first solo

September 10, 2017 § 5 Comments

5e395404ef259f552a9915252e30c388

 

 

 

A revised version of a piece published in a national flying magazine in 1992

The thesis was finished and handed in, and I had nothing to do. ‘So what’s it like then?’ I said, kicking a pebble into the long grass.

‘Brilliant,’ he replied. ‘But this bit’s making me want to throw up.’

‘How come?’

‘You pull the stick back until the whole thing rattles like an old tin can.’

‘Then what?’

‘A wing drops and you fall out of the sky.’

‘Christ. So why aren’t you dead?’

‘There’s a trick,’ he grinned. ‘Stick forward, full power. Pull back at seventy knots. Easy.’

‘Cool,’ I said. I was impressed.

He handed me a card with a photo of a plane on the front. ‘For you,’ he said. ‘A reward for getting the dissertation done.’ It was a trial flying lesson.

I loved aeroplanes. I was the person who rushed outside to see what was making that interesting roar as it flew over the farm. I was the anorak who apologised to lampposts as I watched the Pitts Special practice barrel rolls over the long straight road leading out of town. But flying them? In those days, it was men who did that.

My instructor, who had a comb over put a hand on my shoulder. ‘Women,’ he confided, ‘make better pilots than men.’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Because they listen, and don’t show off.’

He let me hold the stick while he took off, and showed me how to fiddle with the controls as we flew towards my house. I waved at husband and offspring as we circled the farm, and he talked me through a hands – on landing. I didn’t feel sick either.

My husband’s generosity had seriously backfired. Flying lessons were expensive. Particularly when both of us were doing it. Surely one trial lesson would be enough, wouldn’t it? Soon after the event, I was to be found locked in the loo drooling over a book full of wonderful creatures called Stearmans and Mooneys. Within the month, my family had chronic indigestion as I threw yet another supermarket pizza in the oven when I got back late from flying school. I was hooked.

It’s a prerequisite for anyone learning to fly to become a total bore – so that is what I did. Pretty soon my husband’s answers to my incessant questions became monosyllabic, and his face took on a glazed expression every time I uttered an innocent remark about flying. It made not one jot of difference to me: passion was passion.

I started noticing this thing called weather – funny I’d never noticed it before – and each morning I would gaze heavenwards to assess the possibility of increasing my (okay, our) overdraft. ‘Do you think the cloud base is above circuit height?’ I’d mutter. ‘Look. See that little hole in the clouds. Do you think I could slip through and do some stalling practice?’ If the weather was good, I was on the phone booking a flying slot; if it wasn’t, I’d mooch around all day wishing I lived in the south of France or Florida. It was rather like being in love.

I have a friend who went solo after nine hours – and I hate him. The question was always the same: ‘Have you gone solo yet?’ And so was my answer. But I was having a great time doing orbits in the circuit (where had the runway gone?), and bouncing like an inebriated kangaroo along the runway. But best of all was watching my instructor’s face as I nearly landed on the nose wheel – again. Did training aircraft have special twit proof suspension, I wondered.

Life continued, as did the overdraft – and then I got suspicious. Why did my instructor not instruct all the time? Why did he always have the Daily Mail tucked under his arm? I decided he just didn’t like me. The silences grew, and I uncharacteristically ran out of things to say. As my hours slipped away onto page three of my logbook (the shame of it), I finally twigged that either my first solo was imminent (unlikely), or the flying school was mustering the courage to tell me there was no hope.

I decided to stop thinking about being let loose by myself – so I dreamt about it instead. I was on short finals that night when two small children materialised in the cockpit. I think they belonged to me. One threatened an accident if I didn’t produce a potty NOW, the other was contemplating when she would be in need of one of those brown paper bags they give you on airliners. I woke up. I don’t think I landed, so I suppose I must still be up there somewhere…

It was a soggy November morning, three days after I’d disgraced myself doing some wriggly yet interesting crosswind landings. I sloped off to the airport, only to find my instructor hadn’t arrived. Was this it? Had I finally broken his spirit? I pootled off to do my pre flight checks. He finally turned up but the little plane refused to start. This was surely a sign I should go home. But he, ever valiant and resourceful, toyed with the idea of having bits of himself amputated by hand swinging the prop. We were off.

‘No comment,’ said he, as I landed and bounced inelegantly towards the grass verge. Such is life. He got out his Daily Mail and pretended to ignore me. After three landings, he began breathing heavily. Then he spoke. ‘I have control,’ he said, pressing the radio button. ‘ Air Traffic Control. Permission request for first solo.’

‘Who, me?’ I croaked. ‘I can’t do that.’

He smiled and tucked the newspaper under his arm. My heart started behaving oddly: I could hear it. A period of prevarication followed, and while I privately dithered, he taxied us to the apron and got out. ‘Good luck,’ was all he said. He didn’t even say goodbye. I didn’t move. I wanted a fag. Then I remembered I’d stopped breathing. I was all by myself and it was exactly one o’clock. I shook myself and did my internal checks. Twice. Mustn’t forget to put the fuel pump on. What was the Emergency Landing After Take Off procedure? Should I say a prayer or something?

My mind went blank after that, and, as if by magic, I found myself on the end of the tarmac runway. Pre take off checks done. Deep breath. Full throttle, and the rattly old plane skipped into the air. I waved at the control tower. They waved back. I climbed to a thousand feet. Flew over the houses outside the perimeter fence. Turning onto the crosswind leg, I looked for other traffic. Then  I giggled. I turned downwind and giggled some more. I’d always wanted to waggle my wings, so I did. Pre landing checks done. Where was that block of flats I had to turn base on?

I turned onto base leg and began my descent. Five hundred feet – time to turn finals. The wind was good – ten knots straight off the runway. Perfect. Or was it? I was too low – a little throttle. I was losing speed – lower the nose. I reported finals. At two hundred feet I skimmed the fence and whizzed past the plane geeks with binoculars stuck to their faces. Fifty feet. Cut the power. Flare. I plopped delicately onto the tarmac, and remembered I’d stopped breathing again. I taxied off and flicked a few switches. I tried hard to wipe the grin off my face. I couldn’t.

I don’t remember anything after that until I got home. My husband’s remarks were brief and monosyllabic. ‘Oh,’ was all he could manage. I suppose he was thinking about the letter we’d had from the bank that morning…

~

Advertisements

yikes

March 30, 2015 § 10 Comments

l-Brace-Yourselves-A-Strong-Wind-is-Coming

violent spring wind

lifting tiles on my neighbour’s roof –

g

   l

      i

         s

            s

               a

                  n

                      d

                            o

 

 

Image courtesy cutestpaw.com

priorities

February 27, 2015 § 6 Comments

raindrop

 

 

s

o

u

n

d

 

o

f

 

r

a

i

n

 

on the old tin roof –

 

hedgehog

                still

                      snoring…

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy the sietchorg.

cold feet

February 17, 2015 § 10 Comments

lauren-2

barefoot in the snow

ouch –

i am alive!

~

Written after Issa…

Issa (1762-1826) is one of the most well known haiku poets. He was a Buddhist priest, and spent many years simply wandering about Japan. I enjoy his work as he clearly loved to play with words and to make fun of both himself and the human condition. Although he used traditional images like cherry blossom and so on, his sense of humour and wonderfully eccentric imagination led to some great haiku: “here comes a bush warbler!/ wiping his dirty feet/ on the plum blossom”. His work can be both coarse or rough, yet exquisite at the same time. An inspiring and timeless poet.

Bottle

May 15, 2014 § 29 Comments

This story has been removed from the blog as it has been published by the journal ‘Ariadne’s Thread.’

10th. Feb 2015

 

 

w-corfe-witch_bottle

 

Photo courtesy Times Online

 

 

 

breathe

May 5, 2014 § 22 Comments

 

Image

trouble with haiku

and that darned 5-7-5 rule –

you run out of syll…

~

Photo courtesy Michael Sheehan

Perfect

April 5, 2014 § 14 Comments

 My energy shifted for a day, and the adrenalin flowed.

Haiku bubbled away inside me anyway.

Just waiting.

Unstoppable.

What burst out of me was this: a modified version of a rough draft I blogged last year when hardly anyone was looking. Apologies if you’ve seen it before – but if you have, I hope you think it’s better…

 

Perfect

 Image

 

6.55: Leap out of bed. Stretch. Sun streaks through window. Breathe. Five-minute yoga. Jump in shower. Sing. Get soap in mouth. Blow bubbles. Dribble. Spit.

 

7.15: Put on clean clothes. Husband rolls onto my side. Knock on child’s door. Knock on other child’s door. Run downstairs. Fill kettle. Plug in. Lay table. Plates, mugs, knives, butter, Marmite, peanut butter. Tea bags in pot. Milk out of fridge. Slice bread. Load toaster. Call daughters. Brush hair. Let dog out. Seamless.

 

7.30: Girls downstairs. Kiss heads. Tell joke. Spread peanut butter. Milk in mugs. Pour tea. Eat toast with one hand. Fix hair with other. Number One daughter dresses self. Fresh socks. Clean knickers. Dress Number Two. Brush tangles out of blonde hair. Brush tangles out of brown hair. Still smiling. French plait both heads. Brush three sets of teeth in kitchen sink. Rinse. Spit.

 

7.45: Check satchels. Homework in. And gym kits. Call dog. On with duffle coats. Hats. Scarves. Unlock front door. Grab keys. Open car doors. Satchels and dog in boot. Girls in back. Seat belts on.

 

7.55: Sing songs. Dog slobbers. Scratches leather seats when smells sea. Don’t shout once.

 

8.25: School. Five minutes early. Open car doors. Girls out. Open boot. Dog escapes. Hand over satchels. Gym kits. Round up dog. Put back in car. Kiss heads. Smile. God I’m good.

 

8.35: Beach. Walk dog. Throw sticks for arthritic Doberman and Labrador with skin condition and no manners. Dog snores on way home. Wet sand on back seats. Melvyn Bragg on radio. Uses long words. Show off.

 

10.00: Husband has cleared breakfast table. Plumped cushions. Loaded dishwasher. Pink note with kisses on by sink.

 

10.15: Boot up Mac. Make cappuccino. Start penultimate chapter of magical realism novel. First draft.

 

~

 

7.25: Shit. Sleep through alarm. It’s going to rain. Period’s come early. Headache. Stomachache. Back ache. Want to swear. Shower. Scald self. No clean towel. Don’t sing. Pick up dirty clothes. Put on. Husband plays dead. Call girls. Silence. Trip on stairs. Bash knee. Scream. Hammer on bedroom doors.

 

7.40: Switch on kettle. Don’t fill. Burning smell. Kettle explodes. Open window. Let out stink. Fill saucepan. Turn on hob. Lay out plates, mugs, knives, butter, peanut butter, salami. Marmite jar empty. Fill teapot. Pour milk in. Slice bread. Load up toaster. Scream again. Girls come down. Bickering. Not dressed. Burn toast. Scrape off charcoal. Cut off crusts. Brush wet hair. Scrape back with rubber band. Number One goes upstairs to dress. Won’t come down. Says is sick. Watching TV. No clean socks in house. Blonde and brown hair tangled. Brush hard. Find nits. Brush harder. Number One yelps. Number Two whines. Don’t do French plaits. Don’t brush teeth. Don’t check satchels. Don’t care. Dog sits by door with legs crossed. Coping just fine.

 

8.15: Unlock front door. Car keys gone. In pocket. Unlock car doors. Satchels in boot. Girls in car. Call dog. Won’t come. Having pee. Steer with one hand. Eat toast with other. Hate peanut butter. Hate salami. Won’t sing.

 

8.50: School. Bell gone. Forgotten gym kits. Dog runs off. Chases football in playground. Punctures it. Small boy throws wobbler. Offer to pay. Hate dogs.

 

9.00: Beach. Deep breath. Dog runs off. Catches baby rabbit. Gulps it down in one. It wriggles as it goes down. Want to be sick. Labrador mounts our dog. Shriek. Throw stones. Separate. Put on lead. Haul back to car. Labrador man jumps up and down. Doberman dances around car.  Gouges paintwork with claws.

 

10.30: Husband gone. Beds not made. Breakfast not cleared. Dishwasher not loaded. Cushions not plumped. Back caning. Headache worse.

 

10.45: Find scotch at back of cereal cupboard. Crack ice out of freezer with screwdriver. Dog sick on carpet. Dead rabbit comes out. Go upstairs. Puke. Feel better. Husband’s clothes gone. Suitcase disappeared. No note. Bastard. Go downstairs. More scotch. And another. Load dishwasher. Plump up cushions. Crawl upstairs. Fall asleep.

 

11.30 ish: Dream. Large white room. Chapel-high windows. Sun streaming. White carpet. No stains. No clutter. White Steinway. White shelves. Books filed neatly in order. No husband. No children. No dog. No dead rabbits. No aches. No period. I am clean, thin and beautiful. Flirt with postman. Have fling with man next door. Break a heart or two. Novel published. Accolades. Parties. Groucho Club. Ben Affleck invites me to lunch. Have yin yang tattoo done on thigh. Get rich. Cheques don’t bounce. Buy Porsche. Stay single. Break more hearts.

 

2.30: Wake up. Headache worse. Want new body. Take Aspirin. Phone vet for morning after pill. Don’t make bed. Lost car keys. Find in car. Dog jumps on back seat. Stinks of puke. Daren’t look at self in mirror.

 

3.00: Hate Tesco’s. Buy kettle, alarm clock, Marmite, whisky, pot noodles. Won’t cook ever again. Husband can go to hell. Want to get on plane. See world. South America. Tibet. Mongolia. New York. Find out who I am. First Class Virgin ticket with thick down pillows. Go dancing. Eat at Nobu’s. Dance to Eric Clapton at Carnegie Hall. Have a Macy’s Credit Card. All expenses paid.

 

3.45: Late picking up. Scotch worn off. And Aspirin. Girls sulk. Want feeding. Buy chocolate. Don’t sing. Don’t talk.

 

4.15: Telly on. Thumbs in mouths. Feed dog. Feed girls pot noodles. Open whisky bottle. Out of ice.

 

6.30: Husband walks in. With takeaway. Says sorry. All his fault. Bunch of red roses behind back. Put in vase. Bathe girls. Put to bed.

 

7.30: Eat lukewarm supper out of cartons on sofa. Give dog leftovers. Watch DVD. Share bottle. Feel giddy. Load up washing machine. Close eyes.

 

10.00: Put sticking plaster on heart. Again. Have to think of the children.

 

*

 

 

 

 

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with humour at Changing Skin and other stories.

%d bloggers like this: