The weekend. Where to start? I suppose literary history tends to point towards “starting at the beginning”, so that’s what I’ll do.
After doing various chores throughout the day on Saturday, I stayed over at my mother-in-laws on Saturday night with Miss 17 – ahead of a train journey to Gloucestershire on Sunday morning to visit the “Royal International Air Tattoo” at RAF Fairford. She had never been to an air-show before, or even stood next to a real aircraft before, so it was all completely new to her.
After perhaps half an hour on a shuttle bus from Swindon bus station, we arrived on the airfield just as the first display of the day started – with an F-16 ripping through the sky overhead. I’ve never seen such a wide grin on my daughter’s face. She almost ran towards the runway, and kept saying “OH MY GOD!” over and over again. I had tried to tell her that you can “feel” fighter jets when they pass close by, but until you really do feel it, it’s hard to explain.
Through blind luck, we chose perhaps the hottest day of the year to visit the air show, and fought to take on enough water throughout the day. We also of course bought colossal amounts of cider, and perhaps the most expensive ice creams in the known universe.
Walking around the static aircraft displays, I pointed out the number of female pilots talking to the crowd in front of the various aircraft – both transport and combat aircraft. I don’t think it had occurred to my daughter that this might be a career opportunity – to perhaps travel the world and see something of it while being paid to do so.
For those interested in aircraft out there, we saw a LOT of stuff. Among the static displays (from memory), there was a collection of first and second world war aircraft – among them a beautiful Hawker Fury, and a Mk V Spitfire. There were all manner of transport aircraft from all over the world – Airbus A400s, Hercules, Boeing C-17s, and even an E3-Sentry (AWACS). Among the fighter and bomber aircraft there were all manner of Eurofighter Typhoons, F-16s, F-15s, Tornados, Saab Gripens, a B1-B, and a number of UAVs too (including the new Boeing UAV that’s been undergoing carrier trials in the US). I found out from a friend that a UAV had performed the first trans-atlantic flight before the show, and was parked somewhere on the base – I imagine on display in one of the corporate areas (Lockheed Martin had assembled a gigantic temporary building).
Among the displays in the air, we saw the Spanish, Italian, and British air force display teams, along with a number of historic aircraft, and of course the fighter jets – F16s from several countries, Typhoons from several countries, and the new F-35 made a number of appearances during the day – both the USAF version, and the British version, which hovered in front of the grandstands and caused everybody to put their hands over their ears.
As the afternoon wore on we both got tired, and agreed to see the Red Arrows (the RAF display team) before heading home. I bought a programme while at the show, and Miss 17 read it for most of the way home – I’m not sure how much she might continue to think about it, but if it’s opened her eyes to a wider world, I’m quietly pleased.
Getting home was something of an adventure in itself – caused by half the train crews in the country taking the day off for the world cup final. There were cancellations everywhere – our expected two hour journey home took nearly four hours. We got home though – and perhaps that’s the most important thing.
I’m still not entirely sure how we didn’t both get badly sunburned. We took some factor 30 sunblock with us, and used it throughout the day – but it ran out mid-afternoon. I’m also not entirely sure how we didn’t get drunk – we both drank quite a lot. Maybe the heat caused our bodies to ignore the alcohol in the cider, and just use the water up.
I posted a few photos to Instagram on the way home, and have several hundred squirreled away on my phone, and camera. Miss 17 took hundreds too. I imagine we will upload them to somewhere on the internet when we get a proper chance.
p.s. I’m SO tired today.