In the shadow of Heathrow

2006-08-27-132411

Right on cue the air screams with the vibrations of a timely plane as it passes overhead, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch. This is Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world and arrivals and departures number in the seconds not in the minutes. Believe it or not you do tune it out to some degree but the sight of the giant metal Avians littering the sky is a familiar one and one you expect of a bustling city like London. Being somewhat of a country bumpkin myself i nevertheless feel very at home in my city second home and thrill in the vibrant diversity of it all. The hustle and bustle feels very compact and crammed in , with every available space untilised to the maximum and hardly a green space to be seen unless it be of the grass verge variety. Or so i thought.

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Following a maze of urban streets you step through the gates of a city park and are instantly transported to rural heaven. Along winding tree lined avenues, following the wild overgrowth of the River Crane, you would believe yourself to be in the heart of the British countryside and not infact in the depths of the largest city in England. Butterflies wheel and spin, vying for airspace as they dance their fluttering dance across the heat shimmering sky. The air of silence is oddly shattered by the alternating sounds of the overhead jet engines interspersed with the raucous cries of squabbling magpies. Crossing an elderly bridge to gaze down at rippling water and contemplate a game of ‘Pooh Sticks’ before turning a corner and stepping back in time.

St Dunstans church nestles serenely in a sunlit corner of the park showing visible signs of age yet none the less impressive for all that. Splitting wood and age worn gravestones announce proudly that this elderly house of god has been there for many more years than you and i could contemplate.

”Come inside” it smiles invitingly, like some beneign old grandfather welcoming you around for tea. Who are we to refuse and we walk carefully around the grounds interestedly peering at those gravestones visible enough to still be read. Yes old it is and the gravestones lay testament to its age. Who were you we wonder as we pause by first one and then many more of the higgley piggledy scattering of stones. Serene and welcoming and cause indeed to linger a while before continuing on our way.

Crane-Meadows
Much of a surprise then to round a corner and see undeveloped land as far as the eye can see. The alien bulk of a distant control tower the only blight on the otherwise rural looking landscape. Golden fields ripple in the gentle breeze leading to enticing looking tunnels of trees and yet more green and golden expanse. A flash to the right as a little grey body makes a dash for cover, white fluffy tail bouncing madly as it makes a bid for safety.

Bunnies!!

Yet another and then two more as they pause to consider our motives before either fleeing or dismissing us of no consequence and remaining as they were. We briefly halt our progress and tarry a moment to consider them as they in turn watch us a little warily but do not flee. Another is not so bold and dashes for the safety of a large patch of undergrowth yet perhaps it was not us who sent him there as a large magpie hops madly around upon the path infront of us. Just about to perform my usual superstitious salute i spot another and lower my arm in relief. The area is almost deserted compared to the overpopulated urban madness not a stones throw away, yet here it is peaceful and only the odd passing stranger indicates that we are not totally alone. Along the river we wander before out into the wide golden wilderness we step once more. Some thoughtful soul has cut a wonderful path of crossroads within the expanse and some time is spent wandering first one way and then another , randomly taking first one turning and then a  second. The bunnies give way to a lone kestrel soaring in the evening sky, clearly it is time for dinner and we are too far away to disturb his efforts and so he pays us no heed. Look another and yet another and still one more! Six we count in all and they swoop and soar in the warm evening air first gliding landwards before flapping madly to hold in some advantageous position. Glorious they are and so many is a sight to see but secretly i pray ‘dont catch a bunny, oh PLEASE don’t catch a bunny! ‘
kestrel
Again the raucous call of a bullying magpie as a tag team of the embullient avians lay chase to an unfortunate Kestrel. Clearly laying ownership to a small tree they are having none of the poor Kestrels attempts to gain perch there for some small moment of time. Two against one is no match and in defeat he wheels away to seemingly float upon the night sky with his bretheren. Pause for a ‘selfie’ for posterity and then it is time to let those jet engines intrude once more as the rural hideaway fades and urban life encroaches once more. How magical to find such a place so hidden from view in a most unexpected place and one i hope i shall visit again sometime in the future.

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The Lost Art of Propriety

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Propriety. Little known a word today yet cast yourself back a mere century and you would find yourself in a time considered the epitome of propriety. In a time when ones image and behaviour were the most important factors of all, attitudes toward other people were courteous and respectful regardless of who they were. It was considered the height of bad manners to be seen conducting yourself in anything but a decorous manner and regardless of your personal feelings towards another individual you were expected to maintain this nevertheless. Of course a class  divide did exist and those of higher station were not expected to treat those below them with equality but nonetheless there remained a standard of conducting oneself regardless.

Forward again to the present time and alas the situation is very much different. Manners seem to be very much a dying practice and people in general rarely care nor heed whether their treatment of others is courteous or respectful. One would imagine in today’s society that this would be simply the evolution of the lower classes and indeed i have heard comment before that nothing better can be expected from the poor. Strangely though it has been my experience that it is not these people who are perhaps those most guilty but those more successful and affluent individuals in this modern day world of ours. Indeed i myself have been witness to a growing rudeness and supercilious dismissal of others that exists within the business classes and it becomes more obvious the higher up the ladder of success one has climbed. Perhaps there exists some unwritten rule that should you gain success of any kind this no longer puts you in the category of having to maintain a respectful manner towards others.

Admittedly our lives are so much more consumed with our careers than perhaps in any previous era and there can be no doubt that on the whole we are busier than ever before. But have we really become so self absorbed nowadays that we care little about others nor about our attitudes towards them?

Does success really make you so much better than anyone else that simple manners and pleasant manner are so far beneath you?

From recent experience it seems so and i have, on more than one occasion recently, stared aghast at some rude quickly dashed missive designed not to consider the feelings of the recipient and indeed leave them feeling curtly dismissed and slighted. Perhaps it says more about those in receipt of such ill treatment that they in turn do not respond in kind as one could argue would be justified. Whatever the reason it seems the population of today would do as well to look to their ancestors and perhaps learn a lesson or two in etiquette.

Measuring your success by how high up the ladder you have climbed may seem to many to be the way of today. But if the only respect and admiration you have is from your peers of similar ilk then perhaps you may not be quite as successful as you may believe. Courtesy and manners cost nothing and there are many that seem to have forgotten that every ladder has a bottom rung and they were once standing upon it.

Please. Thankyou. Such simple words yet amazingly profound when used correctly.

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Duxford Autumn Airshow 2012

As an early morning mist clears from the skies above Duxford it looked likely to be a sunny clear day for all at the Autumn Air show 2012. If the event organisers were breathing a sigh of relief, there was certainly no sign of it but one cannot deny there was likely much holding of breath and watching of local weather reports. As a low sun glinted cheekily upon the colourful array of exhibitors it seemed that once again flocking visitors were in for a treat.

A rather quiet programme by some standards, the thinner crowds also lead one to question whether a current recession is beginning to feel its pinch in the world of aviation. Nevertheless it promised to be a most glorious display of speed and superiority as each fought to be the star of the show. Some more flamboyant like the highly colourful Hawk T-1 jet drew gasps of awe at her sheer dramatic speed and obvious skill from her pilot whilst others less aesthetic yet no less impressive relied on prowess alone. A sad day for aviation indeed since for this Hawk in particular this was to be her swansong, never again will she be seen to delight the public at an air-show. A final bow out of memorable proportions, this was one lady who did herself proud.

Joined by the no less colourful Tucano T1 ZF269 ‘ER’  , the public were in for a real treat as the RAF amply displayed its technical skill  and well deserved reputation as a forerunner in the world of aviation. Fearless daring from both pilots as the equally impressive Hawk and Tucano demonstrated exactly what they are capable of. To a backdrop of excellent commentary, the public kept its gaze firmly skyward drinking in the drama unfolding above. One could not fail to miss the gasps of appreciation resulting from a perfect accelerated stall. Regrettably also the last performance from the dashing Tucano pilot as he waved his farewells to an appreciative crowd, leaving to begin training as a Typhoon jet pilot, he clearly will be missed at Duxford.

Quietly serene amongst its more junior counterparts stood the matriarchal figure of the B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ and perhaps one will forgive this writer for a certain amount of bias when it comes to the charms of this rather glorious old girl. A quieter, slower paced display from the lady herself but nonetheless impressive as her smoke plumed finale put the icing very firmly upon a steady but stunning performance. No less formidable was the imposing bulk of the Dakota FZ692 ‘Kwicherbichen’ ,  a commanding presence that needs none of the vivacity of the more colourful planes to draw the eye. Sheer air domination kept all eyes upon her as she paraded her arena with ease, giving awaiting photographers ample opportunity to capture her dramatic form.

Not to be outdone a most spectacular pairing from the distinctively throaty P-51D Mustang, aptly named ‘Ferocious Frankie’ and the aesthetic delights of  the Hawker Hunter F-58A ‘Miss Demeanour’ . An aerial dance of breathtaking proportions saw them sail the skies in a dramatic battle for supremacy set effectively against a rapidly darkening sky. Yet if the conditions were now not so much to the liking of waiting photographers this did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the awestruck public watching avidly below. Disappointed they were definitely not as the pair played a most lavish game of aerial cat and mouse that left onlookers wanting more.

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Merlin engined Mustang, ‘Ferocious Frankie’ paired with effective ease with the legendary Spitfire IX from The Old Flying Machine Company. With a distinctive sound they proved why the Mustang engine was such an important development in aviation history. One could think of no better place to commemorate this momentous event than at Duxford itself, where it all began. A moment to remember and one not likely to be forgotten by those who had flocked from near and far to see them. If the clicks of nearby camera’s were anything to go by this is one event definitely captured for posterity. 

Certainly a treat for the eyes, Duxford Autumn Air show delivered on every front despite a day of slowly plunging temperatures and the advent of an angry looking sky. Onlookers by no means willing to tear themselves away, staying steadfast to the last to pay tribute to all who took to the air. Still they came, the Pitts Special pair, Hispano Buchon (Messerschmitt Bf 109),the bright blue and yellow Boeing Stearman and the dramatically feline Black Cats Lynx Pair. To the delight of their audience they held court over the skies of Duxford bringing to a close another year in the aviation calendar.Definitely in for the long haul the fans paid a well deserved homage, ensuring the success of yet another show.

As the day drew to a close reluctant to leave enthusiasts lingered for one last look as a re-emerging sun cast a late afternoon glow over the stars of the day.  A show it promised to be and a show it most certainly was.

All photographs reproduced with kind permission from Sanjay Rampal http://falkencommunications.wordpress.com/

There’s nothing like a dame

Across the horizon the clouds roll in obliterating the sun and turning an already frigid day distinctly chilly. She does not care about the cold, her low throaty purr never falters as she turns and makes ready her escape. All eyes are upon her yet she is in no hurry for this grand old dame knows that she commands the glance of every eye with little effort at all.

Against a moody sky she surges aloft, soaring ever higher in a smooth steady arc towards the clouds. Flying free and with an elegance belying her age she takes to the sky like a caged bird suddenly given its freedom and i have to shield my eyes as she disappears almost from sight. She will not leave for she loves an audience but the need to tantalise is not one she will give up easily and she revels in the anticipation of the crowd below. One timely tip of a well shaped wing and she banks steadily towards her waiting audience, swooping lower to display her charms to her awestruck fans below. 

Celebrity indeed as the cameras click frantically and she preens for them all taking her time passing them by before leaping coyly out of reach and heading for the heavens once more. A diva of the very best kind and how her public adores her, she knows it and tips a jaunty roll before banking steadily to journey her catwalk once more. One cannot deny her beauty, the last of her kind she is petted and adored as only the unique can be. From the far flung regions of the world they come to revere her and as usual she does not disappoint, posing happily for picture after picture without complaint.

Her name is Sally B, but if you are lucky you can call her Belle.

A beautiful old matriarch, not content to retire and end her days with a well earned rest, she continues to delight the crowds wherever she goes and they love her for it. Like her screen goddess contemporaries before her she ages with a glamour of a bygone era, timeless and unforgettable. Performing for the crowd her poise never wavers, turning again to display a sultry pose clad in elegant red, one well shaped ankle swinging jauntily beneath her. A girl of two faces indeed she will turn again and leave little to the imagination. 

A plane without equal she is indeed the darling of the aviation world and as she descends towards ground and her awaiting public she is happy to greet them, gliding to a slow meander at close proximity. A swift turn and she is done, her starring role over for another day and content to step out of the limelight for a time at least. 

Her name is Sally B but if you are lucky you can call her Belle.

Photos with kind permission courtesy of Sanjay Rampal   http://falkencommunications.wordpress.com/

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