Archive for December, 2016

Foul play at the Slip Inn

December 24, 2016

A TALE FOR CHRISTMAS

Foul Play at the Slip Inn – a fantasy tale of murder & mayhem
By Eric Sanderson

In the immediate post war years up into the ’60’s, the East End Park area of East Leeds was for the most part a comparatively tranquil place to live. However when the Slip Inn ( whose correct name was The New Regent but nobody called it any other than the “Slip”) opened it’s doors to the newly built concert room in the ’50’s & began staging live music, the area took on a livelier atmosphere & was a big attraction, drawing large, regular crowds of young people – many from outside the immediate area- & which inevitably turned rowdy at times.
One or two other establishments offered similar entertainment around the same time , notably The Prospect in Accommodation Rd & The White Horse in York Rd.

The following tale is one which to be truthful, is fictitious & which I had a bit of fun writing but why not put yourself in the front row & go along for the ride anyway ?. But a word of warning , every second you spend reading this piece of trivia may turn out to be
a second of your life totally wasted & wreck your sanity by reading such drivel.
I also know that there are a few historical timing conflicts but then, that’s the least of the nonsense.

Friday evening, which was probably the venue’s most popular time, always crowded, was buzzing as usual but one particular evening, just before Christmas and as the stage curtains were pulling back & the band were about to strike up, a gasp arose from the audience as the resident pianist – known as Light Fingers , for a good reason that didn’t include his piano playing abilities, was seen slumped over the keyboard with his face buried in a congealed, half eaten parcel of newspaper wrapped fish & chips. Oddly the other members of the troupe appeared not to have noticed, but were probably used to seeing him comatose as he only worked there to pay his bar bill. It brought a chill to the customers who were there expecting an evening of Christmas cheer & music amongst the brightly lit festive decorations.
The police were speedily summoned ,although their response was slow as the officers involved from Millgarth Police Station happened to be esconced in a nearby
bookies trying to recoup last weeks heavy losses . Reluctantly leaving the bookies as they were convinced they were onto a surefire winner to boost their Christmas backhanders, they jumped into their souped up Ford Granada & roared along Marsh Lane, up Shannon street past the coal staithe, tore into Lavender Walk & along Ascot terrace , fi- nally racing down Temple View Rd to screech to a tyre smoking halt outside the Slip. A little street furniture & a couple of dogs were the hapless victims of their reckless high speed journey, along with a few pedestrians diving for cover & needing rescucitation afterwards as well. Into the concert room strode sharp suited Det Sergeant Beauregard
Sidebottom, his immaculately tailored suit being marred only by the slight bulge from a couple of knuckledusters in his jacket pocket. He was accompanied by his assistant, Det Constable Euric Head who unsurprisingly appeared a little tipsy , having a legendary re- putation for imbibing copious quantities of Premium Bitter & claiming that his investi- gatory powers remained unaffected, even enhanced, except for his need for regular toilet breaks & for him to stick his head into the porcelain for a good barf . Both were well known to the local villainy, especially for their vigorous interrogation techniques so
there was an immediate scramble for the exits, many of East Leeds finest scattering in all directions , fleeing to the more remote regions of East End Park, Black Road or the dark alleyways & safe houses of Saville Green to lie low ‘til matters cooled down some- what.
A posse of bobbies tried to pursue them through the Glendsdales, Charltons & along Welbeck Rd but the pursued were fleet of foot & well used to outrunning the police foot- men .The unfit & mainly overweight rozzers were soon gasping for breath & quickly gave up the unequal struggle, repairing back to the Slip for the odd rejevenating pint of Hemingway’s Cloudfest Bitter to start their Christmas celebrations early.
On being briefed about the situation, D.S Sidebottom declared “I smell a rat”. Not so said several of the audience, it’s the miasma from a decomposing body. Some had spotted the pianist slump over the keyboard just as the stage curtains were closing at the conclusion of the previous friday night’s concert & just assumed he was in his usual drunken stupor. “That means the man must have been dead for almost exactly one week” ventured D.S. Sidebottom & glancing at his assistant murmured “that’s what makes a great detective – the ability to think on your feet & make complex deductions at the
crime scene”.
The D.S. immediately put those remaining or trapped in the room, around 150 or so, on lockdown & permitted nobody to leave, or even served with a drink ‘til someone had ‘fessed up. This brought howls of protest but unsurprisingly nobody owned up, so D.S Sidebottom placed all 150 in the room under arrest on suspicion of murder and/or complicity in the deed. Unfortunately, he had insufficient pairs of handcuffs to go
around so had to improvise by commandeering empty coal sacks from a nearby coalyard ( Wriggleworths – better known as “Lizzies” & just across the road from the Slip Inn) & placing them over the heads to blindfold the 150 suspects before frogmarching the lot down to Millgarth Police station .
There, devoid of any of the Christmas spirit goodwill towards all men, the interro- gation, conducted under the strictest human rights directives of course, commenced in due course but only after banging everyone up overnight, 25 to a cell on stale bread & water only and a prolonged waterboarding . As the suspects were gradually released, some appeared with bruised faces, black eyes & clutching bruised ribs – & that was only the women. Many of the men appeared with missing teeth & bandaged hands where fin- gernails had been ripped out. Not a great start to the festive season’s break.

The police pathologist, Dr Hugo Ruff-Trayd, was beginning to sober up when he
commenced the autopsy & apart from his badly trembling hands resulting in a few mis- placed slashes from his scalpel, managed to complete the autopsy without once falling over or throwing up onto the cadaver.
His alcohol blurred vision proved unable to discover any obvious clinical impedi- ment, declaring it was “death from natural causes, that is until it was pointed out by his recently released assistant, Dr Garth Vayder – “that is a load of old b******s there’s a b******g deep penetration wound between his f******g shoulder blades”.
Unable to control himself because of some genetic predisposition , his language skills unfortunately suffered & were often the cause of conflict between himself & their clients.
Aha, declared Dr Ruff-Trayd, this means a criminal offence has taken place & I’ll be required as an expert witness.
This finding unleashed the constabulary to widen their searches far& wide amongst local hostelries , the railway cuttings between Pontefract Lane, East Park Rd & all other
known refuges in the search for potential fugitives ,those with information which might lead to an arrest ( i.e. -a stool pidgeon) or the finding of a weapon. Not unaturally for the force in question, a few beatings, threats & late night forced entries were employed to speed matters along. Finally, the list of suspects was narrowed down to 24 but this was such a bonanza arrest list for the beleaguered W.Y. Police Force , that D.S. Sidebot- tom was assured of promotion at the earliest opportunity.
The main suspect was the 94 year old , tiny & frail widow Lawless solely on the grounds that she had not answered a single question put to her. The reason for that being because the interrrogation team had simply failed to realise she was stone deaf &
couldn’t hear a word said to her.
Meanwhile, the SlipInn Concert Room was declared a crime scene & closed for a full half hour whilst the forensic team did their work before packing up for a complimentary liquid lunch with pork pies from a nearby shop run by a zit faced youth who, unknown to his clientele, because of his inattention to the job & his total uselessness, used to end up doing disgusting things with the pies & sausage rolls. Dropping them onto the floor
& wiping them clean with his filthy , chest cold filled hankerchief was one of his more hygenic procedures, often resulting in his customers projectile vomiting liquids from both ends of their torso . Some said this was deliberate on his part.

The trial date duly arrived & the accused, all 24 of them charged with joint
& several responsibility, were to appear at Leeds Crown Court, before High Court
Judge, his Lordship Theopholus. P. Bulstrode – a man of jurisprudence known chiefly for his illiberal opinions, robust court discipline & harsh sentencing. He announced that
there was to be no time wasting, wanting the matter cleared up quickly so that he could get into the season of good will a.s.a.p.
Dr Ruff-Trayd was due to be first up to provide the court with his autopsy findings but was found asleep in the witness waiting room, clutching an empty absinthe bottle & requiring several bucket of cold water to be thrown over him and a gallon of strong
black coffee poured down his throat before he was deemed fit, although looking some- what dishevelled, to enter the witness box, much to the relief of his deputy who, suffer- ing from an almighty hangover , believed his inability to speak in any other than the most offensive expletives may have got him into troublewith the judge.
Naturally, His Honor was furious at the delay which meant his lunch break would be curtailed to a mere 2 hours & a measly half bottle of Navy Rum. His fury was plain to see with bulging eyes, neck veins standing out & his alcoholic red nose glowing like a rear stop light.
“You sir, are an incompetent, unprofessional fool & a drunkard to boot” bellowed the judge.
M’Lud enquired Ruff-Trayd’s counsel, “why so aggressive & insulting towards the ve- nerable Dr.”
“Because it takes one to know one” thundered the judge.

Newly promoted Det Superintendant Sidebottom – who now styled himself
Siddybotham as more befitting his new, higher rank and had taken to wearing even sharper suits along with equally lurid hand painted kipper ties , proceeded to out- line the evidence against the suspects , i.e. that they were present when the body was discovered & that they were all from East Leeds – Q.E.D. ,in particular the damning evi- dence against the incommunicative 94 yr old widow main suspect.
This was followed by defence “ counsel ” ( a self educated ex con & AA attendee who’d recently bought a second hand copy of “Idiots Guide to Litigation”) presenting witnesses to attest to the character & somewhat dodgy alibis of the 24 in the dock.
The judge quickly became bored & fell asleep to be awoken only by his own thun- derous double bass snoring. He immediately & grumpily declared he was suspending proceedings & would find all the accused guilty as charged on the basis of an ancient le- gal tenet of Common Law known as Excreta Taurus, because none had proven their in- nocence to his satisfaction & he was therefore redacting all defence testimony & pro- ceeding straight to sentencing.

However, before he could do so, the huge Cuban cigar he’d been secretly puffing behind the bench before he’d dropped off & was still burning, made contact with his vo- luminous scarlet robes which he’d only recently purchased cheaply on EBay . Unfortu- nately for him, they’d been manufactured in Hong Kong from a highly flammable mate- rial, soaked in Saltpetre to preserve their lurid colour and on which he’d spilled a large
tumbler of cognac as he fell asleep ,very quickly caught fire becoming a blazing inferno within seconds. The self immolation became complete within minutes & all that re- mained was a bareboned skeleton, slumped in the judges high chair but still clutching the Smouldering Cuban Cohiba with a cheap & nasty nylon Judges wig askew on the skeleton’s skull. Along with the tempting aroma of roast pork. Bang went his Yuletide orgy plans.

During the ensuing chaos, all the 24 accused managed to escape , the chief sus- pect, 94 yr old widow Lawless overcoming her burly minder by head butting him fol- lowed by a hefty kick to his groin & escaping the building by clambering through the high level lavatory window. Still dressed in her Santa Claus costume & jumping onto a high powered police motorbike she raced off heading South on the motorway but in the Northbound carriageway, creating havoc & multiple pile ups & so preventing the police from pursuing her .(they never thought about using the Southbound carriageway), reach- ing Southampton in record time where she managed to smuggle herself onto a tramp steamer heading for S.America. Hiding in the ships hold , she managed to find a few pal- lets of convenience food but was troubled by a horde of black rats which tried to share her food & gnaw at her ankles. She was able to keep them at bay however by a few well aimed shots from a Kalashnikov AK47 she discovered in a secret arms cache in the same hold & which the ships captain obviously intended smuggling into Mexico.
Once in Mexico,& after enjoying her brief period of notoriety, she decided to con- tinue her criminal career & ultimately became the dominatrix of a leading drugs cartel , striking up a relationship with a 23 year old Mexican drug smuggler toy boy & reaching a notoriety & villainy matched only in later years by Hillary Clinton.
All the other escapees, having fled the country quickly & so having little or no as- sets, developed successful careers as arms dealers, drug smugglers, timeshare salesmen
, unauthorised plastic surgery clinicians & illegal moonshine production. A few how- ever had to revert to type & resorted to the less savoury activities in which they were well versed .So far, all have managed to avoid extradition & subsequent jail sentences but
Chief Constable Siddybotham, now styling himself “Sidboam” continued to keep the case open.
The understudy pianist who stepped in immediately following Light Fingers demise was said by some to to have a knowing smirk on his face and curiously, had blood like stains on the lapels of his white Tuxedo jacket which proved to be resistant even to liberal ap- plications of “Vanish”. Nonetheless, Ch Cons Sidboam refused to investigate his fellow Freemason, even though he’d been a member of a notorious biker gang & covered in af- filiation tattoos before his damascene conversion to Freemasonry.
Bizarrly, shortly afterward he too disappeared suddenly to be replaced by a highly ac- claimed classical pianist – a strange choice & yet another mystery.
Nonetheless being a classical musician, he was a stickler for detail & perfection and con- cerned that his grand piano appeared to miss a few notes & seem out of tune. On raising
the lid, he discovered to his horror, a discarded white Tuxedo jacket & several half ea- ten, heavily tattoo’ed body parts.
The gruesome discovery, on the eve of Christmas, increased the tempo of the investiga- tion resulting in ever more officers being pulled away from the vital & pressing activites of parking tickets & raiding pubs that stayed open 5 minutes later than thy should have, unleashing them yet again to practice their ferocious intimidation on the locals.

Metropolitan Chief Commissioner Sidboam was determined to see a conclusion to his most famous case but, getting no result other than multiple claims for compensation for wrongful arrest & extreme brutality, meant that suspicion fell , & remains upon all the community, especially by association ,those who frequented the Slip Inn concert room. However, some believe that those who have no vices , often have very few virtues.
Lord Si’Bome subsequently lobbied for a judicial enquiry & felt the £20million spent was fully justified though has yet to reveal a culprit & conviction, the 120 year old widow Lawless still being his main suspect & remaining at large even though a 12
strong team of West Yorkshire’s finest spent 3 weeks at the 5 star Shangri La in Acapul- co , making searching enquiries as to her whereabouts. But they did come back with su- perb all round tan and a pretty hefty expense account bar bill.

The tragic loss of life of talented, hard working musicians, the spectacular demise of the illustrious Judge Bulstrode & the consequences of 24 escapees to ply their illegal trades in the seedier parts of the world’s stage is one thing but the frightening thought re- mains that a cannibal killer could still be stalking the highways & byways of East Leeds. Alas the Slip Inn no longer exists (as a pub) , it’s former glory long past &it’s ignomi- nious existence as a convenience store hiding the history of many a good night for lots
of us to remember. But I wonder how many would be happy to shop there for their Christmas turkey knowing the grisly acts which took place where the frozen food cabi- nets now stand ?
Rest easy but take care out there.

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The Magic of Aeroplanes

December 1, 2016

This month’s tale is about aeroplanes but there will be special Christmas tale by Eric Sanderson concerning dastardly deeds at the Slip Inn .

Look out for it on Christmas Eve

THE MAGIC OF AEROPLANES
We have all spent our lives under the sounds of aeroplanes and I Say ‘aeroplanes’ not aircraft for that is what we called them in the 1940s and they landed on ‘aerodromes’ not ‘airports’, ‘Yeadon Aerodrome’ not ‘Leeds Bradford Airport’. Somehow the name ‘aeroplane’ seems to carry the magic better.
When we were young, in the 1940s, the air would be full of piston engine aeroplanes droning above us, there were so many and we were so used to seeing them we hardly bothered to look up. If we did look up we would see, Spitfires and hear their beautiful Rolls Royce Merlin engine note, Hurricanes, Mosquitoes with their snub noses, Blenheim’s, Lancaster’s, Halifax’s, Sterling’s, Wellington’s the American ‘Flying Fortress’s with its many gun blisters and the work horse Dakotas’ with one engine hidden behind the fuselage so it looked as though it had and engine missing. These were to name but a few. We recognised them by their wing tip arrangement some clipped some curved and by their tail fins. We were spoilt, we observed these beautiful aeroplanes oblivious that this was a unique experience which would not be repeated for future generations.  The German planes only came by night but you could recognise them by their sinister, irregular engine note. When an air raid was on and we were in the shelter and the drone of a plane could be heard overhead someone would say, ‘Is it one of ours or one of theirs’ even as a child I could always tell them.
There was an ack ack battery further down Knostrop in the middle of the woods. When they opened up they made a ‘pom pom’ sound so we called them the ‘pom poms’ the night sky would be filled with searchlights trying to light up the intruders. The raid would begin with the wail of the sirens and the boats on the river would blow their hooters too. My dad would say, ‘the mussel boats are going off it’s time to go to the shelter!’ When the guns went off they would rattle the door of the shelter and I, being child, was once heard to say, ‘Someone’s knocking at the door.’ Seemingly that lightened the situation but the dog we had, Bobby, ‘took his hook, and we never saw him again. When the ‘all clear’ sounded it was welcome and had a far pleasanter note, then we could return to the houses and bed.
In the mornings after a raid we kids would hunt for shrapnel for souvenirs. The Germans were dropping anti-personnel mines so Mam would say, ‘Don’t pick anything nasty up’; with her saying ‘something nasty’ I expected the mines would look something like dog droppings. A sea change event occurred on Friday night the 14th of March 1941 when a German Bomb hit Richmond Hill School. As it was at night no one was injured but the pupils of Richmond Hill School were scattered among the other local schools in the area or in some cases evacuated to places like Ackworth and to Lincolnshire. Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) in her tale on this site, see Aug 2007, tells of how next morning she could see her poor little knitting on pins (the girls were knitting socks, gloves and Balaclavas for our soldiers) among the debris.

richmond-hill-bomb-damagen

At one point I was sent off to stay with my aunt in the country as seemingly being safer than Leeds but the first night there the Germans dropped a flare right outside her cottage, evidently searching for the massive Avro munitions factory
Towards the end of the war I recall a full week when nearing dusk the sky would be filled from northern horizon to southern horizon with endless formations of bombers their red and green lights winking. We were used to seeing a lot of aircraft but this was obviously something quite special. I wonder now, looking back if they were the 1,000 bomber raids or perhaps the build up to the invasion. It was such a sight I have never forgotten it. When the RAF lads came home on leave in their blue uniforms they were the celebrities, especially if they had wings above their left breast pocket, one wing for aircrew and a double wing for a pilot and a god.
Sometimes there would be an exhibition on a spare space in the centre of Leeds and there might be a Lancaster bomber and you would be allowed, as a child, to clamber in and wonder at how tight the space was inside and the marvellous array of dials and gadgetry and the smell that went with them, there seemed to be so much that could go wrong.
After the war we saw the first of the jets: the Gloster Meteor, De Havilland Vampire, with its twin fuselage, The Hawker Hunter and the English Electric lightening. All were beautiful aeroplanes getting faster and faster – the goal was to break the ‘sound barrier’ which at the time appeared to be some sort of a mysterious barrier where the plane would be buffeted about, some thought bizarrely that the controls would become reversed. We went to the cinema to see films such as Test Pilot and The Sound Barrier. 762 mph at sea level was the sound barrier but I remember 606 mph being the record at one time. Test pilots were now the new heroes; it was a dangerous job De Havilland lost three of their family testing planes
I would regularly take on the congested traffic around tiny roads to watch the air shows at Church Fenton. There’s a pub there still, The Fenton Flier, filled with photos of wartime aircrew and general memorabilia you can get the feel of the RAF guys piling into there for a few pints after sorties, having survived another day in the skies. On one occasion there was a Harrier vertical take of plane practicing the day before the show, it hovered about for a bit then it put on full power and climbed nose first vertically the back draught from its engines was so powerful caused huge mature trees to bow as if they were twigs.
Along came national service for me in 1959, I was drafted into the REME attached the Army Air Corps The Army Air Corps function was primarily to act as eyes for the Royal Artillery to help them target their guns but we also had a liaison duty, which entailed ferrying VIPs around. It did get a bit over the top on occasions. For instance, sometimes we would pick up a general and fly him for hundreds of miles to attend a meeting but then we would have to drive a petrol-tanker to the same destination to ensure the helicopter could be filled up with the correct fuel for the journey home. I recall going along for a ride with the bowser driver all the way from Detmold, in Germany all the way into France to complete such an operation.
At 652 Squadron we had fixed wing aircraft: Austers and Chipmunks and rotary wing aircraft in the form of the tiny Skeeter helicopter which could just hold the pilot and one passenger; later we acquired the larger French Allouette helicopter. The Auster actually had its tail wheel attached by means of a thick rubber band – this was the correct monoculture for the job but it enabled the RAF lads to have a laugh at us and our ‘toy planes’. In theory, the lightweight Austers could actually fly backwards. It is air passing over the wings of an aircraft, which actually keeps it in the air. So if the if the wind speed is 50 knots per hour and the engine is only making 40 knots per hour, then the plane is losing distance at the rate of 10 knots per hour but can still stay in the air. The advantage of the Auster, was it could land on a sixpence. When we went on schemes, any old field could present a landing strip. One had to take care around aircraft: if a plane came into contact with a solid object there was hell to play. Everything had then to be checked out with a fine toothcomb before it could fly again. There was danger too. The main rotors blades of the tiny helicopters dropped to below head high as they were slowing down so you had to keep well clear and the tail rotors were lethal, they revolved so fast that you didn’t actually notice they were there at all. On one occasion, walking blindly into a spinning tail rotor decapitated an unfortunate Alsatian. The method of starting the light aircraft was to ‘swing the prop’ but you had to make sure you arm was out of the way before the engine fired or there was a danger of losing it. That was not a job trusted to a humble clerk.
After a major servicing had been carried out on an aircraft the mechanic who had been responsible for the servicing was supposed to make the first flight with the pilot. This was a safety precaution to encourage him to carry out the job correctly but as long as someone went up with the pilot they were not too fussy as to whom it was. The safety procedure was quite rigorous though, loads of forms had to be signed and counter signed before the aircraft was released back into service. If the mechanic didn’t feel like flying I would often volunteer to take his place, I loved flying; couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes they wouldn’t have even have bothered putting the doors back on yet, when the pilot banked you were looking out into nothingness but we were strapped in and somehow looking out of an aircraft is not so frightening as looking down from a high tower or a bridge. Once in the air the noise from the engine was terrific, you were sat next to the pilot but you could only speak to him over the radio.
Flying was so exhilarating, especial when you went above the clouds after a dreary period of weather and saw the sun which might have had been missing for days: the sun always shines above the clouds in daytime of course. The servicing would likely have been carried out by one of my airframe, engine or electronic fitter mates from the billet, who might well be complete ‘nutters’ in their off duty periods but I never worried, I knew they would be spot on when aircraft safety was at stake.
Helicopter rides were my favourite, I recall a particular helicopter flight when the pilot followed a herd of deer running through the fire breaks of a forest at tree top height, and it was a sight you don’t easily forget. Helicopters sometimes have to encounter a phenomenon known as a ‘vortex ring’; these are pockets in the sky where the air will not support a helicopter. Apparently there is no warning when you are about hit one of these things

allouette-helicopter

and the ‘copter drops like a stone. The pilot would practice the procedure for dealing with a vortex ring or indeed for engine failure should it ever arise: you cannot glide down a plane without wings. The method employed to prevent a helicopter from actually hitting the ground was to disengage the rotor blades and let the machine fall. The action of falling through the air causes the blades to rotate faster and faster, and then just before the ground arrived the pilot would re-engage the clutch that would alter the pitch of the blades, which hopefully would be just enough to hold the machine for a soft landing. Of course, when carrying out these exercises, it was the pilot’s game was not to warn you what he was about to do in advance, so when the plane dropped you turned green and left your stomach a few hundred feet above. The lads always had a laugh at my expense when I took a helicopter flight in the tiny Skeeters. These small aircraft were not advised to take off vertically, except in emergency when carrying more than twenty-five stone. As few pilots were under ten stones, our flights fell into such a category, to compensate for the extra weight the helicopter would take off along the runway like a normal aircraft, generating much laughter from the lads. We didn’t get much pay on national Service, If I recall it was about £2 10 shilling per week but the c/o helped us out by giving us an extra 7 shillings and six pence a week if we could become ‘observers’ for this we had to be able to recognise aircraft silhouettes from a card, which was a ‘piece of cake’.
Originally I had been posted to a small airfield in Detmold, West Germany but eventually I was posted with our flight to RAF Wildenrath, still in Germany. Here we were part of a huge RAF station. It stretched for three or four miles in every direction. One would have been talking about ten miles plus, to walk around the perimeter fence. It seemed a bit of an extravagance that our little Austers, which only needed thirty yards to take off, used their giant runway. The fact that the RAF did all the guards was a bonus too, as it meant we did not have to do any ourselves. The station was equipped with Canberra bombers they were bombers but handled like fighters and were flying somewhere in the world for almost fifty years.

v-bomber
All the three ‘V’ bombers: The Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor and The Vickers Valiant, would drop in from time to time. It was the time of The Cold war and all three aircraft producing companies had been commissioned to come up with a plane that had the ability to carry a nuclear bomb to Russia and return. It was a marvellous sight to see them landing and taking off. In my spare time, I would enjoy just sitting on the grass and watching them: there is an exciting smell and a sort of magic just to be around aeroplanes. There were regular open days at the station, when all sorts of exotic aircraft would arrive to take part and we saw it all for free. I recall one day prior to an open day air show two jets arrived one coming from the east and the other from the west and they crossed right over my head it was a memorable occasion another memorable sight and one I have never forgotten to this day because the odds against it happening were so great happened a night with a lovely silver full moon,

I looked up and a Vulcan bomber passed exactly over the moon and for a brief second its delta wins and the moon fitted perfectly together.
On one of these open day occasions I remember having the doubtful pleasure of sitting astride a nuclear bomb. From time to time, the RAF had to practice night flying, which could be quite noisy. It kept you awake the first few times then you got used to it and never seemed to hear it at all.
I would have loved to win a flight in a Canberra sometimes as a money raising effort the RAF would raffle a flight in the nose of a Canberra bomber they would whisk you out across the North Sea and back. Alas I was never lucky enough to win a ticket. That would have been something special for me.
The mighty Vulcan bomber made its finest and farewell flight – in fact its only flight in anger – in 1982 when it was already out of service making its daring flight from Ascension Island to the Falkland island to put the airstrip at Port Stanley, held by the Argentineans, out of commission. The flight was far beyond its range but a planned series of thirteen Victor Tankers continually refuelled it and had to be refuelled themselves to achieve the objective. It must have been a morale lifting sight for the subjected Falklanders to hear the mighty roar of the Vulcan delivering its pay load over runway and know that although Britain was 8,000 miles away they were not abandoned. After being refuelled by the last Victor it became apparent to the crew of the Vulcan the fuel load to complete the mission was inadequate they could carry on and complete the mission but not have enough fuel to return or they could abort the mission altogether. They decided to a man to complete the mission whatever. Only one bomb hit the runway, the first, but it was enough it put the airstrip out of action and could not be used for the duration of the war by the Argentineans. On the way back they met our fleet on the way out to the Falklands who thought the Vulcan to be an enemy aircraft and nearly shot it down. It would seem the Vulcan was out of fuel and out of tankers and they were preparing to ditch in the sea, then in the nick of time a Victor turned up out of the clouds to refuel the Vulcan and save the day. What a welcome sight it must have been for the brave crew of the Vulcan; surely a tale fit for a ‘Biggles’ adventure.

Today, faced with the enormous cost of producing a new plane from scratch it is beyond the scope of individual companies to produce their own new aircraft, it’s even beyond most countries and the European countries pitch in to produce a new plane between them. We have The Typhoon and The tornado fighters but you hardly ever see them in the sky and unless you are taking a trip on a faceless commercial airliner plane spotters are restricted to watching vapour trails in the sky and wondering how the bodies of tiny sea creatures produced so much oil to fuel them all.