Friday, November 26, 2004

Hold that Tiger (part 1)

John with Warlord

Well still no word from the Automobile Club d' Monaco on whether Bill Richards and I've been accepted for the Monte Carlo Historique rally. I thought there would be an announcement on their website and even got up in the middle of the night (don't forget Monaco is 9 hours ahead of Seattle) but to no avail. I failed to reach Bill by phone but did call Nicky West who also campaigns a Mini Cooper with her husband, Rob Stacey. Nicky hadn't heard anything either and she had Rob had been checking their computer all day too. Let's hope I get some news soon: not only is the suspense killing me but the lack of information is making it very difficult to plan my trip next week.

One delightful piece of news though. I had an email from my friend Clive Sharp in England. As teenagers growing up in Woking, UK, Clive and I used to fly model airplanes together. Specifically something called control line combat in which two fast acrobatic planes fly together in the same circle and the objective is to cut off a streamer towed by your opponent. It's amazingly good fun although the carnage is high and the life expectancy of a combat model is not long. I packed up model flying when I was about 16 to concentrate on school studies (actually I immediately discovered motorcycles but that's a story for another time) and never gave it another thought until recently.

About 18 months ago I was idly surfing and came across a combat website. There is a local group of mostly middle aged nitwits who still indulge in this so-called hobby. Most of these guys have been flying since they were teenagers and use the same engines (diesels as it happens) and model designs from the 60s and 70s: they term this silliness "Vintage Diesel Combat". I made the mistake of emailing one of these combat pilots and almost immediately received a very persuasive phone call inviting me to try my hand at flying. Despite my protestations to the effect that I hadn't held a control line handle in 37 years, I made the journey out to the local flying field and to my immense surprise could remember quite easily how to fly these models. Just like riding a bike I suppose. I was absolutely hooked -quite possibly something to do with the smell of ether and amyl nitrate in the fuel. Actually I'm fairly convinced that I spent a good deal of my teenage years out of my head on solvents: the fuel components along with solvent-based glue and "dope" (it's not called that for nothing, you know) for finishing the wing fabric are very powerful chemicals. So I purchased an engine and a couple of good planes and started practicing. On my third session out I came third in a contest and on my fifth time out I won another competition outright beating some noted pilots in the process. I felt ridiculously pleased with myself -this was by any standards a good result after a 37 year layoff and nearly 40 years since I was Woking and District Model Aero Club junior champion.

Anyway I've digressed a bit and just realised that I don't have time to write anymore tonight so on my next post I'll explain about my email from Clive Sharp and "The Tiger"...


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