I am now a qualified pilot. (sort of)
Posted Jun 9, 2006
I have just had a seriously good week.
I booked the week off in March on the off chance. I did not seriously expect to be able to paraglide even for a couple of days. The weather in the UK is not, usually, conducive to paragliding, which explains why I'm still trying to qualify after seven years.
As it turned out, I've spent the past five days in the Lake District under the tutelage of one of the best paraglider pilots in the country, if not the world, Jocky Sanderson. It's been scorching hot every single day, I've flown every single day, and in the space of hardly any time at all, it seems, I've achieved BHPA Club Pilot rating. I've soared ridges (once for over 20 minutes - which may not sound much to you, but it seemed like forever to me), I've top landed, I've slope landed, spot landed, and most perturbing of all, done a big ears. This last maneoeuvre sounds funny, but it's anything but - it involves deliberately collapsing part of the wing in order to descend quickly. This runs highly counter to the fairly strong survival instinct I've been cultivating for the last, ooh, nearly thirty seven years or so, but turned out not to be the stomach-churning experience I was expecting.
All of this was carried out while I was tagging on to another course that Jocky's school was running - an elementary pilot course. For people in wheelchairs. Based at a place called the Calvert Trust near Keswick, these were people who were not taking their inability to stand up sitting down, so to speak.
Not a cheap week, but the sense of satisfaction is hard to beat. So what does it mean? It means that I can now join a club. It means I can now, if I wish, turn up to a hill, look around, assess the weather, check out the possible landing field...
... AND FLY!
Interesting new wording in moderation emails
Posted Mar 28, 2006
I'm fascinated by the new wording in moderation emails.
"Postings to BBC Communities will be removed if they:
* Are considered likely to provoke, attack or offend others..."
Amazing. In addition to not being sexist, homophobic, racist and all the other stuff you shouldn't be online, apparently now we are supposed not to say anything if it is CONSIDERED LIKELY TO PROVOKE. Pretty much annihilates the possibility of conversation on most subjects worth talking about, doesn't it?
Ah feel the need... the need - fer speed.
Posted Mar 19, 2006
Today I achieved an ambition I've had for over a year.
Today I achieved a GPS-measured SIXTY TWO POINT NINE miles per hour. On a snowboard. That is, for the metrically challenged, over ONE HUNDRED AND ONE kilometres per hour. And not just once. I cracked sixty miles per hour on three separate runs.
I cannot adequately describe the combination of exhilaration and sheer terror involved.
However, suffice to say, that today, this is me:
Posted Mar 16, 2006
It's gloriously sunny, the pistes are wide open and have practically nobody on them, the offpiste is soft, deep and plentiful and the kickers in the park are sweeeeeeeet.
The day before yesterday one of the other guys in the chalet saw something I've never seen in ten years of going to winter sports resorts - an avalanche. I'm kind of jealous. On the slightly grimmer side, that same avalanche killed at least one person.
Even more grim, yesterday in La Plagne some snow fell off the roof of a hotel and took with it some of the two and three metre long icicles you see hanging there. In this case, it took one of them straight through a woman who was standing below, killing her instantly.
And very recently just over the border in Italy, an avalanche crossed a piste and killed sixty people in one hit. It's been a bad winter for it in the Alps.
I think I might be getting too old for this...
Posted Jan 22, 2006
I'm sitting in Narita airport departure lounge. They had an inch of snow yesterday, so naturally everything has completely ground to a halt. The Japanese have much more in common with the British than we realise.
Today was already going to last 34 hours for me, given that en route to Newark I would be crossing the international date line. Now it looks like I'm going to feel every one of those 34 hours. Bugger.
The interesting thing about the place is how calm it all is. If there was the kind of backlog there is here in a UK airport, there'd be riots. Here, people calmly queue up in the stifling heat for small complimentary bags of rice crackers. (Why the stifling heat, anyway? It's zero degrees outside, but in here it's like f**king sauna.)
Conclusion: international travel - not all it's cracked up to be.
On the upside, yesterday I ate fugu so fresh it was, I kid you not, TWITCHING ON THE PLATE, and survived. Top stuff.