I know that, technically, the tense of the title is wrong, since it was yesterday and not next week, but it was such a fantastic pun which came to me in my half-dead stupor in bed last night that I just couldn’t let it go, grammatically-challenged although it may be.
Anyway, to the point – I had the most amazing day yesterday, flying down to Ipswich to see my Godfather and his family. Yes – flying. To Ipswich. The only thing more remarkable than taking a helicopter down to visit friends and family in Ipswich is that someone who can afford to own a helicopter and fly his friends and family around would choose to live in Ipswich.
I love flying – I’ve done it a few times at school when I was a cadet in the RAF. The only reason I signed up, in fact, was that I heard you got to go for a buzz in a Bulldog – which, for those of you out of the loop on these things, is flying in a type of small, 2-man aeroplane, not unnaturally interfering with a canine.
Helicopters are so much more fun than planes, though, since they are infinitely more manoeuverable than their winged cousins. The float serenely up into the sky – well, as serenely as you can with two engines and four blades shuddering around above your head – and whisk you much quicker than you’d imagine to wherever you want to go.
My Godfather lives in the middle of Nowhere-outside-Ipswich, which is a very quaint little village which does, in fact, have a proper name, but navigation is much easier when you just fly straight into his garden. Road names are rather arbitrary.
They have recently been redoing their house – and by “redo” I mean gut and rebuild, basically – and I could go into immense detail about the 6 bedrooms, 5 en suite, chill-out room, grand staircases, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, televisions behind pictures on the wall and double-pool spa-complex with gym hidden behind a wall of mirrors at one end, but actually I think all you need to know to create a picture in your mind is the fact that you can land a helicopter in his back yard.
There are 2 things you notice about the East of England when you fly over it from anything ranging between 500 and 1,200 feet (we yo-yo’d a little bit, for fun and frolics): 1) East Anglia and Suffolk in particular, is incredibly flat and boring to look at, endless miles of monotonous fields and the odd semi-major road and 2) there are more stately homes or Very Big Houses than you can shake a big stick at. Mind you, your chances of finding anything as interest as a big stick in the landscape of Suffolk is close to zero.
Monotony aside, it’s a wonderful experience flying over everyone’s heads, seeing your shadow chasing across the fields below, spotting the rich areas by counting the number of swimming pools and tennis courts per x number of houses. Helicopter is way to travel. Even a comparatively boring 40 minute ride like ours was about 100 times more interesting than spending 40 minutes on the M1.
I could fly all day – even over Suffolk. I do it a disservice by knocking its dull flatness, because anything is fascinating from the air – watching the roads wind around the countryside, spotting the big houses, fields being ploughed, small country airstrips (of which there are far, far more than you would imagine).
Although we weren’t quite high enough to see things properly, there were times when you could even make out an interesting lie of land that would appear to indicate the presence of an old fort or similar – like being in a live episode of Time Team.
All of which is a very long-winded way of telling you that we spent the day with my Godfather and his family in Ipswich, which I completely and dearly loved every minute of. The fact is, without the convenience of flying pretty much door-to-door (we did have to drive 15 minutes to an airfield at our end), I’d never have been able to go.
It was a really, really wonderful day and it left me completely drained and shattered. Today’s been spent almost entirely in bed and tomorrow will probably largely be, too, but it was totally worth it. I’ve not spent time with them for absolutely ages and K’s never met my Godfather before, although she had met his wife, who’s one of the world’s greatest people when her scathing eye is trained on someone other than me. Luckily yesterday, her husband was around to deflect most of the attention, and I had K there so I didn’t have to endure the “when are you going to find yourself a decent woman” conversation, either.
In fact all she had to complain about was my lack of visits recently, which I assured her I’d make up post-transplant by using her house as my rehab centre. For one thing, it’s got a better-equipped gym than any NHS hospital and a good deal of private city-gyms too, I suspect.
It was great to get away for a bit and catch up with people I love to pieces and see far too infrequently. And to have the luxury of flying there and back, well, that just takes the biscuit.