Normally for the first Sunday in October I’m helping out with the club sportive, but this year it was moved to a week earlier, so instead I skipped the club run to take my daughters for a spin around Grafham. I couldn’t have asked for a better autumn morning. The sun still had warmth and high pressure left the colouring leaves unstirred while haze over the reservoir mellowed the views to complement the season. It was a day to make the most of.
We stopped for coffee and ice cream and sat down on a bench occupied only by an elderly gentleman. I passed the time of day with him, and he commented there won’t be many more like this. He finished his drink, said goodbye then pushed off on his scooter, cutting up a surprised looking middle-aged woman on the path. “That man was on a scooter” one of the girls observed, both were grinning. Yes, he really was, a man in his sixties on a push along scooter. Inside the cafe a young man with learning difficulties was working through a tuneless song of errs, oohs, eees and ahhs and absorbed in his own stereotyped moves. Even at their innocent age the girls seem to have learned a certain English etiquette; the questions about the singing man came later in the evening, safely at home.
Riding back the man who rides a unicycle along the dam road was leaning against the wall, his unicycle propped next to him. He’s often there though so it got no comment. Familiarity and all that…
In the early afternoon, while the girls were doing their homework, a Second World War Flying Fortress flew low over the house. It banked right, displaying its undercarriage to the residents then carried on its way. This Sunday was the Final Shuttleworth display of the year and planes sometimes fly out our way. Later on they were out the front with some of the neighbouring children having gravity races on scooters down one of the sloping drives. I wonder if the old gent we saw freewheels like a kid on the slopes or sensibly applies the foot brake. Given he rides a scooter for pleasure, I hope the former.
The earlier haze had lifted and now the sky was a clear deep blue. Thunder rolled up from the south, it built up to a continuous rumble which grew to a roar. Only one thing makes a noise like that and it was something the girls had to see because they will never see this sight again. I ran to the front like a demented Trekkie shouting “Vulcan”. Moments later it flew low and directly overhead. An Avro Anson (thanks @RhinoFive) flew alongside. Brown exhaust trailed behind the Vulcan, but for a sight like that I can forgive the pollution. The children were dumbstruck at this giant, deafening, delta winged dragon flying over their safe and peaceful homes. One of them shouted “I’m so glad to be alive to see this”, but how could they possibly know that if it had ever been used for its intended purpose, they would likely never have been born.
The Vulcan was moving further away, but it wasn’t finished yet. It banked right, the rumble of its engines cutting to silence. Then it banked to left, back on course. Two seconds later its engine noise rolled over us, louder than ever, ripping the air in a final, defiant angry roar.