Friday, September 28, 2007
This particular phase involves a great deal of self denial washed down with activité. Last time I saw her - afloat - normally a haven for epicurean excess - she was living entirely on sprouting beans, carrot shavings and wheatgrass juice - with the attendant vapourishness that such hideous repast would incur. Consequently when the situation demanded something approaching a slot of exertion she fainted dead away.
I had put this out of my mind of late as I have had some of my own particular worries to concern myself with - on a professional and personal front - and my runtime has been pretty consumed. Hamster wheel has demanded a lot of amperes (Factory wide outages no less) I have had the CAA breathing down my neck demanding I learn their scripts as well. (I did rather well in in my exam by the way dear reader)
Until I received a text last weekend whilst I was rummaging in the farm shop.
It read about something about Lucinda and horse tack with mentions of Jodhpurs and riding and the like…..It was from dulux. Hello, thought I, she has finally discovered her inner pervert. I queried back - never one to let such a comment go unpassed.
The reality was she was actually riding in Gloucestershire - and immediately asked if she could come aviating.
Seems phase two of the project hair shirt is getting out of London and doing shit. Riding one day, flying the next.
'Nice to be of service', said I.
'Donna da Lodger is off sweating out what's left of her youth in Ibiza - you can use her room - Just don’t call me captain at the flying club. I will get more of a reputation than I already have.'
'What reputation is that skipper?'
'Never you mind old girl. What would you like for dinner?'
'No meat, dairy, yeast, alcohol.'
'No vegetables that cast a shadow? Bale of hay perhaps? '
She let that pass.
'Anyway Captain I'm absolutely shattered so please don’t be too alarmed if I just sit on your sofa, fall asleep and dribble all over it.'
'Be my guest', said I - 'you will be in fine - if a little desiccated company'
I indicated that there is a section of the sofa in which there is a special cover to accommodate the fact that is where Donna-da-Lodga's dog chooses to rest his head. He also is wont to dribble.
'Surely it can’t be that bad' she said and we rang off.
Little does she know. She will soon be languishing in oodles of dried doggy dribble.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The ephemeral nature of the interweb is exposed in it's erasability. To those who seek to silence us - we are but columns on an IP address list. We can be expunged at the click of the mouse.
As small individuals we are not protected either by legal budgets of the press or our ability to quote using parliamentary privilege.
'But, so what?' you might say - 'deleting a blog is just some nerd's website'
This is as big an assault on free speech as rounding up copies of fanzines and burning them in the streets. Except this is cleaner and attracts less headlines other than outrage in the blogsphere.
The whole point is put far more eloquently by the The Devil and The Greek Chap. They have done the research and say it much better.
All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. To my readers - get out there and comment, chaps.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Complications - the written exam is actually this week - so I am somewhat snowed under in getting ready for this. Any slack time I would normally be blogging is taking up with running the scripts and the like.
The other consequence is that to get my head around it I am immersing myself totally in the lingo. It means I am barely able to write in English without it drifting into golp-alpha-charlie-descend-and-maintian-two-tousand-fife-hun-dred-feet-wessex-QNH-998-millibar-report-when-overhead-bourton-tower.
I'll be back on Friday. Lots of news going on, mind so I'm sure you will be fine.
Friday, September 21, 2007
You're Babar the King!
by Jean de Brunhoff
Though your life has been filled with struggle and sadness of late,
you're personally doing quite well for yourself. All this success brings responsibility,
though, and should not be taken lightly. Life has turned from war to peace, from damage
to reconstruction, and this brings a bright new hope for everyone you know. These hopeful
people look to you for guidance, and your best advice to them is to watch out for snakes.
You're quite fond of the name "Celeste".
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Fez doff to the Devil for finding this.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
We suffer a great deal for the privilege of the finest of wines. Having to spit the damn stuff out when tasting it is bad enough, let alone having to face the indignity of paying again for roads we have already paid for with the ruinous EU tithes levied upon us.
Burgundy is an area of natural beauty and empty property - but for some reason - affordable accommodation in the local area is somewhat stifled. Logis De France - basically restaurants with rooms - are the best value - and they leave more of the old spondulicks for the good stuff.
Oh, the places are clean enough - that well scrubbed old school sanatorium feel describe them best. 1970's décor, slightly threadbare linen and bathroom fittings out of an episode of space 1999 or UFO.
The food is often a true delight - with of course local wines setting the palate off just so. It can be rustic to exquisite - but almost always too much.
Much of the joy is the journey itself - 'La Route des Grand Vins' through sun dappled russet green corduroy landscapes, that scroll past our windows as we meander through names that read like a sommelier's wet dream.
Afternoons spent in low arched cellars tasting dips from the first crush to the Vins Anciens bottled many a year afore we arrived - and leading up the stairs to blinking into the daylight - to a heavier car but a lighter pocket.
And so - the cases shall go away - not to be seen until 2013 onwards. A moment of sadness, offset by a collection of a rather nice set that have been mouldering and ripening since 2000 - or before. (The 1er Cru '98 is particularly fine right now)
I shall enjoy - and of course share with glad rapture. For what is the point of all this Bon-Viveur behaviour - if one cannot share the spoils with one's chums?
Anyway - I'm on a diet now. I shouldn't be drinking a whole bottle - and it would be a shame to let it stand so.
Form an orderly queue, chaps.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Firstly - they have downgraded the search for Steve Fossett. To some people he was just another rich idiot playing with aeroplanes - but in the short, short history of manned flight it has tended to be people like Fossett who have made those leaps or conquered the unconquerable in the name of either riches, adventure, fame or fortune. Afterall - Allcock and Brown didn't fly their Vimy across the pond just so we could get to New York - they did it for the prize money - and because it was there. Bleriot wasn't trying to get duty free either.
Fossett made his own money and set out to achieve things after his commercial career, so in my mind - fair play to him.
As a Glider pilot - one feels a certain affinity with Fossett. He flew from Omarama - where I have flown - he holds records in the sport - and is well known as part of the sport's aristocracy - should such a thing exist in a sport as egalitarian as gliding - a sport as yet untouched by drugs, sponsorship, television deals and the like. It is one of those past times where money, influence or the like counts for nothing. We fly gliders manually- without autopilots and largely without many instruments other and an airspeed indicator and an altimeter.
Every time we set out across country in an unpowered aircraft or go for our own personal best in altitude or endurance - we are touching the same part of our spirit as he was the day he went missing. When I run the launch control at the end of a day and as dusk colours the sky, I still get sweaty-palmed as we count back the cross country flights and fervently hope as the stragglers come home we count them all in. I have been on airfields (albeit sky-diving ones) when 10 people get out of an aeroplane but only 9 parachutes are counted. And the cold creeping horror is much the same. I also dread the day if, on my watch, someone doesn't come home.
Hopes fade into impossibility that he should wander out of the desert alive. My thoughts go out to his family and friends and I am sure that aviators of all shades send their condolences.
One another more horrifying scale we see what happened to that MD-82 in Phuket. Current talk is of wind-shear - with survivors telling of an aborted landing to boot.
I'm an early amateur pilot and all I have to say is that my most terrifying experiences have been cross and tail wind landings in turbulence. A single thought goes through your head - there is no getting away from gravity - I have to land this thing.
We are reminded about the wonders of modern technology and sat in comfort in the middle of 747 we can feel as safe as houses whatever the weather.
But despite instrument landings, weather radar and powerful computers there is one fundamental truth at stake here:
Most of the time, flying is perfectly safe. It is safer than crossing the road. But then there are a few tiny times when it is totally reliant on the skill of the person at the controls - often wrestling with them in near impossible conditions and there are going to be moments of extreme danger.
Ultimately every pilot has to fly as some time by the 'seat of his pants'. That hasn't changed since Wilbur and Orville flew a distance shorter than a 747 in the Kittyhawk. It is dangerous and sometimes it goes wrong.
Reports are sketchy of the final moments - but they could been brought down hard in a squall or run out of runway - but they were orbiting the strip - which could mean they knew this was going to be hard. The pilot had requested an abort to go around but by the sounds of things too late. The chances are - he saw, and knew, what was going on and did what he could to save the lives of the passengers - full in the knowledge that if you are going down - you - as the pilot are probably going to be killed in saving those lives.
When we see footballers being described as 'courageous' or celebrities talking of their 'struggle' my mind turns to people like these pilots I mention today who attempt to wrestle 150 tons of wet steel to the ground in a storm facing almost certain death to save a few lives - or the two guys at the exit pulling other out at their own risk.
My thoughts to the families - and to the crew - like those who have gone before - you have slipped the final Surly Bonds.
I have a draft to complete and edit though - so nearly there.
Problem, of course, is that I am building it up a bit.
Monday, September 17, 2007
The North West Passage
Previously these attempts have ended with the crew entombed in the ice, going mad from the lead in solder in their tin cans - or worse dying from Vitamin A poisoning from eating Polar Bear liver.
It is one of those sailing adventures which has lured the brave and the bold to an icy doom.
But NOW - looks like it's a goer! Especially as SV Deep Blue has an armoured hull and is rigged for Polar operations.....
Just let me bring my own food, OK?
Back at the wheel today - and Big Grey is demanding lots of Amperes - so I must scurry like billio and you, my dear reader, will have to wait to hear tales of the best bit of my wine drive.
Space 1999 decor and snoring from 3 doors along!
Jumping the queue in Calais!
No Strawberry jam in the Club Lounge on P&O!
More to follow - including some descriptive bits I was proud of at the time - but I had been drinking.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Gods reader, this is hard work. We are having to drive all this way and be forced to taste all this wine merely for the good of ones guests. In addition I am having to type on a French keyboard - which seems to forego normal punctuation in favour of extra letters.
Journey down was long and uneventful - despite the heroic intervention of one of Tescos finest summer puddings and some cream to fortify our resolve - it came in handy I can tell you - as the autoroutes are long - and Earl Grey will only sustain sanity for so long.
I took my own advice and rejected a pork pie on the grounds it ought to be in a cage. I am grateful to this day.
Our first night was spent in a simple Logis de France hotel - but equippped with a fine kitchen and Im sorry to report that we may have over done it slightly. Only slightly - but I believe the night terrors I suffered were due to the third round of cheese and second bottle of Cotes de Nuits.
It was when we arrived in Beaujolais today that purchasing begun in earnest.
I shall regale with tales later on, as there is too much detail for my constitution to bear - or bash out on this keyboard - suffice to say - we have been slaving away.
Three degustations before lunch is a heady pace indeed - and we had earned a break.
Lunch in Fleurie was a necessarily languid affair of only two courses, wine and coffee.
Under the watchful eye of the waitress - we were obliged to eat it all - what horros we have to endure shows we are made of stern stuff.
Exhausted from such efforts - we repaired to some of the better known cooperatives this aternoon - where we could take our leisure.
But - this is merely the starter for the main course.
For tomorrow we arrive in Beaune.
But tonight - rest easy dear reader: for we are in Julienas - a pretty town with a comfortable hotel - and a relxing menu. I shall dine lightly lest myliverishness flare up again. Or I drop dead from gout.
Wish me luck - for tomorrow I shall need every ounce of strength my aged sinews can deliver......
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The cellar space has been cleared, marker pens ready.
Tasting notes and detailed vineyard charts downloaded.
The Burgundy Report consulted and read assiduously.
Messrs Peninsular and Orient primed to carry us across La Manche.
Passport, Driving licence, travel rug and alfresco dining kit with corkscrew and china plates at the ready.
Flasks for ludicrously strong coffee prepared.
'The Reverse of the Medal' loaded and 'The Ionian Mission' on standby - lest we complete the first 12 hours worth of Patrick O'Brian and still need more.
The annual Chap pilgrimage to the Cotes begins.
This time tomorrow - I shall be pottering through golden leaved vines in the slanting autumn sunshine. The Route de la Cotes - the N74 shall take us south from Dijon - Gevery Chambertin, Nuits St Georges, Fixin, and Aloxe Corton bearing witness on the sign posts to the Elysium on earth we shall be inhabiting.
A night at Chez Jeanette - where if one selects the main course before the wine, an eyebrow is raised, and they fetch the 'tourist' wine list. Cuisine De Sauvage it may be - but situated in the Walled vines of the Clos du Napoleon one really ought to make an effort.
A day is to be spent in the tiny caves of the Crus and Villages of Beaujolais - Cote du Brouilly, Moulin a Vent and the almost ubiquitous Fleurie.
Shall we repair to Macon? Lunch in Beaune? The decisions are almost too much without a bottle of wine to assist. The journey itself, though, is as much of a pleasure as the arriving and the tasting - with picnics to eat, fresh air to breathe and the sublime beauty of the first hints of autumn fringing the vines.
And finally - a last day in our favourite haunt - Echevronne. For tucked away in the Haute Cote du Beanue, amongst the Framboise and Cassis lies our ultimate target and biggest drain on my wallet.
The souls of my unborn have been sold in a terrible Faustian plot.
Oh, and I shall be blogging from down there as well.
Au revoir for now dear reader - for I shall be deep in enemy territory when you hear from me again.
Now - you would have thought that being a pilot of little more than a string bag with a six-volt motorbike battery for power there would be a 'private user' variant.
Well - it is the same course as any civil pilot or air traffic controller. The materials are 198 pages long and not only do you have to know the codes, abbreviations and protocols by heart for the written exam (200 Questions, passmark 90%) but you need to apply it all in 'circumstance' for the Oral exam - pass mark - 100%
Not only that - but I have to be fully conversant with the airspace laws and definitions again and the Air traffic zone and height rules again. Okay, Okay I should be current with that all the time - but I'm rusty!
It's not as if I will be flying in controlled airspace often - if at all. I am more often than not trying to avoid these places as I need to turn and thermal at whim - not fly a specific course and heading.
Still - the law's the law. I have to be able to hold the licence to fly across country - so pass it I must, even if it costs me £300 odd for the 5 nights in the class room and the exam. And to be honest my transmitter may only be 5 watts, but at three thousand feet it's audible in Bristol.
The CAA also take a rather stern line and will track you down and impose incredible fines.
Gliding ain't like powered flying - we are constantly working to stay aloft - and we use a fair amount more of the Aviating time just staying up there. Navigating - well it's all by eye (Yes I follow roads…) - so we rarely need to communicate much - unless to call downwind to land at home.
(Don't even get me started on Mode S transponder and use of European GPS compulsion, by the way - I feel about that the way you would feel if you had to have a machine readable licence on your push bike and pay for the use of it with a computer checking to see if you have permission to cycle to the pub)
So anyway - I have reading material for my trip to Foxtrot Romeo Alpha November Charlie Echo. More on that trip coming up..........
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In the garden, at 11pm.
My liver hurts.
(I am just a poor boy, Though my story’s seldom told, I have squandered my resistance - For a pocket full of mumbles, Such are promises.....All lies and jest! Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.......)
We must have sounded as fan-fucking-tastic as I feel right now.
Monday, September 10, 2007
'You're looking a bit down in the dumps old boy' he said.
'Indeed - have been better.' I replied
'Well let me venture a suggestion that should warm your mood - I have some holiday owed and if you do as well - it could be time for a bit of a chap adventure.'
'Oh aye, sir?' somewhat interested am I by now - 'are you thinking of perhaps Bordeaux? For I feel it could be our Arnhem - a region too far - I can scarcely afford my Burgundy habit.'
'Oh no, I was thinking more....Morocco - Marrakech and the like...'
There was a short pause.
'Listen old chap, I know I have a dose of the blues, but dragging me in to some sordid boudoir in the back streets of Marrakesh and attempting to turn me with low-rent Moroccan cock is hardly going to cheer me up. Nature, it is said, provides for all tastes - but that old chap is not one of mine.'
'Actually I was thinking about eating loads of Tajine and indulging in industrial grade fez wearing.'
'So we are to go to North Africa simply to eat and indulge in permitted indoor millinery experimentation?'
'Sounds brilliant. I will let you know in the fullness of time.'
The boat the Scot had arranged was capacious, excessively comfortable and it basically sailed itself.
There were features aboard to which I have a religious objection in British waters - chiefly the presence of bow thrusters and a fully automated windlass operated from the binnacle.
I am sorry to report that our natural revulsion to such toys was rapidly overcome - and there was joy to be had - chiefly in seeing if we could combine an astern prop walk with a countered rudder and a bow thruster to see if we could actually make the whole boat go sideways.
We had absolute newbies aboard too - and I fear their sailing has been spoiled for such opulent luxury means that when they come to do some proper sailing they will be sorely disappointed.
The sun shone and the wine flowed freely - and as such when august company like this gathers - matters soon turn to discussions of unusual natures - particularly as the sailing was very gentle - we had time to dissemble.
One of these conversations stuck in my mind in particular - and I reflected on it on the way home.
One chap aboard was a keen windsurfer and decried the slow pace of yachting about (That's kind of the point in my mind). In particular the discussion hung around whether or not a race carried out at speeds of under 3 knots (walking pace) could actually be in anyway exciting? In some ways - he had a point. Spending a day carefully trimming a sail by an inch in either direction compared to launching skyward at 25 knots are worlds apart.
The hypothesis offered by myself was that as in life as with racing - sometimes it is that slow-burn - the long careful anticipation and chess master tactics required for a challenge like this which deliver the most satisfying excitement.
A wet and wild day where we are physically challenged is one thing - but a day where we need to maintain patient yet total focus over 6 hours when little appears to be going on is often more exhausting and more satisfying a challenge.
I believe it is in effect two different types of problem. Each problem obviously has it's own solution set: A long problem - to move slowly yet determinedly in the belief that your goal will be achieved through patient careful work and sticking with your tactics - compared the raw physical short problem of clinging to the rail in a force 9.
One is fast and furious - makes for great television and is exciting. The other - can be described as watching paint dry - yet it is still race and it is still winnable. It just takes a lot of patience.
I feel there is a parallel in the difficult problems our society face today.
We have become obsessed with the former type of 'race'. Fast, furious, quick results, glory and celebration of those involved.
Unfortunately I think that many of the problems we face as a country can't be fixed like that. We set hares to fix tortoise races - and become disappointed to the point of cynicism when the races are lost. Our culture now demands instant fixes and instant refreshment from problems. But I wonder - if it has taken 30 years for our polite society to decline - can a few quick extra laws, celebrity politicians and press conference solve it?
Long, slow problems may need long slow answers - for quick ones never quite work.
But long slow answers don't make good sound bites.
But I digress.
The sailing was pleasant - if a little crowded at the western end of the Solent - and the Needles were splendid in the early evening light.
Decided to pop in to Lymington to give our new crew a taste of venturing forth there and experience the joys of the river. Which were made ever more joyful by the presence of hot showers and cold champagne.
Ultimately well refreshed, we repaired to a rather good restaurant where we dined upon crab thermidor and fresh sardines amongst other things.
Unfortunately the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, for once my captainly duties were discharged on return, I collapsed into my bunk only to awake fully clothed the following morning with a hangover from Hades.
The crew (bless 'em) had seen fit to remove my shoes and cover me in a sleeping bag. Mind you, they probably though I kept my banknotes in my shoes and were snaffling them for another run ashore.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
The original story is here in metro. Nepal Airways
Apparently the airline has a fairly sanguine approach to flight safety - borne out by the reluctance to clear out the wreckage from a previous crash at the end of the runway - a point recalled by Sigismund - as he pointed it out to his first wife on their honeymoon.
Now I have considered sacrificing many things to the weather gods to get the very best of thermals, but it normally takes the shape of one's own liver the night before (but 8 hours bottle to throttle, tho'...Ed.)
The next time I am spotted by the CFI slurping tea instead of doing my airframe inspection duties, I can claim that I am merely sacrificing the infusion to the gods, to guarantee the safety of my flight.
But - one for the flying club hangar door - for when we have finished packing the hangar (such a chore) - these chaps also celebrate in style.
Quite a barbecue!
Anyway - as a particular friend pointed out in one of her wittier moments 'If flying is Aviating - then is your Sailing 'Marinating'?'
It will be this weekend old girl. I intend to be suitable marinated.
You may recall dear reader that I been invited to hoist my broad pennant aboard the good ship 'Balooga' this weekend and the XO has sent a provisioning list. Clearly chastened by my tales of superior performance from the crew in the Aegean of late they have tried to raise their game.
On the cookery front at least, as well as in the provision of ample wine.
I have a full suite of 'evolutions' prepared to put them through their paces - after all, if the First Mate and I alone can do a tail-end mooring into a crowded pitch with a force 8 cross wind and align first time and no bumps in half the time of a full boat of Italians in Patmos, then they are going to have to cut along and do better than usual.
And not just running the guns in and out either...Sailing off the mooring, night pilotage, tidal trot moorings and a Bermudan anchoring await....while I luxuriate with toasted cheese and some of that capital Madeira in my cabin.
Remember chaps: 'If it ain't raining, it ain't training'.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Last week Paul MacCready died. He was an aviation and man-powered flight pioneer - but his name was familiar to this chap because an instrument in the old sopwith glider is named after him.
MacCready was an accomplished glider pilot and had won national competitions in the USA - and it was competitive gliding which led him to study the aeronautical behaviour of a glider in rising and sinking air - he went on to invent an instrument to help him.
The MacCready ring sits around the variometer - a kind of very sensitive rate of climb meter. The vario tells you if you are in air that is rising or falling - and allows you to judge if you are in a thermal or other lift source.
His device is a simple loop around the Vario - configured for each aeroplane and allows you to read off a recommended glide speed if you are in sinking air.
Thus in the aircraft I fly at the moment - 3 knots of sinking air I can instantly see requires an airspeed of 55 knots for best glide.
Simple and effective.
Have a read of his obituary here:
Another glider pilot with a record to his name is also in the news - of what we all hope is not the same reason.
Steve Fossett is an accomplished aviator and has a wealth of experience to draw upon.
What caught my ear was the usual hyperbole from the lazy journalist on the radio - spouting a standard FAA line.
(The FAA is the US equivalent of the CAA - known here as the Campaign Against Aviation.)
'He wasn't wearing a parachute and flew from an unlicensed strip and failed to file a flight plan.'
That ol' chestnut.
Perhaps if the chap doing the reporting had done a bit of digging he would have discovered that in powered aircraft it isn't the norm to wear a parachute at all - except if you are flying distance at night.
He may have also discovered that almost all airstrips are 'unlicensed'.
He should at least have discovered and drawn a correlation between the purpose of his flight and the requirements to actually file a flight plan:
Fossett was seeking out dried lake beds to attempt a land speed record. You file a flight plan to fly in controlled airspace - which is normally many thousands of feet above the ground.
He wouldn't have been looking for long flat places from 5-6000 feet - it all looks pretty similar from up there.
He was probably below radar cover - so his transponder wouldn't traspond anyway - so no excuses there for them to harp on about his instruments.
So - he wouldn't have filed a flight plan, worn a parachute and taking off from an unlicensed strip is normal.
He's an experienced glider pilot - and as with power - you learn rough field landings.
Yet - it makes for better story copy to go on about the things he hasn't done - that you would expect from a civil airliner - and it makes the whole thing sound that little bit more risky.
We get this sort of hyperbole in sailing too.
We have all seen the sort of headlines:
''A man crashed his luxury 30 foot yacht in the Solent yesterday after failing to inform the coastguard of his movements''.
I know of very few 30 foot yachts that are 'luxury', and If you told the coastguard of movements in the Solent, they will tell you to get knotted.
Anyway - good luck Steve - we all hope you are sitting under your wing awaiting rescue.
UPDATE: Seems His 'wrist mounted' EPIRB (GPS distress beacon) is Off - meaning the chances are, He's bought the farm.
It's sad - but like many an Aviator - I'm sure it is the way he would have wanted to go.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
It was nice to hear one of the original aircrew from 617 sqn and the appropriate deference from Sir Max Hastings - but one wonders - will we get the same deference shown to the original story?
Admittedly - we have all moaned (as Sir Max did) about how Hollywood as re-won the war and it is probably hoped that being from the Commonwealth he would be sympathetic to many of the details - but the question stands:
With these revisionist times - can we be certain that the details of the world's most famous bomber squadron will have their story told properly - or will it be remodulated for today's audience?
After all, what will they call Wing Commander (VC, DSO + Bar, DFC) Guy Gibson's dog?