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Everything posted by Procopius

  1. So I can't get Flickr to load on this cruddy airplane wifi -- you can well imagine my dismay that a technology of which I understand so little that it might as well be magic fails to cater to my every whim as I I fly home at twice the ceiling and three times the cruising speed of a Lancaster in pressurized comfort -- but I'll try to summarize the rest of the trip as best I can for you all right now, because I'm probably not gonna have a ton of spare time once I get home and we have to make our house look like somewhere a person might want to live in. Also I paid for this wifi and if I don't do this I'll browse Hannants, and therein lies deadly danger. No photos for now, but think, when we talk of horses, that you see their proud hooves etc. So where was I? Oh right. Sunday. On Sunday we made our way to Cosford, where University Air Squadron (I presume) Tutors lazily did circuits and bumps and caused me to google "1/72 Grob Tutor" about six times before I realized the results were always going to be the same. (It turns out there is a 1/72 Jetstream T.1 though, oh dear oh dear.) We were joined once again by Stew, Jamie, and JasonC, who kindly but foolishly mentioned that he could drive home with some of my Telford haul to Bath, as he lives reasonably close to Ced. Boys throw stones in jest, but the frogs die in earnest, and thus in this innocent, well-meaning comment did we find a solution to the T-Roc's totally adequate storage situation. Possibly Cosford's entire existence could be justified by the following exchange: Me: An Me 262! It's much bigger than I expected. Stew: And the [30mm] cannon ports are much smaller than I imagined. But it's very cold at high altitude. After Cosford, we retired to the stately fastness of our inn, which was recommended to us by 06/24. Ced quite liked it, feeling it had a traditional English charm, and that may be so. I was unimpressed, however. The Premier Inn may not exactly offer all of the comforts of home, but it offers that certain level of ruthless, unsentimental efficiency that means that the toilet works (Cookie's didn't) or that, with a modicum of patience, one might enjoy a hot shower or reasonable facsimile thereof. (Incidentally, though I'm not unprepared for it after three visits to the country, the single pane of glass covering only half the length of the shower leaves me feeling hideously exposed; I keep expecting a frigate to appear out of the steam broadside on and cross my T, a very vulnerable feeling whilst trying to wash one's hair.) I also note that in the Premier Inn, they don't typically "run out" of beefburgers, nor do they take an hour to even give you a menu before requiring a further hour to prepare one's food. Lastly, the room numbering scheme was unencumbered by any traditional system of numeration I was aware of, so that Cookie's room (18) was adjacent to mine (24), and Bill's (26) was an entire floor up, with the sign indicating its direction pointing in the wrong way. Oh what fun we had trying to find it! I'll grant that it was very beautiful, however, but since I can't load Flickr at 40,000 feet, you'll have to take my word for it. Anyway, that evening, we met up with Heather and her partner (who's a fascinating guy in his own right) that night for a pleasant little dinner, and then it was off to bed. The next day, we were back at Cosford to see the aircraft being restored (Ced had graciously purchased tickets for us in advance), and we had a gander at a Wellington in her underthings, the beautifully restored fuselage of a Hampden (and I learned the "p" is silent, after enunciating it like a simpleton for days), a Lysander III(SD) up on her pins, the ruins of the Dornier 17 they fished out of the water a few years back (which I can't believe will ever be much further restored, given the intense-looking level of deterioration), and an Me410, but as there was a large queue to see inside the cockpit, I more or less gave it a miss. Then we were off again, to Duxford, which we reached just before closing. Bill and Ced went off on their doomed quest to gain good photos of the inside of a Javelin's cockpit, and JD and I opted to fork over ten quid each to listen to a talk about the Lancaster with the promise of a tour of it immediately following. I will stop right here and say I'm not overly a fan of "that guy", the one who interrupts a talk to add a bit of minor minutia, but during the talk, I discovered that I am, to my horror, in fact that guy. The speaker (who was clearly well-informed and passionate about the Lancaster, to his credit) first said the Zeppelin raids on England were the first time that British civilians had directly been attacked on English soil since the English Civil War (in fact, the 1915 German naval bombardments of coastal towns hold that dubious distinction), and then latterly that the Lancaster had never possessed a ventral turret (it did initially, even in squadron service, but the FN64 was not a success). I felt like a total heel, but Duxford had its revenge. Our "tour" of the Lancaster consisted of getting to stand just inside the crew entryway on a little metal platform placed their specially for our presence, but we were permitted to go no further. Thus ended my dream of wriggling into as many bomb-aimers' positions as possible during my time in England. By the time the talk had ended, Duxford was closing for the day, so we retired to the comforting sameness of the local Premiere Inn to deposit our bags, and from thence we headed out to The Eagle, where we had a very serviceable dinner (the absence of bangers and mash from American menus is one of many currently ongoing national scandals) and Cookie fell in love at first sight with a woman eating outside in the smoking area whom he glimpsed through the window. (All women who are not Mrs P look like rotting meat to me, which can make the supermarket tricky, so I can't vouch for or against JD's evaluation.) Alas, she was with a man who appeared to be her partner, and they seemed pretty happy, but rest assured that if that blaggard had left her sobbing, alone at the table, a ruggedly handsome American engineer stood ready to drop seamlessly into her life. She'll never know what she missed out on, and perhaps that's just as well, less she cast herself into the nearest river, mad with grief at what could, nay should, have been. After dinner, we headed into The Eagle section of the pub proper, adorned with countless unit zaps along the walls, and more importantly, on the ceiling, graffiti left by Allied aircrew during the second world war, burnt into it with lighters or matches or candles, or crudely drawn with lipstick or whatever else was at hand. It being Remembrance Day proper, we drank a toast to the actors waiting in the wings of Europe. Burning the ceiling with a match is the sort of foolish thing a twenty-year-old boy with no time left in which to become a man might well do before heading back to one of the bomber stations to face the fear of death along with six other young men in a metal container at eighteen thousand feet during the years in which he was supposed to feel invincible. It's a very human thing, to be juvenile, and a reminder of really, how horribly young and immature so many of them were. And yet they poured their lives out like so many glasses of water to save the world. We went back to Duxford the next day to give it the full twice-over, meandering from hangar to hangar and discovering, almost entirely by chance, a rather nice used bookshop that supports the preservation of the airliners hosted on the site. It had an incredible selection, but my now intensely limited storage space meant that I only bought one wafer-thin volume (and dropped a few pound coins in the donation box to support their efforts), and then we were off home, as it were, to Bath. Back in Bath, I was introduced to the wonders of toad in the hole at Ced's local, and thus encumbered, we staggered back and lapsed into blissful slumber. The following day, it was off to meet up with Terry1954 and another fellow modeller at Yeovilton, where we were treated to the sight of both Wildcats and Merlins warming up on the tarmac and flying about. The EH101 is a magnificent beast of a helicopter, and I'm glad I have a couple in the stash. As if that weren't enough, a lone Sea Fury tooled by overhead as well. Inside the museum, I managed to get trapped in the Ark Royal tour they have and had to go through the whole thing while everyone else was off looking at airplanes, and I'm here to tell you, the Royal Navy has managed to produce an incredible commercial for a ship that left service in 1978. The aircraft on display, however, were excellent, as well as largely not roped off, meaning one could look at most from all angles, including directly underneath, which I've decided is something I highly value in a museum. After the museum we opted to head to the Frome(?) model shop that was nearish by, and discovered the plastic model section was closed off until the 16th as they recuperated from Telford. When asked if we'd come far to see the shop, we somewhat disingenuously replied, with our broadest American accents, that we'd come 4,000 miles. They duly opened up the area, and it was a win for everyone, since we all felt obligated to buy something. Ced got a Valom Buckmaster (he can't help himself when Bristols are about), Navy Bird got a Fine Molds A7M Reppu, Cookie got an Azur Mystere, having seen what felt like an endless procession of them over the past two weeks, Terry got a Fine Molds F-14A, and I bought the Fine Molds F-14 missile set, plus a few more presents for my boys, who I've been away from for long enough to have forgotten how poorly behaved they are. Then it was back to Bath, where like any young, vigorous man with his entire life before him, I immediately fell asleep for a two-hour nap. Then we met up with JasonC to retrieve my kits that he'd been very kindly holding for me, and then he joined us at the pub for dinner, where he proved a delightful dinner companion before he was finally able to make his escape. During dinner I learned that Mrs P had bought a house, sort of, depending on whether or not we can sell ours in the next thirty days, which should be interesting. Then it was today, and time to leave. I woke up this morning to a strange rustling emanating from the bathroom, but didn't realize that Ced was in the crawlspace until he suddenly emerged from it with a carryon bag for me to use, moments before I was about to disrobe for the shower. A lucky escape for Ced! After some last-minute packing, everything was squeeeeeeeezed into my four(!) bags, including two carry-ons, we enjoyed one last delicious breakfast made by Ced's very patient wife, and then it was off to Heathrow. On the way, we stopped at the RAF Memorial at Runnymede, which was deeply moving, but also deeply upsetting. A team of people from the CWGC were there adjusting signage, but they were joking and laughing loudly among themselves in a manner that I found very disruptive. I don't begrudge anyone a little camaraderie or fun on the job, even gravediggers have to laugh sometimes, but the Memorial is in effect a sepulcher for 20,000 men who'll never have one of their own. Heaven forbid someone visiting to see the name of a parent, or a sibling, or a relative they'd never meet would have that solemn moment interrupted by loud shrieks of laughter. Most unfortunate. The monument itself, at least, was beautiful and I felt fitting, overlooking as it does Heathrow. Then it was time to say our goodbyes. Ced, who planned and organized two weeks beyond compare or imagination with aplomb, and who'd tirelessly ferried us all well over a thousand miles, dropped us off at the airport. Navy Bird headed off to the Virgin terminal. Cookie and I to American's. By the time the jet took off, it was dark out, and as it turned to head towards the country I live in for the foreseeable future, ten thousand feet below us, the lights of London were spread out underneath the aircraft, a glittering tapestry seemingly without end. See you all again soon, I hope.
  2. Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow, 2025. Put it in your date book, fellas.
  3. In my absence she bought a new house on contingency that costs nearly three times what our current one did, so she doesn't have a lot of searoom on this one.
  4. In truth I love helos and have a fair few kits in the stash; I'm hoping to find some decals to do my newly-bought Sycamore as a Suez Crisis one, as Suez, Malayan Emergency, and Confrontation helos are all areas of interest for me. Though seeing the Merlins at Yeovilton...phwoar! No, but they probably need an extra big pocket to hold all the money they extracted from me for the second checked bag, the so-and-sos. Total weight of checked baggage was 37 kilogrammes, and then there were the two (flagrantly out of limits) pieces of carry on luggage I brought aboard. Happily, this aircraft is very lightly loaded, and JD and I once again have a three seat row split between the two of us, so I have plenty of legroom by the standards of a coach-flying peasant. Incidentally, the pilot lead off with an announcement telling us specifically only to use the lavatories for our class, which just goes to show how little having a republic actually solves in that line.
  5. Intriguing... Sorry for the radio silence, folks, Telford was a bit overwhelming, and the pace of things since has been such that I haven't had much time to update. I think it's safe to say I've done more social drinking in the last week or so than at any other time in my entire life. I neglected to mention that Gorby also very kindly added to my considerable baggage load on the way home with some books, which was most generous of him. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. When I left off, we'd just finished meeting up with the Sovereign Hobbies guys, who happen to both produce my favourite paints and also are two of my favourite people, though we'd never met in person until Friday night. Stew I've known through Britmodeller for years now, and I was excited to finally meet him after missing out in 2015, and Jamie has been nothing but helpful with his advice on how to use his paints, and I was delighted to find they're as pleasant in person as they are online. (Jamie is, however, a decisive man of action, and one of the rare Britmodellers to look like an action movie star -- though AdrianMF, who I met at Telford, looks like one of those handsome tanned industrialists who reveal to a badly injured James Bond that they've spent the last ten years in the Orient learning how to make their hands as hard as steel while they hunt 007 through their labyrinthine mansion -- and Cookie and I had an amusing few minutes imagining him rigging a 1/350 ship with the same speed and decisiveness with which he does everything else.) Thus plied with a fairly substantial amount of Glenfiddich, I retired to bed and awoke without a hangover (my one superpower, whiskey doesn't give me hangovers) at 5:30 AM the next morning to get ready, as if anyone can truly be ready for Telford. We all met for breakfast, and then I went with the Sovereign guys to help carry some stuff to the show, which meant I got to ride in a Jaguar (cool!) and watch the huge line begin to spiral out of the stately bulk of the TIC. I also ran into Rob85 as we went down to the line, who was the first of a few people to recognize me unprompted that day. We linked back up with Ced and Bill and Cookie in line (they ended up a few people ahead of us), and as we entered the show itself, I ran into a miasma of truly intense body odour from someone passing near by emitting a human chemtrail, a smell so intense I can only describe it as being not unlike having a #11 blade jammed forcefully up your nostril but stopping just short of the brain. Inside was...beyond description. The largest model show I've ever been to had perhaps 200 people in a single gymnasium. Telford felt almost the size of the Mecca of Dungeons and Dragons, Gen Con, which boasts 70,000 attendees (though, having been to both, GenCon smells far, far worse), though of course I realize it's only about 10,000 people. That still feels like a lot! JD and I opted to split off from everyone else and make our rounds, and one of the first things I learned is that when prepping for Telford, don't pre-order anything from Hannants, as you commit yourself to lugging it around for the rest of the show. I felt much less remorse about reserving stuff from Blackbird and Freightdog, and finally managed to get some resin sponsons for my Revell Sea King AEW.7 from Whirlybird Models. I also, in my folly, got the first three volumes of Arab MiGs for a tenner, and boy were they heavy. At this point, between my Hannants show order and what I'd picked up, I had to sharply arrest my buying as it was both heavy and we were rapidly approaching the limits of what could comfortably contained in Ced's car. (When he said that the T-Roc had "best in class storage space", I asked if the class was "cars with very small trunks", and he told me they only make trunks as big as their mouths here.) My haul: Two or three people recognized me from my posts here, and came up and said hi, and allow me to apologize to you now for how disappointing it must have been to meet me in person. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon: JD. Cookie is nicer, friendlier, more enthusiastic, and a better modeller I am, and he did some great ex officio diplomacy for the USA, which needs all the help it can get right now. I actually found I got fairly tired pretty quickly, as a side effect, no doubt, of stupidly picking up my Hannants order right off the bat and having to lug it around everywhere. Not entirely sure what I was thinking. I didn't take any photos of the models because I was terrified of dropping my phone (which has a bulky battery pack case) on something and turning it into a mere collection of atoms. I met a bunch of you at the IPMS Birmingham stand around 1300, and it was a great pleasure to put so many names to faces. Due to the bags policy, I remained on the ground floor with the baggage, while Navy Bird and Cookenbacher went up to look at the contest winners, and found that the spot I'd chosen to sit in was directly in the path of the immense cloud of toxic fumes being put out by the smokers just outside the TIC, huddled grimly about the open exterior door of the building as rain poured down. Unfortunately, the standard of the winning builds was good, and the boys took a long time to examine them, leaving me feeling quite queasy by the time they returned. Mistakes were made: More later!
  6. Hello from Telford! I finally met up with mon frere d'autre mere Stew Dapple and am thoroughly plastered thanks to the magic of multiple double scotches, so today's update is of necessity a brief one. We went to the Midland Air Museum and met up with @Gorby, a thoroughly nice fellow, and got to sit in their Victor cockpit section, which was amazing, and also in the Vulcan; Ced got photos of me in the bomb aimer's positions on both, and while the Vulcan had the more spacious spot, the Victor was clearly the most modern cockpit. We also met the director of the Midland Air Museum, and he (unprompted) brought out a HS.681 brochure for me to peruse; he's a very cool guy, and their Victor cockpit has to be seen to be believed. Their shop is also quite dangerous. We then picked up Navy Bird, whose baggage was lost in transit, and then it was time to meet Stew and Jamie from Sovereign Hobbies, both of whom I'm happy to say are even more likeable in real life than online. Mrs P must never hear Jamie's accent, however. she'd melt. Anyway, I'm frantically downing glasses of water now, and tomorrow: TELFORD!
  7. We're extremely close to Midland right now, and that's on the docket for tomorrow after yet another hearty, artery-clogging breakfast.
  8. Damme and blast, I am sad we missed out! We're in peak physical condition, you see. Today it was off to RAF Coningsby to see the BBMF (and while we luncheoned in the canteen, we caught sight of a Typhoon barreling heavenward). It's hard to put into words how incredible it was to be in the BBMF hangar, from the fuel smell to seeing all of the aircraft, including the oldest flying Battle of Britain veteran in the world...magical stuff. And you, unborn then, what will you make of it— This shadow-play of battles long ago? Be sure of this: they pushed to the uttermost limit Their luck, skill, nerve. And they were young like you. -- "The Battle of Britain", Cecil Day-Lewis Then it was off in the pouring rain to see if we could catch a glimpse of a Typhoon returning to Coningsby for lunch, as Ced predicted they would, and lo, one did! I really love those jets. Then it was off to the Newark Air Museum, which is marvelous, and which has a very dangerous gift shop that's also a pretty decent model shop. Even Ced bought a Trumpeter Wyvern, and JD found a Kookaburra book on the P-40 and a Warpaint on the Canberra, and he bought me the Putnam Vickers Aircraft book. What a guy! It also had an aircraft which we may or may not be hearing about at Telford: And, based on the many flooded outdoor areas, not much in the way of drainage. Then after a long, wonderful day, we were off to Coventry, where tomorrow evening we'll pick up Navy Bird, and my reign as Shotgun King in the car will come to an end.
  9. Good news, everyone! I definitely fit in the nose of the Canberra B.6. I was even able to wriggle out effortlessly. So there's clearly something wrong with the one back at Boscombe. This morning, we headed out to the field where Cookie's grandfather crashlanded his B-24H in 1945, while trying to make a forced landing at RAF Shipdham. We couldn't find the pond the aircraft landed in, though we found the lane it landed somewhere along, and a woman out walking her dog told us a bit of local folklore about a young woman who threw herself in the same pond to drown when a B-24 carrying her lover failed to return. (Not, I hasten to add, JD's grandfather.) We also drove onto Shipdham airfield proper, or what's left of it, which isn't much. The Shipdham Flying Club, who were not in evidence, maintain their headquarters there as well as a number of visual references to the airfield's somewhat more glorious past. There was also a small plaque, placed in 1988, in memory of the field's tenants, the 44th BG, but sadly it's not in the best shape: Then we went on towards Lincoln, with a quick detour to RAF Marham, where we hoped to catch sight of an F-35B, but alas all of them were probably on HMS Queen Elizabeth in America or conducting trials with HMS Prince of Wales. Fortunately, we happened upon the Marham Heritage Centre, where a helpful volunteer and former weapons engineer for the Tornado gave us a wonderful little tour and talked all about JP233, a weapon that's fascinated me since I learned of it in 1989. The centre has lots of interesting full-size stores, mostly replicas or training ones, for the Tornado, including a BOZ pod and Sky Shadow ECM. They also had a nice little shop area, and since the proceeds went to RAF Marham and my love for the RAF is I trust well-known, I picked up a 617 Squadron shirt, a Typhoon patch, and a very nice book of Tornado photographs, and they gave me a Tornado engine blade on my way out. Then, as I came outside, a pair of Typhoons passed overhead, with one barrel-rolling away and their wingman following. JD had never seen one in flight before, so he was quite pleased, and I was pleased too, because the Typhoon is gorgeous. We then headed to East Kirkby to see their Lancaster, Just Jane. I'd tried to arrange a tour of her in advance, but unfortunately she's being worked on now, and that wasn't possible. She's immense, and immensely imposing. It might not have been the best decision of East Kirkby to suggest one begin their tour with her, however; everything else is apt to seem an anticlimax. There's also what I understand to be the only intact Mosquito NFII there, in the throes of a 40-year-long restoration; I donated a few pounds towards this worthy cause. When we left the hangar, we saw yet another Typhoon, this one wheels down and much lower, so we got a good look at her. I think I shall never tire of seeing them. Then, after picking up some gifts for the boys and for Mrs P, it was on to the IBCC in Lincoln. The IBCC is a sombre place. It can't help it. When you step out the back of the building, you're faced with the spire, the height of a Lancaster's wingspan, and around it, the stone tablets bearing the names of 57,861 members of Bomber Command who gave their lives during the war. Perched atop a hill, it overlooks Lincoln below, the great bulk of the cathedral looming over the city in the distance. That building, almost a thousand years old, would see thousands of bombers pass over it between 1939 and 1945. Some returned. We walked out to the spire in almost total silence. What could we say? Nearly eighty years ago, the sound of them all must have been deafening as they passed overhead, to impale themselves on the spiked ramparts and drown themselves in the moats of Fortress Europa, each seven-man crew an entire lonely universe unto itself in dark skies punctuated only by terrifying flashes. And somehow, they did it: "In the summer of 1943, the disruption in the Ruhr manifested itself across the German economy in the so-called 'Zuligieferungskrise; (sub-components crisis). All manner of parts, castings, and forgings were suddenly in short supply. And this affected not only heavy industry directly, but the entire armaments complex. Most significantly, the shortage of key components brought the rapid increase in Luftwaffe production to an abrupt halt. Between July 1943 and March 1944 there was no further increase in the monthly output of aircraft. For the armaments effort as a whole, the period of stagnation lasted throughout the second half of 1943. As Speer himself acknowledged, Allied bombing had negated all plans for a further increase in production. Bomber Command had stopped Speer's armaments miracle in its tracks." (Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction) "We were attacked again. I went back to the pilot. We had our intercom on and he shouted out, ‘Don’t bale out.’ But the intercom was very bad and crackly and I think that some of them only caught the last two words. The wireless operator, the navigator and the flight engineer all went out. So, one gunner was probably dead, the other probably dying and three men had baled out, just leaving myself and Kevin. He tried to control the plane but the fire probably burnt through the control cables and it started to dive, with a terrible screaming sound. Kevin and I realized that we had to get out but, because of the G force, we couldn’t get to the hatch in the nose. I could see that we were going to go down in this bloody plane but Kevin managed to reach the escape-hatch in the nose and pulled it open. He then physically got hold of me, shoved me into the hatch and pushed me out with his feet. He said he was following. I pulled my cord. I couldn’t see anything but very quickly indeed I landed in some trees. The plane crashed three or four hundred yards away. Kevin never got out. We had been too low. I am very conscious that my life hinged on that moment when Kevin pushed me out. When my son was born in 1951, I called him Kevin, as a daily reminder of Kevin Hornibrook, to whom I owed the rest of my life. Never a day goes by without me remembering that he was first at the door and could have saved himself easily." -- Alex Bryett, 158 Squadron
  10. Disappointing! Mr T lived in the town where I grew up, and I would often see his pink Rolls-Royce with the vanity plate MR T parked on the kerb outside shops.
  11. Today was comparatively sedate; in the morning, we visited the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, which Ced and Cookie found a bit chilly, much of it being open air, but the weather here right now is just about perfect for me and I quite liked it. And if you're not walking through damp grass on a wet morning, are you even in England? The museum's collection is pretty good, especially as far as JD and I were concerned. The likelihood of seeing a Mystere IVa in the 'states is pretty low, and between that, their Canberra, Super Sabre, Hunter, Javelin, Sea Vixen, and others, it really has quite a bit to see, though unfortunately the positioning of the Sea Vixen makes it pretty inaccessible. Plus what is as far as I know, the largest surviving section of one of my oddball favourites, the Bolton-Paul Overstrand! They also had a nice collection of artifacts (including some bits from shot down Luftwaffe aircraft, and more sadly, crashed RAF and USAAF aircraft) and built models, some of which were inspiring and others of which merely boosted one's confidence. After that, it was time. Time to go to Hannant's Lowestoft. This was technically a silly place to go, since we could pick up anything we wanted at Telford at a 10% discount (and will), but I kind of wanted to see the warehouse I've been paying for for the last few years. The good news right off the bat: Hannants are wasting not a penny on the exterior, and the savings is doubtless being passed on to you, the consumer. Inside, it's divided more or less into two rooms. A front one where the staff sit, and where mainly decals are stored, and then, through the door into the back: Cue celestial choir, please. Ced has expressed some concern about how I'm going to get everything back (our plan: ruthlessly abuse the carryon and checked bags limit), and so I kept my purchases today limited (plus, uh, I have a large order to pick up at Telford), so JD and I mostly ambled around taking it all in, while Ced, who said he'd gone "box-blind", retreated to the car to contemplate the life choices that had lead to him being imprisoned in a medium-sized SUV while travelling the length and breadth of England with two weirdos from the United States. Cookie picked up the Special Hobby/Tarangus Viggen, and a number of DK Decal sheets, and I grabbed the following: The 109D was supposed to be for @Corsairfoxfouruncle, since Dennis had asked me to bring him back their Condor Legion Bf109D, but amazingly the box reads "Condor Legion 109" on the side and not on the cover. In any case, they didn't have the Conor Legion one in stock, so I'll just be forced to keep this one and trust AMG has one at Telford. , After this, we explored Greater Yarmouth and gazed out over the North Sea (towards Dogger Bank and Jutland, I learned from Jamie at Sovereign) and walked along the beach there for a spell. This too, with its gaudy, Las Vegas-style (the only thing missing was the stale smell of cigarette smoke, and, as Ced pointed out, free drinks), is Britain, as much as the rolling green hills and the beautiful misty mornings. When you're a native of a country, you have the rare privilege of liking it or hating it in parts; you're already part of it, and, for example, not caring about baseball or hating the police doesn't make you un-American, any more than loving those things could make you more of one; you simply are, if that makes sense. Anyone coming to another country, or perhaps idly-dreaming about coming there, has to take it in and accept it in toto, until the process of becoming is complete. You have to know and understand what it's like before you make the commitment, whether that commitment will ultimately entail changing it for the better (or worse, I guess) or accepting it as it is. Speaking of love, I called Mrs P to see how she's doing with our two children. Seems to be going well: Grant had gotten hold of first the fly swatter and latterly the crevice tool for the vacuum and was going after her with it. I don't miss America much, but I do miss her a great deal. Grant and Winston...perhaps less so. We also went out to a Wetherspoons for dinner, and I had two double bourbons with ginger ale, pretty close to my preferred tipple of rye and ginger ale, and discovered to my immense pleasure that the time it took for my companions to finish their pints was plenty of time to move beyond the deleterious effects of the drinks on my system and straight into feeling like an invincible superman. Perhaps wisely, we stopped after the two rounds and retired to our rooms. Once again, I have to doff my cap to Ced, who has tirelessly driven us all over, organised everything, and made sure at every step we're enjoying ourselves. We certainly are, and it wouldn't be a tenth as much fun without all of the hard work he puts into the whole endeavour.
  12. Are we sure it was intended that the weapon separate before detonation?
  13. Sorry for the slight delay in updates, chaps, it's been a busy two days. Yesterday we went to Boscombe and met up with @Avereda and @Ex-FAAWAFU, both very nice fellows, though I'm afraid I was too star-struck at meeting a Falklands veteran to really properly speak to Crisp. We puttered around the hangar there, and in a sudden burst of unwarranted confidence, I became convinced I could wriggle into the bomb-aimer's position of a Canberra B.2; I cannot, which I'm putting down to my broad, manly shoulders and the fact that halfway to having my face pressed to the glass, I became dead certain that if I got in all the way, I was never, ever going to be able to get out. How a crewmember was supposed to get into there in flying gear, let alone get out, is one of life's great mysteries. Cookie, more cautious than me, elected to sit in the Tornado F.3 cockpit, which he adjudged to be the most comfortable-looking available. Look at this steely-eyed killer: I don't know about you, but I feel the need for speed now. Crisp had to leave (or was simply fed up with us, can't rule it out), so Avereda, Ced, Cookie, and I all proceeded to the Army Flying Museum, where @Aeronut very kindly took us on a lengthy tour of the museum, which was most informative. Happily, it also turned out 234 Squadron flew from the field during the Battle of Britain, and I'm doing a pair of 234 Spitfires right now, so that was a nice bonus. There's much to recommend the museum, but I was most taken by their selection of artisanal jams, a product I think we can all agree is virtually synonymous with army flying: After an emergency stop at Tesco's -- apparently, in England, people have two weeks worth of clothes and wash them at the end of that period (or wash half of them after a week, but have to wait for them to dry then), whereas JD and I headed over with pretty much every item of casualwear in our dressers and had less than a full week of clothing -- during which I took the opportunity to pick up some wine gums and some Cadbury bars, we then visited Salisbury Cathedral, which has, I'm assured, the tallest spire in England, 123 meters. Yes, I know I'm fat. I blame my children, I was in pretty good shape before they came along. The Cathedral is pretty nice even if you're not trying to murder someone on behalf of an authoritarian government: We then made our way to our hotel (a very long drive which Ced managed with aplomb -- he really is a very nice man), where I was totally bushed and fell asleep almost immediately, despite not being able to figure out how to turn on the detached cottage we'd rented's heat. Today, after our third Full English breakfast in a row (I may achieve my goal of dying in Britain, via heart failure, before the two weeks are up) we headed over to the Shuttleworth Collection, which is really, really impressive. Flickr is unfortunately betraying me and refusing to upload my photos of it, but it wouldn't be a proper trip to Britain without seeing a Spitfire, and theirs is quite lovely. It also had two of my favourite Bristol aircraft: the M1C and the dangerously alluring Boxkite, an aircraft that in kit form would be little more than a collection of arts and crafts materials: There's something about it, though...majestic. After that, we lunched in the Shuttleworth canteen, and I had a cheese and pickle sandwich, which is indeed spectacularly good. Ced had cake, but we mustn't tell Mrs B. Then it was time to go to Old Buckenham, where my great-uncle Mike flew B-24Hs with the 734th BS of the 8th Air Force's 453rd BG, including on D-Day. I never met Uncle Mike, as he died in the 1960s from cancer, but I'm immensely proud to have some small family connection to the liberation of Europe. This leg of the trip turned out to be incredibly special. There's a small memorial to the 453rd at Old Buck, and I paid it a visit before we went into the museum proper: Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. We then went into the museum itself and looked at the many interesting exhibits, when suddenly Jim, the one-man-band who takes care of the museum and collects and provides the artifacts for the displays appeared, by a stroke of incredible luck; he normally isn't there on Mondays, as we later learned. He overheard me talking about my uncle's aircraft, and he asked me if I was interested in a particular plane. I explained that Uncle Mike had flown a few aircraft, but Sky Chief was the one on D-Day, and he told us to come 'round the back to his archives in the other building in just a few minutes. When we got there, he had pulled out a heap of photo albums with photos of aircraft and crews, and among them was a photo of my uncle with his crew: He wasn't done either, not by a longshot. When Cookie mentioned his own grandfather had flown with the 466th BG, Jim handed him a thick volume on the group and refused to take any money for it, then plied us with other stuff: 453rd BG pins and keychains, and a personal guided tour of all of the many amazing artifacts he'd accumulated. As we stepped outside to say our farewells, he said to me "you're walking in your great-uncle's footsteps; this is where he would have stood before heading to take off." Perhaps it may sound foolish to you, but I felt just a wave of indescribable emotion. All of Jim's kindnesses and his great goodwill and generosity to us had been bought and paid for before we were ever born by men largely far younger than me who got into these great machines and headed out to take the fight to the enemy; when they died, and died they did, they were burned alive or blown apart by cannon shells, or killed while or after coming down in their parachutes. And here, four thousand miles from their homes, a single man has dedicated his life to preserving their memory at considerable personal expense. I will never deserve that kind of love and devotion, but they did. And they've gotten it. Jim also mentioned to us that he could use some help getting models for his Eighth Air Force displays; he'd like eventually to have a model for each group. If you'd like to donate to him, please shoot me a PM and I'll give you his contact information. Anything you'd care to do for the museum, I'd consider a personal favour.
  14. There's the Donald Caldwell book, I think, but it's more of a narrative history.
  15. I feel like...that might not narrow it down much. Not too much on him beyond a list of all of his kill claims, I fear! Anyhow, we started the day with an exquisite Full English made by Hilary, Ced's wife, who has been very gracious despite her home being suddenly overrun by Americans. Cookie and I also opted to begin with great steaming cups of tea, since it was about 2 AM my time. Then we were off amidst the rolling hills of a green and pleasant land on our way to the Helicopter Museum, which is said to have the largest collection of helicopters under one roof in the world, and which must certainly have a higher concentration of Wessexes per square foot than anywhere in the universe. Back in Chicago, the leaves had all turned, even if they weren't covered by several inches of snow when last I saw them, and the rolling hills of the English countryside looked and felt as alive and vital as they were beautiful. They look sombre, but I'm assured that I hadn't at that moment yet become irritating. But give me time. We puttered around for a while, examining the dipping sonar on a Wessex, And the cockpit of their Hind, and I noted that they were selling bundled years of Air Enthusiast and Air International from as far back as the 1970s (I have bound copies of several years from the early 1970s and have a fondness for it), but decided against it on account of the limited weight available to us in our luggage for the return trip. We realized that we still had much of the day left, and so we opted to head on over to Bristol in Filton and poked around there a bit, too. They had a well-known airliner on the premises, but we opted not to wait in what appeared to be a rather soul-crushing line to see the insides. They also had one of my favourites, a Bristol Scout: After we wrapped up at Filton (I got Mrs P a new watch, shhhhh!), we headed back to Ced Manor, where il maestro demonstrated what he looks like at work: We then had a lovely dinner made by Ced's wife, and then Cookie, Ced, and I all retired to his local for a drink or two. Drinks in a pub in England are shockingly cheap, I learned. It was about £3 for a scotch and soda, or barely $4 at present rate of exchange. In Chicago, the same will easily set you back $10 or $12. It feels good to be back in England again. Every time I've been here, the country has been on the cusp of becoming somewhere new and different: 2003 immediately before the invasion of Iraq, 2015 right in between the two big referendums, and now while you try to decide who will run the country and and where it'll be running to (I am available). These past few year, I've been often moved to think of Orwell's 1941 essay "England Your England", which certainly hasn't aged entirely perfectly, but which is perhaps as realistic as a love letter to any country can get. "When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos...How can one make a pattern out of this muddle? "But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person." "And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillar-boxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you." "...In whatever shape England emerges from the war it will be deeply tinged with the characteristics that I have spoken of earlier. The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianized or Germanized will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies...England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same." I'm not English or Scottish or Welsh or (except by dint of ancestry) Irish, though I have hoped and still hold out hope to become British before I die. I like to think I don't hold the illusion that many outsiders or other people who just feel out of place in their home societies entertain, the delusion that going somewhere else might make me belong or be somehow more normal; a lifetime of cultural programming can't be overcome that easily, and even if it could I don't imagine I'd care any more about the rugby match today than I do about the NFL, or that I'd ever understand roundabouts. But as anyone who's ever been in love can tell you, you don't have to understand or even be understood to feel it; sometimes all you need is the desire to be a part of the story, be it the story of a life or the story of a nation, no matter how small a part it might be. Hope to see you all soon.
  16. Morning all, Cookie is still asleep (I think -- his door is closed and I've heard no signs of life from behind it) and I'm too shy to go downstairs and see if anyone else is up, but I certainly am. Thankfully, my children have imbued me with a strong ability to resist jet lag through their penchant for waking up at any and all hours of the night, so although it's 3:15 back home, I only feel as exhausted as I do every single morning of my entire life. Ced has very kindly allowed me to have all manner of things shipped to his home (which is lovely, by the way), and so I was greeted by what I hope will be the first of several hauls while in-country: Ah, I see Ced's posted, which means he's awake. Off I go!
  17. Hello from 37,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between the Gibbs Fracture and Porcupine Bank, if the seat's map display is to be believed. We have just under two hours until we reach Heathrow (not until we land, just until we're over it to circle while waiting for landing clearance, our pilot was weirdly specific about that), aided in some small part by a tailwind of 110 MPH that seems to have petered out to a still-respectable 60 MPH or so. It was great to see Cookie/J.D. last night again -- hard to believe it's been three years since the last time. He remains one of the most relentlessly upbeat and positive people I've ever met. He inspected the grotto and my small collection of reference materials before we realized that it was almost 9 PM and neither he, nor Mrs P, nor I, had eaten. At our first choice, celebrated local eatery The Mean Wiener, the sturdy Stahkhanovites there had shut off the grill with eight minutes to go before closing and we instead went to Isaac and Moishe's, which has to be one of a vanishingly small number of Mexican/Jewish delis in this country. They too make a mean taco (and very cheap!), and we duly retired to Hedgehog Manor to eat. In-meal entertainment was provided by Mrs P mistaking an intensely spicy mole verde for a sort of thinned guacamole sauce and shoveling it on, only to face the ineluctable consequences of such an action. I bestowed upon Cookie a few bagatelles, minor tokens of my esteem, as is traditional in these situations, and despite almost sleeping in and missing our ride to the airport, we managed to get dressed and ready in time, and we even remembered our passports! Be seeing you all soon.
  18. Not much done these past few days, but Cookie should be here from the airport soon, and then:
  19. Cookie is on his way over. The adventure begins.
  20. Well, Cookie is on the fifty mile drive from Midway Airport to my house thanks to Mrs P, who is by far the better driver than me; we got nearly four inches of snow today, and even here in the American midwest, where we expect Hoth-like winters that push the bounds of human endurance, this was a bit much. We had but a handful of trick or treaters this year. I've been at home sporadically handing out candy, putting my children to bed, and frantically cleaning my house so that Cookenbacher doesn't realize the squalor I live in day to day. Tomorrow is D-Day: we're going to get on a plane and fly to Heathrow to spend two weeks with Ced (to be joined on the second week by Navy Bird) in one of the more westward and most reluctant parts of Europe. I'll be documenting it here. This will be the longest I've ever spent in another country, my longest paid vacation in my working life, and the longest I've ever imposed myself on anyone not connected to me by marriage. We'll see if Ced is still speaking to me by the time I leave.
  21. Some day I'll understand the difference between all the different types of precollegiate British schools. After reading David Kynaston, I was more confused than when I started.
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