Yeovilton Air Day.

Saturday was warm wasn’t it? How did you find it? Did you all cope well with the heat? I have been in hotter weather, Helmand Province for one place and there I would be wearing body armour, belt kit full of ammo and water and the like and a daysack containing equipment, ammo and radio equipment which is not light. Despite this, I struggled on Saturday, since my accident my body can no longer regulate temperature. I sweat like hell from my head but the rest of my body stays dry, this is new to me obviously and although I lasted from around ten in the morning to around four in the afternoon, it was at this point I had to find shade. I tend to keep my shirt on nowadays because if the sight of my fat body and man boobs makes me cringe then I would not want other people to have to look at it however on Saturday I had to bite the bullet and take my tee shirt off to try to vent. This had drawbacks of its own, obviously I was going to get a little burnt potentially but worse than that, I ended up with a red belly, shoulders and the top of my back as well as my arms and white areas where my fat had been. I have never been large, my civilian employment kept me working hard unloading my lorry and the Army kept me slim by way of exercise and generally running about. Now though none of this is possible and as a result I am fat, and I hate it, REALLY hate it.

Darren and I arrived at the car park in plenty of time before the air day officially opened and headed over to the entrance. I had taken my power chair and my manual chair in case the batteries ran out, obviously I started out in the power chair though, we got to the entrance and headed for the ticket office to pay to watch the days flying. I have missed the last two air days because of my accident and recovery but this year I wanted to go, I remembered how the air days have been for the past few years that I had gone in comparison to the years before when I was growing up and was unsure of how good this years would be, it remained to be seen. We headed in and had a look round the various stalls and a few static aircraft and then found ourselves an area to sit and watch the first display, the aircraft that would open the air day. We listened to the tannoy and tried to make out exactly what was being said. It was not a massive problem that we could not hear every word because the focus would be on the flying display. Darren and I scanned the sky behind us as I knew that this is the direction that the aircraft would come in from, to catch the public by surprise as the grand entrance and before too long we spotted them, perfectly formed, equally spaced and the smoke coloured Red, White and Blue. The best aerobatic display team in the world, flying with nine once more, The Red Arrows.

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There was not a cloud in the sky which meant that the Red Arrows were able to do the full display at the correct height. They were as always a pleasure to watch and were an amazing choice to open the air show.

We looked at the programme and looked at which of the flying aircraft we really wanted to make a point of seeing, the flying display was a full one, which I was really pleased with as the air day did drop off for a few years but then I guess with other nations commitments dropping back, it would seem that they were able to commit to the air show. I hope that more nations will return to the air show over the next few years as it always was a fantastic full display both static an flying, and I do believe it will return to that, the air day this year though was a vast improvement on previous years. There were a few aircraft that we marked for watching and with this now sorted we looked around the static displays. There were of course the bases Lynx and Sea King aircraft but there were also other types from other countries and businesses in the UK.

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There is one aircraft which everyone seems to think is huge but is actually surprisingly small compared to what you would expect, one aircraft that it seems will stop people in their tracks and force them to look skyward and when they do they are unable to look away, it seems that she casts a spell as soon as you look at her which prevents you from moving away and keeps you captivated. Saturday was no exception. I heard her power up and roll down the runway, on her way to show herself off to another display in Swansea and then would return to cast her spell on all at the air show at Yeovilton. I had to end my conversation with the gentleman I was talking to just to see her climb away in to the distance, but which lady am I talking about? There can be only one, and indeed there is, I am of course referring to XH558, the simply majestic Vulcan.

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There were many other aircraft flying and showing off while she was gone, some great displays from both fixed and rotary wing aircraft incorporating evasive manoeuvres and countermeasures in to their displays. Some very impressive sights of flares being deployed from all types of military aircraft which added to the display greatly, sights that the average member of the public will not have seen first hand except for news footage, a really nice touch. Darren and I were wondering around the display aircraft when we found a gap in the spectators by the flight pan. There was a Typhoon aircraft already parked up and we had watched another land, we figured that there was only one place that this Typhoon was going to go to and that was next to the already parked Typhoon in front of us. Sure enough the ground crew came out and prepared for the incoming aircraft. As it was on its way in, Darren and I very quickly realised that for this aircraft to park up it would have to turn towards the already parked aircraft, this would of course meant that she would show us her ass and inevitably this would mean that the exhaust would be aiming at us. I took off my hat, and my sunglasses and prepared myself for the blast of hot air that would be coming our way in minutes few. I know what you are thinking, most normal people would just move if they knew what was coming but if we did, it would leave a gap for people who did not know what was coming and they would fill it. No, we were staying. I video’d the aircraft taxiing towards us and got ready for the blast, I leaned forward in my chair and then a thought hit me, would I be blown over in my chair? Well, too late to worry about that now, here it comes, she swung left and then she showed us her ass, the exhaust hit us square on but fortunately I had leaned in to it and for the three or four seconds that we were being blown around it was apparent that if people were not ready for this then it could cause problems. I was ready and my sunglasses still went for a trip on their own, no idea where they went but I know it was a good distance. I did though manage to keep hold of my tee shirt and my hat! I looked to the left of me and saw Darren, I looked twice as I was sure that there had been someone sitting next to him before the Typhoon came in, I was right, there had been but he had been blown backwards off of his chair and was in the process of picking himself up. Now I know that I should not have done it but I could not help it, I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself!

The hot weather was also being felt by the Apache drivers.

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It was not long after this that I nudged Darren and steered his eyes in the direction of the Vulcan in the distance, she had returned and was now set to show off to us having already wowed the crowds at Swansea. There is no mistaking the Vulcan, shape or sound and as she danced around in the clear blue sky with flypast after flypast I was, as would anyone who knows her be, waiting for the distinctive “howl”, she came in and seemed to throttle off as she went deadly quiet and then her nose lifted and she started to turn, the throttle was increased and just as I had been waiting for her to do it, the “howl” before the air shook as her four powerful engines thrust her forward gaining altitude before her final flypast and landing. When she did land she was not tucked away on the other side of the airfield, she was parked up in front of everyone, giving all a chance to see her close up. Her paintwork shining in the bright sun and her markings clear for all to see.

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I do not think anyone could have put it any better. “The Spirit of Great Britain”

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And displaying our flag so proudly.

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She was not the only iconic aircraft of the day, we had seen displays from Spitfires, Mustangs, Skyraiders and Messershmits but another aircraft that will always make people stop and watch is the famous Lancaster. She came in of course with her escorts as they would have done in World War 2, the Spitfire and the Hurricane.

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The sound, the sight the immense pride that these three aircraft types, flown by the brave of our country in WW2, back when Great Britain was exactly that, when we were able to make things, good things that worked and worked well, were still flying. Flying for the younger generations to see them and be told by the generations above them why these aircraft are so special. The display was fantastic, each of the aircraft having its own allotted time to show off, to display itself in all its glory and then for all three to rejoin the formation for one final flypast to applause from those who really appreciate what they did, what they do now and to the pilots and ground crew who keep them from falling in to disrepair and put them through their paces, stretching their legs so to speak in order for the memory of those who put themselves on the line and sacrificed themselves for this country to live on.

After the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, (BBMF), had flown off in to the distance two small jets took to the air, I forget what they were but they were great little jets. Quiet and manoeuvrable but not friendly. They attacked the airfield, running the length of the runway strafing it as they went, then a vehicle with heavy weapons mounted stormed along the edged of the runway and took a hostage. The commentator was informing people of what was happening, would more hostages be taken? Would the jets attacking the runway have air superiority? We could but watch and see how things developed. Then from our left, an Apache attack helicopter and the new Wildcat came in to suppress the enemy on the ground giving the opportunity for a Sea King to come in and hover whilst members of the Royal Marines fast roped in.

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Boots on the ground, that’s what we needed more of if they were to be successful. A fire fight ensued and with Apache and Wildcat support, more Sea Kings came in and dropped more and more troops to fend off the attacking force. Jeeps and field guns, ammunition and more troops were airlifted in and then the fast jets from the Royal Navy came in and started their own strafing and bombing runs on the airfield aiding the ground troops. The Royal Navy had unfortunately been unable to wake the Royal Air Force from their afternoon sleep by all accounts which was why they were having to use their own Hawk aircraft, (you have to love military banter!). After around thirty or forty minutes of a very busy airfield, the battle was won and the airfield was cleared, it had of course been the Commando assault which is the grand finale of the air show every year and has been ever since I was a boy. It bought back memories of us assisting in previous years either being part of the attacking force or being the terrorist force that is (unwillingly) defeated by the Royal Marines at the end of the day. Good times.

At the end of the air show we headed back to the “Chucklebus” wondering how long it would take to get out on to the A303 and home. That was not the first thing though. As my body had got so hot and because I am unable to move about, my legs and ankles had swollen badly but the worst thing was my feet. I wear shoes that are two sizes to big to allow for a bit of swelling but they were so swollen they were actually trying to push out of the sides of my shoes. Fortunately I had bought my manual chair as well and so we put that chair in front of me, put my feet up on it and took my shoes and socks off and then strapped my chair and myself in. This was far more comfortable. The traffic moved really quickly and as the Police had ordered no right turn on to the A303, it allowed the traffic to join with hardly any delays, in a little over half an hour, Darren and I arrived back at the bungalow having had a fantastic day. I am glad I made the decision not to take any of the kids as it would have been too hot for them, I was not surprised to see young children there, I was however shocked to see one child who was screaming which would have got the child worked up even more and got even hotter but I could see what the problem was, the child who was in a pushchair and therefore would have been around two years old maybe, had cord trousers and a checked shirt on. Really? On the hottest day of the year you dress your child in these clothes? What in the name of all things holy were the parents thinking? UN-BE-FRICKIN-LEVABLE! On the flip of side of that, I saw two babies, maybe six months old wearing just nappies. No hats and no sunshade umbrella on the pram or pushchair thingy. I can not say if they had sun block on but if they did it was not very thick stuff. Honestly, I know that it is unusual for this country of ours to have good sunny weather but for crying out loud. I have come to notice a lot of things since being in the chair. How ignorant people can be. How peoples lack of applying common sense can cause so many seemingly minute problems for able bodied people but cause huge problems for us. How people only read what they want to read, or certainly only act on things they choose to for instance; I have an A4 sign in my back window requesting a distance of three meters be left for me to access my vehicle via my lift. I have the exact same request underneath the A4 sign (which is blue) on a white sticker which is longer and thinner. If this sign said something like “congratulations, leave your number and you will receive a cheque for £100”, I would have random telephone numbers all over my van. Instead, I have people parking so close to the back of the van that we can not open the door and when they come back to the car they say “Sorry, I did not see the sign!”, REALLY? AN A4 SIGN CLEARLY DISPLAYING TWO TRADITIONAL DISABLED EMBLEMS AND YOU COULD NOT SEE IT? ARE YOU SURE YOU SHOULD BE DRIVING IF YOUR EYESIGHT IS SO BAD? What I have come to realise since my accident are many things, I will not list all but here are a couple.

People are lazy, they would rather deny a disabled person the disabled space than walk the extra ten meters to go to the cash point or to buy cigarettes.

People would rather plead ignorance to not seeing a sign than put the car in reverse for a few meters.

And finally for now…

People think that it is perfectly alright and acceptable to stand directly in front of someone in a wheelchair blocking their view and then ignore the voice from behind when they are asked if they would move.

Please think about us in wheelchairs, you can not catch paraplegia or tetraplegia. You will not become paralysed if you allow us to be in front of you to enable us to see, after all, you will be able to see over the top of us because we are sat down, you will however suffer (potentially) broken toes if you do not move when politely asked to. There is only so much politeness I will offer before I will simply move people out of my way myself, I can not speak for all in wheelchairs but should someone in a wheelchair seem off with you one day please think before you act. If they are being short with you and it is four in the afternoon, there is a very good chance that they have had six or eight hours of being ignored, blocked, walked in to, pushed in front of or tutted at for wanting to turn in to a shop. Please think about how it is for us in the wheelchairs, look at the pavements when you are next out. Look at the pavement where it meets the building and draw an imaginary line straight and level across to the road. Then see how much the pavement drops away. It is something that you do not notice when walking but in the wheelchair it wants to fall with the camber of the pavement and it makes it really hard work to stay in a straight line. Try it, and see how bad some are compared to others. See the state of them. If there is a whole in the pavement where it is worn it may not affect you walking but could potentially tip someone from their chair. There is so much more that I had not thought of or noticed before being in a chair, but if I can `educate` you the reader, then maybe you can `educate` others in conversation. I hope that you are all enjoying the sunshine, it is set to continue from what I hear which is not only good news but made me laugh. Not a month ago in the Sun newspaper I read that over the next ten years our summers would be washouts, now they are saying that this is the hottest it has been for ten years! I swear I could be a weather man. Look outside in the morning and guess, as long as you say “and a chance of rain” you’ve cracked it!

Goodnight all.

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