Sunday, 31 July 2011

"Jim'll Fix It" (Part 1)

This is a tale of two halves, the first half having its roots in my childhood, so it feels sensible to me that I start at that point, way back to when I would have been about 8 or 9. Being the early 1970's, Bell Bottom trousers and mini skirts were all the rage, as were hotpants, and platform shoes. In the first half of the decade there had been opposition to the Vietnam War, whilst the music scene saw the rise of bands such as Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers (and yes, I am still a fan). The Beetles had split up, with Paul McCartney relaunching his music career with Wings, whilst John Lennon was singing songs about peace and love with Yoko Ono. The early part of the 1970's also saw the untimely deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.

My Dad, being an officer in the Army Air Corps at the time, had been asked to fly the then reigning Miss UK to a spectacular event taking place at Roundhay Park in Leeds, landing his helicopter in the centre of the showground in front of thousands of people. How on earth he wrangled that one, I really don't know, but obviously it was an opportunity he was not going to miss out on. 

So that we could go watch this momentous event, we had been invited to stay with our ex-neighbours from our Netheravon days who had moved to Leeds. For me, the journey “up North” was very exciting – to my knowledge we had never travelled further than the “Watford Gap” - whatever that was! When we lived “next-door-but-one” to them in Netheravon Jim and my Dad were based at Netheravon airfield, and this period in our lives saw the start of a good friendship between the two men which was to last until the day my father died in 2002. As a child I adored Jimmy, and to be honest I still do! Whenever the two returned from exercise it was not unusual for me to run up to Jimmy, with the question “Did you miss me?”. Jimmy's wife, Joan, has never once failed to remember my birthday, and as usual, the card which arrived from them this year was addressed to “Little Jo”. This had been preceeded a few weeks previously by a package from Joan containing some old black and white photo's of the day at Roundhay Park.

Joan was a constant in our lives during those Netheravon days, and without batting an eye-lid took in my brother and me when my big sister suffered a serious skull fracture after falling off her bike. Needless to say it was the days before cycle helmets. What did two more children matter when she had successfully raised 5 of her own? We pretty much spent every spare minute we had in each other's houses and gardens anyway, playing games such as “Cow Boys and Indians” with the two youngest children, Richard and Andrew, who were about the same age as us.

Going back to the show at Leeds, what Jim and my Dad had both failed to mention to their respective wives was that Jim had “fixed it for himself” to meet and greet said Miss UK when she landed in my Dads helicopter at the showground, and escort her to her appointed place in the events. So, you can imagine Joan's surprise when Jim, having muttered to Joan that he “wouldn't be long” was next spotted striding towards where my Dad had landed the helicopter. It was, truly, a momentous occasion in the lives of the two families, one which has never been forgotten!

It was about this time that I started to hanker after a trip in a helicopter, preferably with my Dad at the controls. But the nearest I ever got to even sit in one was when I fought my way through quite a few boys so as to manage a brief look at one which was on display at an Army Air Corps event somewhere. Needless to say there was quite a bit of jostling going on, but I remember being completely bedazzled by all the different dials and switches.

So, this ambition of mine has lain dormant all these years. And then, at last it surfaced 40 years later, when purely by chance and "being in the right place at the right time" I met Dawn from the charity "Fly2Help". I was to finally realise my childhood dream..........

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