Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Saturday, 13 August 2022

Hooptedoodle #429 - How to Keep an Idiot Entertained

 Like most of Britain, we have been in a heatwave again here. Being Scotland, it is not so severe as further south, but still oppressively hot - especially uncomfortable at night for those of us who are not accustomed to it.

Yesterday was a lot cooler. I live on a farm which is on a headland at the junction of the Firth of Forth and the North Sea, and a quirk of the local geography is that our heatwaves usually have limited duration. After a few days of high temperatures, we get sea mists (haars) rolling in and the temperature drops sharply. There are many occasions when we hear on the radio about the rest of Britain basking in glorious sunshine, while we are tripping about in the gloom, with sweaters on. 

Yesterday the temperature dropped a lot - I believe the maximum here was 17degC, and the minimum was around 12degC, so, though dull and misty, it was pleasantly cool. Suitably invigorated, I made a special note to step out in the evening for a little adventure. The RAF's Red Arrows display team were to appear, flying over the Castle Esplanade in Edinburgh at 21:00 to open this year's Edinburgh Military Tattoo.


No, I had no plans to go into Edinburgh - Heaven forfend! The team would be flying just to the west of the village of Whitekirk, which is about 2 miles from my house, and is visible from the farm here, so my plan was to pop out a little before 9pm, to hear, though probably not see in the mist, them pass. The speeds of planes these days are familiar to us all, but they are still mind-boggling. The Arrows would be taking off from Scampton, Lincolnshire at 20:14, would fly up the East Coast, coming in off the sea somewhere near St Abbs, and would be at Whitekirk, in open country in East Lothian, at 20:56, passing over Edinburgh at 21:00, arriving at Rosyth, on the far side of the Forth Bridges, at 21:03, and then turning to land at Edinburgh Airport.


Friends of mine (in particular Stryker, Goya and the Archduke) who have personal experience of travelling around this area by road will appreciate the unbelievable journey times in the flight plan.

So, around 15 minutes to 9, I walked down to a gap in the row of trees which separates us from the next section of the farm. Through this gap runs a concreted road which passes between two large fields, both under wheat this year, and the view is extensive. Straight ahead, which is south, the land drops to a shallow valley which contains the (Scottish) River Tyne, and then rises to the Lammermuir Hills in the distance. To the left, which is east, beyond the wheatfield is the open sea - straight on for Norway if you keep going. To the right, which is inland, looking west, you can see as far as Traprain Law, and you can also see the church and the roofs of Whitekirk, about 2 miles away. I was in plenty of time. It was a still evening, I could just hear the occasional train in the distance on the London line, the traffic on the A1 and the waves coming in on the beach at Scoughall, so I was confident the Red Arrows would be very distinct.

 
Whitekirk in sunshine

I stood there for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet, wondering how long the planes would be audible before they got up here. By about 21:10 nothing had happened, and it was obvious I had missed them. Not to worry; I enjoyed my walk back to my house, and on the way I saw a few deer in the wheat field (they were watching me carefully - they may even have been giggling a little), and I also saw a large dog fox crossing the path in front of me. It was getting pretty dark by then.

My wife has recently heard foxes at night; this is the first one we've seen for ages. A few years ago, before the farm's ghillie retired, there were no foxes here - he used to shoot them. Similarly there were no rats in the woods, no magpies, we never saw squirrels. Times have changed - you can't get the staff, you know.

When I got home I learned that the foggy weather had caused the cancellation of the Red Arrows' flight. I don't know when they cancelled it, but it got less publicity than the original programme of events!

My wife's friend in Edinburgh had gone to the trouble of walking to the top of Corstorphine Hill to watch - a real grandstand view up there - so she must have been rather more disappointed than I.

Anyway, it didn't take up much time, and I had a laugh about it. I wonder what excitement I'll get up to today? Yesterday I didn't see the Red Arrows; today I could fail to see - well, anything, really. Spanish Armada? Visitors from space? Any requests?

23 comments:

  1. Is it too late to catch Agricola's fleet circumnavigating Britain? You could miss them go north up one coast then drive across to not catch the return journey down the other coast.

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    1. Excellent - thanks, Ross - I'll definitely make arrangements to fail to do this.

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  2. An all-weather fighter-trainer with a ceiling of 13,000+ can't hop over a bit of scotch-mist? I suspect something else is going on, probably not unrelated to activities in Ukraine? Farnborough Airshow this year (less than two miles away) barely happened. One practice flight the week before, a couple of demonstration flights on the Monday/Tuesday and about half-a-show on the public day which was the Friday, not the usual Saturday or Sunday of past shows. . . it was as if no-one wanted to fly or be seen flying?

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    1. Ah - a conspiracy theory - that feels much better. Thanks Hugh. I had worried that maybe the Ministry of Defence could not afford the fuel for the Arrows' trip, or that, since they would obviously have to fly all the way from Scampton to Edinburgh (and back, of course) with the coloured smoke switched on, it would be damaging to the environment. I suspect that there is something going on, right enough; this may be why the only acts booked for this year's Tattoo are the Junior Section of the Torphichen and Bathgate Pipe Band and a display by the Scottish Country Dance Club from Nethy Bridge.

      It may also be something to do with the fact that the paying attendees at the Tattoo would have been unable to see the Arrows if they turned up, because of the fog. They missed a trick here; they could have pretended that the Red Arrows were using Stealth aircraft - how impressive would that be? Certainly I would have believed it on Friday evening, standing out in the mist near Whitekirk.

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  3. Well it made me laugh this morning Tony, so much planning and anticipation and then nothing! Kind of reminded me of when we went to watch the Tour de France on it's Kent stage a few years back, got there a couple of hours early to get a good spot, waited and waited as the excitement built and then suddenly Woooosh, gone, that was it, lasted literally seconds!

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    1. Sometimes it seems to me that my whole life has been like that...

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  4. Reminds me of the sign at the village hall fete that listed "Red Arrows display... if wet in church hall".

    I had the dubious privilege of seeing the Red Arrows at Brighton beach many years ago when one of the pilots went for an unexpected swim off Palace Pier!

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    1. Indoor flying display is excellent. I wasn't familiar with the Brighton accident so did some reading. Crikey - it seems the pilot steered away from the crowds before ditching. If he hadn't, I'm confident that I'd have heard of the incident before now.

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  5. Yesterday, we went to Didsbury, Manchester, to attend my nephew's wedding; he was marrying a lass whose family are from Senegal. The costume colours on the bride's side of the church was just amazing. At the end of the ceremony, we were outside the church and waiting for the photographer to get through the usual wedding album of photos when the Avro Lancaster flew overhead. We don't know why, it was fortuitous that we were stood there and I knew those Merlin engines as soon as I heard them.

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    1. Great bonus entertainment, but maybe this explains something: where was the Lancaster *supposed* to be? Some big public display somewhere must have been short of a Lancaster? Something not working here. Those RAF girls with the big map table and the pusher sticks would have kept this right - where have they gone? We need to know more.

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    2. Lol....reminds me of Yes Minister episode where the PM asked the head of the Army what the RAF would think of a certain proposal " You could ask them, I suppose, if you are interested in the opinion of garage mechanics" drawled the soldier. " All they are really interested in doing is flying around, dropping things on people. Not that they are very good at it, they couldn't even close the runway at Port Stanley. They probably wouldn't even be able to find Moscow.......and if they did....they would probably miss it!"

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    3. That is funny, but it occurs to me that you might not get away with the gag about Port Stanley now - there would be co-ordinated choruses of protest from anyone whose relatives were involved in the Falklands. Maybe rightly so, I wouldn't risk an opinion. The "Daily Wail" would bang on about a lack of respect to Our Boys. I wish I hadn't thought of that now.

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    4. Upsetting Daily Mail readers is my other hobby...rock on say I !

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    5. Wail readers are always upset - it's a permanent state of mind. Mostly they are worried in case foreigners pinch their stuff, but it is a shame for them.

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  6. This is a familiar story - at the Jubilee weekend earlier this year, the newspapers seemed to show that the RAF Flypast, including the Battle of Britain Flight, would be passing quite close to us - the same thing had happened on the previous jubilee and the BoBF had gone right over the house. So we noted the likely time and found the highest point nearby ( in Suffolk, this is all relative ) - and waited. And waited.. Don't believe what you read in the papers....

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    1. Aha! You see, that's what they *expected* you to do...

      One year they fly right over your house, and the next year they gaslight you by not turning up at all. Fiendish.

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  7. Reading the news this morning it seems like half the pilots quit this week...could it be linked to the no-show?

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/08/15/red-arrows-turmoil-pilot-quits-amid-toxic-culture/

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    1. Good grief - well spotted Matt - in the Telegraph too! I can see it would suboptimal to be performing potentially lethal stunts with a pilot you had a fight with this morning.

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    2. This puts Hugh's something-going-on theory (above) under a bright light.

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    3. When the WRAFs were guiding them with sticks on a map didn't they all have affairs with everyone and have a mandatory punch up before taking to the skies to down a few Boche? Or was that cinematographic licence?

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    4. Very exciting - not sure if they downed any Boche, though.

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  8. Your next quest, should you accept it, is to go out tonight and to not see a UFO...

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    1. A new combine harvester drove past my house late last night, and any UFO that caught sight of this would scarper very quickly. E-nor-mous.

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