ewein2412: (osprey hair)

My husband Tim is in the computer games industry, and since computer games are, yanno, a form of film art, he's joined the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, aka BAFTA. It is, incidentally, a charity; and they give out the British film awards. As a member Tim got tickets, kind of just for fun, to the Scottish BAFTA Awards, which were held last night.

I knew it was going to be black tie, which meant putting Mark in a suit (his first), and digging out one of my long-disused EVENING GOWNS (last worn in 2001, I believe). But I think we clean up rather well.

I'd kind of glanced over the list of nominees without taking any names in and I certainly didn't expect to spot Peter Capaldi (for those of you who don't watch: Dr. Who) straight away. Which just goes to show you how unprepared I really was.

Mark spotted Steve Moffat about 5 minutes later (again, for those of you who don't watch: he's the Dr. Who writer, and writes for a bunch of other BBC shows including Sherlock. Well I wouldn't have recognized Steve Moffat!). At which point Tim mentioned that Peter Capaldi and Sam Heughan were both nominated for Best Television Actor and I was like...

Well, those of you who know me as an Outlander fan can guess what I was like. And then it turned out that Catriona Balfe was nominated for Best Television Actress, and suddenly I was ALL OVER this evening, which I had previously assumed was just going to be fun but that I wouldn't know or recognize anybody because I never go to any movies or watch any television and apparently the Scottish BAFTAs are sort of looked down on for being "provincial." AYE RIGHT.

It turns out - why had I not realized this? - that basically all my favorite actors are Scottish!

And they were ALL THERE - either receiving awards or presenting them or both.

Catriona Balfe & Sam Heughan

same, because they are essentially EYE CANDY #jamie

Catriona Balfe accepting her Best Television Actress award

Peter Capaldi as presenter

Steve Moffat

Moffat was a great presenter, funny and personable, and said a lot of excellent things about how writers don't get enough credit in the visual arts business because WE ARE THE BEST. ;)


James McAvoy

The funny thing was, neither Tim nor Mark knew who most of these people were (apart from Dr. Who), so every time I had another flip-out over who was up on the stage, they were a bit baffled.

So, you'd have thought I'd have already had a great evening, right? No, look who was ALSO HERE PRESENTING AWARDS. Oh, you don't recognize her? MAYBE YOU'D RECOGNIZE HER VOICE.

Morven Christie #julie

Morven Christie happens to be the Scottish actress who voiced Julie for the audiobook of Code Name Verity.

I'd had absolutely no idea she'd be there and I couldn't have been more excited - if NONE of those other people had been there, meeting Morven Christie would have absolutely made my evening.

So of course after the awards were over I had to go introduce myself. She was lovely and just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. She told me how much she'd love CNV, how she'd read it in one day the first time, and then when she was reading the audiobook it was like Julie was speaking through her, like she was reading her own words aloud -

And then we both had a huge rant about Brexit and the American election.

Morven Christie & E Wein!

(There was a lot of Brexit-bashing. The most sustained round of applause all evening, indeed, was when one of the awards acceptance speeches included the line, "Up yours, Brexit!")

The full list of awards is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-37893926

It was an absolutely fabulous event in so many ways. And I am SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY I LIVE IN SCOTLAND.

ewein2412: (osprey hair)

You know, I have lived in the United Kingdom for over 20 years. Cumulatively, I have lived in the UK for longer than I have lived anywhere else in my entire life. Osprey-like, I raised my children here. Now, OFFICIALLY, I am as much British as American. (It was bound to happen some day!)

Of course I did this for a bunch of practical reasons as much as, and maybe more than, deeply emotional ones. The process was such a grind – my friend Tina and I have been going through it together, comparing notes and interviews, helping each other with forms, etc. We started filling stuff out in February and YES, we had to take the “Life in the UK Test,” which incidentally I think is easier than the one they make you do for US citizenship – it’s kind of like the Great British Pub Quiz, and indeed, I have been calling the whole process the Great British Scavenger Hunt, because it’s required trips to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, and ultimately Perth, as we gather signatures and official stamps and pass certificates.

So the very last thing you have to do is make a pledge of loyalty to the Queen, and I had kind of just viewed this as another Scavenger Hunt Item, and was TOTALLY unprepared for how much fun it was.

For a start, I’m so glad it happened in Scotland. I ended up having a private ceremony, to expedite it, as they only do them once a month in Perth and I wasn't going to be here for June or July. They do it in the Old City Council Chambers, in a beautiful Victorian high-ceilinged room all wood-panelled and with ornate stained glass windows overlooking the Tay.

They got out the Saltire & the Union Jack and a portrait of the Queen up on the altar where they usually do weddings.

Because it was private, I was allowed to invite random guests – the Council actually sent me invitations, which was lovely, and I was “attended” by my great friends and (both of them) former next-door-neighbours Betty and Kathryn. Tim came too (Sara is still in Salisbury finishing up her first year at university and Mark was at his Duke of Edinburgh award qualifying weekend on a 50 mile hike). Betty and Kathryn were UBER-EXCITED and got all dressed up and brought presents. Kathryn got tearful while I was doing my pledge of allegiance! “Accustomed as I am to public speaking,” I, you may know, managed not to tear up.

At the end we all had to stand up while they played the national anthem. I loved the speech about diversity and making a contribution. I do try.

Afterward the Council gave us coffee and shortbread and the presiding official, Rhona, revealed that she’d been at a Girl Scout camp (as a Guide leader) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, near Ephrata, in 2011. So that was a funny coincidence. Later, Betty and Kathryn and I had a girly lunch in the sun in St John's Square in Perth, while Tim ran away to nurse his latest round of dental anesthesia (he had already been to the dentist in Edinburgh and to Ikea by the time he met us at the Council Chambers at 11 a.m.).

“Do you feel different?” someone asked me.

I do, kind of. It feels right. It was time.

The Recall

I am the land of their fathers,
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night -
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years -
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.

--Rudyard Kipling

ewein2412: (harriet writing (no text))
Apparently my OWN CHILD checks my blog hopefully for new posts and is always disappointed.

So I am going to try to rectify the situation by giving you a single week’s update. A Week, a typical one (last week). Because I kind of take these events for granted, but looking at them from the angle of Not Me, some of them are pretty cool.

Cut for long-windedness )

ewein2412: (osprey hair)
Sara (the 16 year old) is making fun of me because I am sitting here wearing my Twilight Sparkle Stealth Bronie hat as I type. ’Cause she spent all summer watching My Little Pony on her iPod and decided that I needed to watch it too, and as a sort of cultural phenomenon it is curiously addictive, and while Pinky Pie is my favorite, I relate most to Twilight Sparkle – the writer, the scholar, the resident alien. (On the other hand, I really detest Spike, her hideous sidekick house elf slave baby dragon.) Sara said, “You should write, ‘Today what I’ve learned about friendship!’” – as though I were filing a report to Princess Celestia … and you know, I feel like that is kind of what I am doing.

It is really a half-baked report on my weekend at the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Midwinter conference in New York. I helped run a day-long “Plot Intensive” workshop, including 16 synopsis critiques and a session on alternative plot structure, and I gave a keynote speech (my first!) on Authorial Responsibility, because I am pompous earnest like that. Lee Wind wrote a very nice summary of that speech for the SCBWI Midwinter blog, here. In a surprising aside that really delighted me, Susan Brody also gave a riff on my speech called “Practice What You Preach” on her own blog, “The Art of Not Getting Published.”. I’d met Susan last September at Children’s Book World in Haverford PA, and I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hi to her again at this conference. But MY GOSH it was big! There were over a thousand participants. I don’t think I’ve EVER given a speech to a thousand people before.

So, that was the working part of the event, but the really wonderful part was the networking (hence “Friendship is magic!”). First there was the Illustrator’s Showcase cocktail party on Friday night, then the Gala dinner party on Saturday, and trust me to find myself a sort of afterparty event on Sunday night, hanging out with a small group of extremely kind and welcoming Regional Advisors and the stellar Ellen Hopkins (who has the dubious honor of being the most-censored author in America). In fact, it feels to me like I spent the entire weekend crashing parties, including being taken to lunch at the Yale Club. This is what the SCBWI is all about, people – making these wonderful connections. If you have any aspiration to writing children’s books whatsoever, I highly recommend joining this vibrant and helpful organization. Here’s their website: www.scbwi.org. And here’s their website in the British Isles: britishisles.scbwi.org. Conference recaps are here.

I also went to see a wonderful exhibit of Antoine de St. Exupéry’s manuscript pages for The Little Prince at the Morgan Library. This is terrifically curated and made me sob for a number of reasons. I highly recommend it for WWII buffs, pilots, and children’s book writers, and fans of The Little Prince! It’s on till 27 April 2014. Alas, there is no printed catalogue for the exhibit, but there are a number of related lectures coming up (details on the website) which I would go to hear if I were in New York. Being a desperately adoring admirer of St. X as I am.

I should also mention my visit to the Bank Street Center for Children's Literature, where I received possibly the warmest welcome I've ever been given in a literary context. I spent three hours chatting, eating lunch in the school cafeteria, drinking coffee and tea and eating more lunch with members of the Bank Street Children's Book Committee, and then had a tour of the Bank Street Library. PEOPLE. If you ever get a chance, GO VISIT THIS LIBRARY. It is totally devoted to children's literature and contains a subcollection of elderly classic children's books that have been pulled from the main shelves for various reasons. "Do you recognize any of these?" they asked. "Do I recognize these!" It was like time travel. It was like being transported back to 1976 and standing in the beautiful old Walnut Street library in Harrisburg. EVERYTHING I read as a child was there.

When I looked up the library link I was charmed to see that they have mentioned my visit in their website notes.

And I went ice skating in Rockefeller Center.

I spent my last two days stateside visiting Gramma in Mt. Gretna. It was extremely picturesque in the snow. (I might have sung “Let It Go” till the Frog Pond echoed… literally… hoping I was alone in the woods… Just sayin’.)

mt gretna dining room 2014

Dining room in Mt. Gretna cottage with Gramma at the table!

mt gretna former ghost house 2014

Maple Lodge in Campmeeting (formerly The Ghost House) (not our cottage)

mt gretna frog pond 2014

Frog Pond

mt gretna lake 2014

Mt. Gretna Lake (that is our very own canoe, the Millennium Flocken, on its side)

mt gretna library 2014

Mt. Gretna Library! (to end where I began, on a literary note)

And finally. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed how I keep boasting that Eve Muirhead, the captain of the British women’s curling team, is a local girl? Well now I have the photo to prove it. EVE MUIRHEAD AND MARK. She and her coach came to show off their Olympic bronze medal at Dewar’s Ice Rink in Perth!

eve and mark
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
We had our bank holiday early and are working today, but on Friday we drove a couple of hundred miles across the country to see THIS PLANE in flight.


It is a Catalina, a flying boat (you pronounce that like one word, with the emphasis on the first syllable: “FLYingboat”), the oldest airworthy amphibian plane in the UK. It can land on water or land. This one was built in Canada in 1943 – it spent part of its life as a waterbombing firefighter! (Full details of its history here). It was in Oban on Friday as part of a five-day tour around Britain to commemorate, and indeed to recreate without incident, the 100th anniversary of the Circuit of Britain Race flown by Harry Hawker in 1913. (More on its progress here.)

I once had a lesson in a seaplane – this Piper PA-18 Super Cub, which also happens to be the oldest aircraft I have ever flown, built in 1954 – I flew it from Loch Earn to Loch Tay and back again, and used the experience (with added spice) in my short story “Chain of Events” (in Rush Hour: Reckless, edited by Michael Cart). I have a secret desire to become an accomplished seaplane pilot, buy my own amphibious aircraft (possibly a Teal), and spend the rest of my days loch-hopping. So when I heard the Catalina, one of a dying breed, was coming to Oban, I put the date in my diary and Tim and I took the day off work to go see it.

We arrived at Oban Airport just as the Catalina was finishing its flying display and coming in to land!

catalina in flight

There were a ton of people out taking pictures (where did they hear about this, anyway?), and there was a little craft sale going on in the hangar. The flight school was open and… well, one of the instructors, Graham Dawson, used to work at Perth so we knew him, and Tim had brought his flight bag and his license is current, so we hired the school’s Cessna 172 and went for a flight around the Inner Hebrides.

catalina and cessna 172

Like you do. Because you’re there and the plane’s available.

Guys, it was just unbelievably beautiful, and one of the coolest spontaneous days off we’ve ever had. We flew over the grass airstrip on Mull.

glenforsa airfield

We saw Staffa


and Fingal’s Cave

fingals cave

[cue Mendelssohn] all from the air. We flew over Iona and saw the abbey.


iona village

iona abbey

There is a whole lot of nothing out there, just sea cliffs and inaccessible white beaches and green mountains and ruined castles.

beaches on mull

castle on island

And all within a hundred miles or so of home—accessible if you know how and if you are careful.

I was so glad we had Graham along, partly because he was extremely conscious of where the good fields were to glide to if the engine failed and which passes to avoid in case the clouds closed in, but mainly because he knew this landscape like the back of his hand and could point out things like the Dutchman’s Cap and the Atlantic Bridge.

We landed just as the rain started and then stood in line for about forty minutes to get a look at the interior of the Catalina. The “blisters” are an original feature (though the glass has been replaced) and were used for loading and unloading crew when the plane was parked on water. We climbed in just as a pair of nonagenarian former Catalina crew were climbing out. They were awesome. (Very agile, too.)

Bonuses: Catalina and pipe band.

bagpipes and catalina

Also, I just love this shot of them refueling - so many caring hands crawling all over this old plane.

refueling catalina

We got home just in time for me to make supper for Mark before driving out to Jane Yolen’s house in St. Andrew’s for Bob Harris’s book launch—his hilarious The Day the World Went Loki has just been released by Floris Books.

A pretty darn awesome day of skiving.
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
In the last week I have tried two things I never did before - gliding and curling. Yeah, I know, call me THE RANDOM WOMAN! Or maybe not so random. Tim gave me the gliding voucher as a Christmas present last year and it has taken me this long to get around to redeeming it (I have been trying, but the weather has not been cooperative). And curling… why? I don’t know. Because it is Scottish.

My gliding “mini-course” took place at the Scottish Gliding Centre at Portmoak a couple of days ago - one of the clearest, coldest most glorious winter days we can ask for in these parts, perfect for flying in a powered aircraft, but not quite windy enough for good gliding. I got to take over the controls and practice my soaring skills for about an hour but that was pretty much it (which means I get to go back and have another go!). I did get to go up twice, but the second time we had a rather interesting experience alongside this lump of rock...

benarty hill

... where it was pretty obvious to me that we weren’t going anywhere but down, and it also felt like we were being blown closer and closer to these crags (I don’t have my own pictures of being up-close-and-personal with these crags, because I figured at this point the pilot really didn’t need the distraction of me being a casual tourist). All was well in the end, and we even managed to land in the right place, but my instructor, Chris, willingly pointed out all the “Plan B” landing places.

This is the plane I flew:


(It is a Schleicher ASK-21, and it makes me ridiculously happy that the first glider I have ever flown is a state-of-the-art training glider from Germany.)

There was another guy on the course taking turns with me, and he got lucky with the wind, which is why I didn’t get more gliding action. So I spent most of the day on the ground working as a gopher. Which was HUGELY fun. I did the radio to the winch operator at the other end of the field, telling him when a glider was ready to be launched - the radio is in the little caravan you can see behind the plane. You can’t really see it in the photo, but there is also a 4x4 jeep-type vehicle with tractor tires parked behind the caravan, used for towing gliders from the hangar to the launch site and back. It is a measure of my supreme geekiness that the most thrilling thing I did that day was DRIVE THE 4x4 TOWING A GLIDER BEHIND ME. (The glider remained on the ground, people, on the ground. I towed it across the field-turned-ice-rink from the hangar to the launch site and back.) Actually, part of the thrill of towing the glider was the matter-of-fact way they roped me into doing it - “You need to drive, because I have to walk beside the plane and hold the wing. Just keep it in second and take your foot off the clutch and it’ll go at walking speed.” You have to hang your head out the window to watch the guy behind you in case he wants you to stop - the 4x4 is too muddy to see out the back window or in the wing mirrors. “Thanks, mate.” (“Thanks, mate.” Maddie hugged herself with pride and pleasure. I’m one of them.)

I was absolutely frozen afterward. It was actually colder flying the plane, because you’re not moving (or only moving your hands and feet), than it was running about on an open field for 4 hours in below-freezing temps. My hands, which were gloved the whole time, are chapped. If I were to do it again I would wear long underwear, snow boots, and ski gloves. Although I’d dressed warmly, of course I’d dressed as I would for powered flight in a marginally heated cockpit!

You know what’s neat about gliding? You wear a glider. It’s an accessory, like skis, not a thing you sit in and drive, like a car. You can steer it with your head under the right conditions. And you can see absolutely everywhere, all the sky above and around you. It is much more like flying than any flying I’ve ever done.

I don’t know if I will take up gliding. Everyone I talked to at the gliding club confessed to being autistic. (I think they were joking.) Hanging out with bell ringers does prepare you for this type of personality, and they were an incredibly friendly bunch of people, and I really liked the way everybody on the airfield had to jump in and help each other - when you’re flying a powered aircraft you’re very much on your own on the ground unless you pester people. But my gosh, the amount of fluffing about involved. What a time suck. You don’t just go for a buzz for an hour. I think I need to retire if I am going to get serious about this.


Back on earth, I have now had two curling lessons at the ice rink in Perth, and I think I have finally found my winter sport. Every single bit of it is fun. Even when you aren’t doing anything, sliding around on the ice is fun. (There is an art to walking on the ice in your curling shoes - or rather, Mark’s curling shoes - that I was previously unaware of.) It is incredible how sweeping can keep a stone going. And once you figure out what is going on, it is all so strategic. I am really hoping it will enhance my shuffleboard skills for next summer...

It’s also cheap and convenient (I can walk to the curling rink); and, as winter sports go, fairly low risk. Plus it is WARMER THAN GLIDING.
ewein2412: (snowicon)
I am compelled to report on our participation, because Mark was marching with the Scouts in the 1000 Pipers Parade in Perth (which culminated in an ACTUAL PERFORMANCE by all 1000 of them).

PKC info re 1000 Pipers Parade
(I've decided not to subject you to the videos.)

We did not participate in the Kilt Run which followed, and so you can blame MARK for being one of the 16 kilted non-participants who caused this race to fall short of being the LARGEST EVER KILT RUN. The record is currently held by Perth, Ontario, with 1089 participants. Only 1074 crossed the finish line in Perth, Scotland. I AM ASHAMED.

PKC's Kilt Run info

Most of our Jubilee weekend was pretty low-key, but on Monday I started getting beacon-itchy. I mean, I kept hearing how they were lighting all the beacons and then some, and starting them on the other side of the globe, and I thought… wouldn’t it be cool to go see a beacon alight?

So I did a little web-surfing. And I found the most wonderful, ridiculous website EVER - The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons website.

(To fully appreciate true nerdy amazingness of this website, I have to give you a little background here. I call myself the Queen of Google. Even my geeky kids acknowledge that if I can’t find it, it’s not on the Internet. But when I first started hunting for Jubilee beacon info I actually used too many search terms. It turns out you only need One. Beacons. That’s it. If you do a Google search simply for "beacons," this website is your number one hit! I seriously recommend you poke around on this site. It includes a flame-covered interactive map, insurance forms, a PDF guide that shows you how to construct a beacon, and the wonderful, mysterious "Lighting Times" schedule. It is so slick and yet so specific - an expensive, user-friendly, beautifully designed site that’s good for ONE DAY.)

Well, using their Beacon Locator, I figured out that the nearest beacon whose site-location I actually recognized was East Lomond Hill in Fife. Sara was at music camp and Mark had no school the next day because of the Jubilee, so even though Lighting Time was after 10 (it doesn’t get DARK till after 10), it didn’t matter if we were going to be up late… (also, we had champagne to drink when we got home, for reasons unrelated to the Queen’s Jubilee).

So we drove up to East Lomond Hill not really knowing what to expect, but kind of figuring on sitting in the car and watching a bonfire from a distance. ([livejournal.com profile] katranides, you were there with us on Christmas Eve once - do you remember?)

What we GOT was a trail of 60 pairs of fire baskets marking the path to the summit, minor fireworks, and a procession of 200 people (including us!) carrying lighted flambeaux. And a very jolly bonfire on top.

Our Lighting Time was 10.26 (the Lighting Times are specific and appear to be extremely random), which means that the East Lomond beacon was one of those run by "All other charities, organisations and individuals etc, including hospitals, clubs, pubs, Lions, Round Table and Rotary Clubs, Masonic Lodges, Caravan Club, Trinity House, commercial companies, Private Households and others etc." I don’t know which of these was running the show, but there was some historic connection with the mining communities of Fife, because one of the tableaux fireworks they set up was a Davy lamp - a safety lamp created in 1815 specifically to reduce the risk of explosions in coal mines.

There was also one guy carrying an actual Davy lamp - Tim, who grew up in the coal mining part of Kent, was quite excited about this. Fife, too, is coal mining country - since the 16th century. They still do open cast coal mining in Fife (I love Fife. The county is still called the Kingdom of Fife, you know).

The Davy Lamp... now you know.

The torchlight procession to the beacon site is quite possibly the most pagan event I have ever participated in. Nobody sang "God Save the Queen."

The tune stuck in my head was "Sumer is icumen in," although it was freaking FREEZING (note how everyone is wearing winter coats). From the top of the hill we could see 7 other beacons and some distant fireworks. (It was fun trying to guess where they were. "Crieff Knock! Berwick Law! Arthur’s Seat!" Clearly, we have gone native.)

The poem stuck in my head was A.E. Housman’s "1887." Yes, HONESTLY, I had Housman’s "1887" stuck in my head as we watched the Jubilee beacons burning all around us. From Sound and Sense in Randy St. John’s 10th grade English class back in Harrisburg, PA in 1979. Nothing is wasted. So it seems entirely appropriate to finish with it here.


From Clee to heaven the beacon burns,
The shires have seen it plain,
From north and south the sign returns
And beacons burn again.

Look left, look right, the hills are bright,
The dales are light between,
Because ’tis fifty years tonight
That God has saved the Queen.

Now, when the flame they watch not towers
About the soil they trod,
Lads, we’ll remember friends of ours
Who shared the work with God.

To skies that knit their heartstrings right,
To fields that bred them brave,
The saviors come not home tonight:
Themselves they could not save.

It dawns in Asia, tombstones show
And Shropshire names are read;
And the Nile spills his overflow
Beside the Severn’s dead.

We pledge in peace by farm and town
The Queen they served in war,
And fire the beacons up and down
The land they perished for.

"God save the Queen" we living sing,
From height to height ’tis heard;
And with the rest your voices ring,
Lads of the Fifty-Third.

Oh, god will save her, fear you not:
Be you the men you’ve been,
Get you the sons your fathers got,
And God will save the Queen.

- A.E. Housman

ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
On Saturday 10 March 2012, over a hundred small aircraft and their pilots joined in a fly-out from Headcorn in England to Le Touquet in France to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first flight across the English Channel by a woman, American Harriet Quimby.

I just love the photo of the woman dressed in Harriet Quimby’s purple flying suit.

Meanwhile, other women around the UK and the world participated in Women of Aviation week through an initiative known as 'Fly It Forward'. As a worldwide show of unity, women pilots have been introducing other women to the joys of flight.

Unfortunately I’m still not qualified to carry passengers as Pilot 1, so we had to get a flight instructor to come along so I could let my friend Sarah Carstairs get her hands on the controls. The cool thing about this was that the lovely instructor, Montse Mas Arcos, is Spanish, which made our flight a multinational thing - Sarah being British and me being American.

Sarah In Control

Appropriately (though we weren’t actually crossing the Channel ourselves), we flew north from Dundee to Montrose by way of the North Sea - had a terrific view of the cliffs and Lunan Bay. Scotland is really a very beautiful place to fly. Sarah got to fly back most of the way from Montrose right to the reporting point at Broughty Ferry.

Dundee looking good!

The Angus coast

I handed out the requisite Cadbury’s Dairy Milk after the flight - everybody feeling pleased with themselves. Me for organizing it, Sarah for flying, and Montse because she’d just heard she’s been accepted at Loganair as a commercial pilot.

‘A flying girl! A girl flying an aeroplane!’

That’s me on the left, with Montse (the pilot) in the middle and Sarah on the right. The plane is a Piper Warrior.

For more information about Women of Aviation Week, visit the site at http://www.womenofaviationweek.org
ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
I have been flying, for the first time in two-and-a-half years, in THIS thing with THIS chap.

The plane is a Pitts Special S2A. Specially designed for aerobatics, although we did not do any. The pilot is Dai Heather-Hayes, who flew Hunters in Aden with the RAF back in the '60s, and always wears corduroy and tweed—imagine a cross between Peter Wimsey and Roald Dahl (though he resembles HIMSELF more than either). We flew to the Isle of Mull, which is one of the Inner Hebrides. 42 minutes in a straight line there, a bit longer on the way back because we went sightseeing.

These are my pictures of the outing. They kind of have to be seen to be believed. The Highlands & Islands don't need photoshopping!

(and the Isle of Mull tourism site is here.)

I won this flight in a Christmas raffle ALSO about 2 and a half years ago. It was supposed to be a 20 minute aerobatic flight, I think, which would have been cool if I could in fact remember how to fly (straight and level for 40 minutes was not actually that difficult). However, spending a day out in the Western Isles with Dai Heather-Hayes is not to be sneezed at, however tame the flight! We landed at Glenforsa. There is a log cabin hotel with an aviation theme attached to the airfield. Coffee on the beach, scallops for lunch sitting outside a pub on the Tobermory harbour, and a visit to the Mull Cheese Factory. I am rather shy and adoring of Dai, and it is the first time that I have actually had him to myself for an entire afternoon.

Discussion topics included but were not limited to:

The Written Works of Charles and Anne Lindbergh
The Resurrection of the Body: Fact or Fiction?
The Soviet Union's Influence in the Yemen in the 1960s
Pearl Harbor from the point-of-view of the Japanese
Joseph Stalin makes Adolf Hitler look like a fluffy bunny
The Origin of Tea
Also: Tea—China vs. India?
The Origin of the Ballpoint Pen
Language Acquisition in Infants
The Air Transport Auxiliary

The weather grew more and more spectacular as the day progressed. We flew home at 5 o'clock, detouring down Loch Earn and circling a bit to take overhead shots of Sara's school.

Dai flies very low over the mountains!


It turns out that Dai met Lettice Curtis in the 1970s, the woman who wrote The Forgotten Pilots, which as far as I'm concerned is the definitive (if impenetrable) history of the ATA. Dai was a young flight instructor based at Oxford and Curtis came along to do an instrument rating. He reckons she must have been in her 50s at the time (she was born in 1916, the same year as my grandmother). She ordered her instructors: "Now, I don't want any nonsense. If I'm not doing a thing right, say so. I'm here to get a rating and get it over with."

I was well impressed. I am a big fan of Lettice Curtis. I am not sure she would approve of me (in fact, I'm sure she wouldn't):

Of course, today, we asked the question, why were such clearly superb pilots [ie, women of the ATA] not flying in combat, instead of many of the half-trained young men sent up to die, particularly during the Battle of Britain? Whittell [the author of Spitfire Women of World War II] asked that question of the formidable Lettice Curtis, aged 90, who rolled her eyes and responded: “This is the sort of imagination I am very much against. There was no question of it, and it was not a question you asked. It just never came up.” But he asked a senior male air force officer if they could have, and the officer responds that he’d no doubt at all Curtis would have made a good combat pilot.

--from Philobiblon's blog, oct. 2007)


For the not-faint-of-heart, I took videos as we approached Loch Earn, and overhead the seaplane base:


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