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A Summer Fly-in at a Country Airfield

The sky was an azure bowl, and the scent of new-mown grass lay heavy in the mid-morning sunshine. The playful breeze toyed with the surrounding tents, causing them to billow and sway, like an insane troupe of Turkish Belly Dancers.

I wandered along, past ranks of parked aircraft, each one trembling slightly at each soft breath of wind. To the other side of the runway stood a mediaeval cluster of tents, gazebos and stalls, each accumulating untidy gaggles of pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

The subdued hubbub of conversation was suddenly overwhelmed with the electronic hiss of the public address system. The disembodied voice of the commentator rolled across the airfield, bouncing back from the surrounding hills, the echoes garbled and distorted.

The announcement was garbled, but I caught a few words and realised that a lost boy was being held at the First Aid tent. I wondered idly where his parents were. At the Burger Van? The Mobile Bar?  Or were they queuing to use the lavatories?

The murmuring was quiet at first – almost beneath the threshold of hearing, but it gradually became persistent, growing in volume and engorging with tone. Suddenly the day was split apart with the thunderous yet melodious note of three vintage aeroplanes flying in perfect formation – appearing low over the trees at the Eastern end of the airfield.

The staccato high-pitched whine of motor-driven cameras was just audible above the palpable growl of the engines. Every spectator looked skyward, envying the superb airmanship shown by the pilots.

The flight swooped majestically around the airfield, the sun glinting on the polished cowlings, refracting off wings as they looped and rolled above the South Downs. They were gone as suddenly as they arrived, and peace reigned once more.

As I continued my ramble towards the end of the runway, I heard the much softer note of another aircraft engine. I spotted a single light in the sky, which grew steadily until it metamorphosed into a small aircraft.

With its engine at idle, the aeroplane passed me, sighing softly as it touched down on the bumpy grass, its nose nodding up and down, affirming a good landing. As I watched, it slowed to walking pace, and taxied sedately towards the low Nissan Hut housing Air-Traffic Control.

A sallow youth wearing a very grubby High Visibility Tabard, stood glumly at the head of a vacant parking slot, and  began to unenthusiastically wave his arms at the pilot, marshalling him into the vacant position.

More incoherence from the Tannoy indicated something would soon be happening. Looking up, I faintly recognised the profile of an aeroplane, obviously at high altitude – a ghostly insect crawling across the window of the sky.

Suddenly, the blue fabric of the sky was cross-stitched with a web of pristine white trails, each creating patterns of gently expanding white.

Blossoming into multi-coloured parachutes, each action-man figure oscillated like a small pendulum, expanding as they approached the white cross laid on the grass.

With a graceful pull on their control lines, each man arrested his descent, landing as softly as thistledown. An appreciative crowd clapped, as the team collected their deflated chutes.

Shadows were lengthening as I drove out of the car park. A Spitfire suddenly howled overhead, just in front of my car, its wheels already tucking up into its belly, its sides bronzed and gilded by the setting sun. Disappearing into the heat shimmer, it left only the echoes of its engine to testify to its existence.


Mark Charlwood MRAeS MISTC)©

Short Story

Blurred Voices

Blurred. The faces are blurred. Distorted, like the voices that are owned by them. Slowly, as if in a trance, I turn through three hundred and sixty degrees. Looking up, I see the blue of the sky, but alien somehow. Looking back at the faces, I note with a strange sense of detachment, that I can almost understand what they are saying. Almost English, but not quite, always slipping from my understanding like a large polythene bag full of water being gripped with both hands..

I concentrate harder, trying to pick out something that makes sense. A faint echo resonates discordantly with the babble that pours into my struggling brain, swamped as it is with a deluge of speech. – but all jumbled. Wrong. Hideously wrong.

I tilt my head, as if this inclination will help me to decipher the cacophony, but to no avail. I still can’t make sense of the voices.

Maybe a little finger inserted into my ear canal and wiggled frantically will help. I do this, probing gently until I can go no further. I rapidly stir my fingertip around. No. That hasn’t helped.

I can hear my breath, loud and echoey in my ears. Discordant squeaks blend with the multitude of voices, further confusing the words.

“Oh well” I thought. “I’ve had enough of this”

So I cleared my snorkel, and swiftly swum to the shallow end, and hauled myself onto the slabs surrounding the pool.

“We thought you’d gone for ever”  said my friend, passing me a chilled beer. “We were yelling to you to come out, as you were down for a good 90 seconds”

“Oh?” I said. “I never heard anyone saying anything” and with that I plonked myself into an empty pool chair, and happily popped the cap off the bottle.

Wiggling my little finger in my ear canal, I smiled as the faint voices suddenly boomed into my head with perfect clarity. Smiling, I closed my eyes, and relaxed into the embrace of the recliner, basking in the warm Hampshire sunshine.

Life’s good….