visiting my friends around the world.
I have been working in first class for about 10 years, which has been a fascinating experience.
There are only 14 passengers and three crew up there. It’s an interesting mix. You get the sporting stars and the politicians and the celebrities.
The nicest entertainer I have attended would have been Ren?Zellweger, who actually is half-Australian. She was just delightful, just so humble and obliging. Lachlan Murdoch was delightful, and Guy Pearce was also lovely.
You also have ageing stars like Gina Lollobrigida. She was in first class once, coming down for an Italian presentation in Melbourne. I’m lucky to remember who she is -“ I think she was in my parents’ era.
And yet she was sitting there with dark glasses on and the Chanel suit, hoping no one would recognise her. When she got off in Singapore, we had to get her off into the VIP lounge, and the ground staff were saying, Who is it?
Being a flight attendant is very gruelling on the body. Apparently one Los Angeles to Sydney route is the equivalent of having eight chest X-rays, with the amount of radiation that we’re exposed to because of the height at which we’re flying. So you’ve constantly got to think about your health and take every known vitamin and potion.
But I also think there’s a life to be had. There seem to be two schools of thought among flight attendants, from my observations.
There are the ones who all sit together, who get to a destination and always go to the same bar and they’ll do the same thing and then come home again.
I’m of the other group. I like to do something different whenever I get to a new country. Qantas goes to 92 cities, and I think I’ve been to just about every one of them.
Interview by Ian Gould