Better late than never?

You know how it is: you start a new blog, intend to keep something of it going and then circumstances change and it all goes a bit awry. Well, that happened.  Here’s a brief summary of life over the past 8 months.

Firstly, I didn’t do anywhere near enough work in Semester 1, and the blog was not the only thing to suffer.  I’m catching up but this week, having been Freshers’ Week, I’m nowhere near target either, so procrastinating here probably isn’t helping greatly.

Secondly, it all kicked off at work: we had a sudden closedown of the trial I work on. That meant having to fit 2yrs worth of work into practically 3 months. My study work didn’t suffer much but everything else did.

Finally, there has been a lot of things to do with organising and administering RPGSoc and related outfits to be done.

Of course, that wasn’t the half of it: what else has been going on?

RPGSoc won the National Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Championships in Manchester: I’m the current Champion of D&D 5th Edition and Large Model Painting.  I have been playing 5th Edition on Thursday nights still: our gaming group has changed with the change of storyline, and it’s not as good anymore (the group slightly, the storyline mostly), but it’s still brilliant 😀

I’ve been to no airshows since the loss from the air of Vulcan XH558, but I did go to both Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets open days with my friend from Essex who’s recently moved to the area and I also went to Newark Air Museum’s Fleet & Foreign Open Cockpits thing (although only for the Foreign-y bit), as well as City of Norwich Aviation Museum while I was visiting Emilie and the East Midlands Airport Aeropark with my Mum.  I also visited the Avro Heritage Museum last December with Matt.  So that’s four new Vulcans on the ‘visited’ list 🙂

We went abroad to Austria for the first time in ages and I remembered how much I miss Graz.  Some friends moved back to Nottingham and it’s like the family came home.

My Masters has really kicked off: I’ve been to loads of conferences as a participant so I’ve travelled well!  I’ve also met lots of very interesting and lovely people.  My supervisor thinks my work is very good (it has been described as ‘excellent’!) so it can’t all be that bad.

Let’s not leave it another eight months, eh?  Well, I’ll try my best.


A Personal Farewell Tour, Part Three: Old Friends (incorporating Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day)

It had been years since I went to Clacton Air Show.  I must have still been in school, so we’re looking at 15+ years.  It was the last of my planned Vulcan Farewell tour, but I expect it will not be the last of this Farewell Tour post series.

Thames Barge

The Thames Barges ply a roaring trade in planespotters during the show.

My parents live in Essex so it was easy to get to, within reason, although my Dad decided to drive which meant we were stuck in traffic for a while.  I imagine the trains back would have been very packed too though.  Mum and I were dropped at the Martello Tower and Dad went to leave the car at his friends’.  I managed to drag Mum away from the candyfloss and down to the PA Tower where we found a patch for her wheelchair (which she was walking with at the time, not in) and our chairs.

Bulldog and Tutor

The Bulldog and Tutor put on a couple of tight flypasts before splitting into their solo displays.

The day was cloudy, but it didn’t actually rain while the show was on and the sun arrived just in time for the Vulcan’s appearance.  It was seriously windy though, and how I didn’t get windburn I’ll never know!  It was a joy to see some aircraft I’ve not seen in a long time, as well as some new and exciting displays.

Tigers Parachute Display Team

Tigers Parachute Display Team with some fancy action: did really well in the wind!

Top of the new and exciting are two items I can’t choose between: La Patrouille Reva and the Autogyro.  I didn’t know that the lifting rotor on an autogyro is not driven by the engine, but by the forward motion of the craft.  Knowing that made the display all the more spectacular.

Calidus Autogyro

An autogyro is always great to see: this one was spectacular!

Calidus Autogyro

Some of the moves were breathtaking!

La Patrouille Reva fly spaceships.  They’re actually two AcroEzes and a Long-EZ but could pass for spaceships in a fairly decent sci-fi film.  They put on a stunning display of climbs, fast passes and tight aerobatics.

La Patrouille Reva


Sean Maffett, ‘The Voice of the Vulcan’, was there too: he regaled us with the story of one of his relatives, uncle I think, who was among those being commemorated just down the coast on the day at Walton-on-the-Naze.  I’ve noticed he always refers to XH558 as ‘Vulcan’, not ‘the Vulcan’.  He’s also supremely good at silencing when the Vulcan makes a great noise.  Both the Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight did a flypast at Walton, and XH558 did a pass there before she held at Frinton.

Spitfire and Hurricane

PA announcer said ‘prize for knowing which is which’: still haven’t got mine though I reckon I was the first!

Given the devastating Shoreham crash less than a week before, no-one knew what to expect with regard to restrictions.  Clacton were on the ball and cleared their event with the CAA as soon as they could on the Monday, and being an over-sea airshow was not subject to as strict restrictions.  I was impressed and pleased that the BBMF pair and Red Arrows were still allowed to enter from crowd rear.  The Vulcan, as we were reliably informed by the Vulcan team, is not considered an aerobatic classic jet so has not been affected much by the new regulations.

RAF Chinook

The Chinook display was unchanged since Yeovilton, but everything is different over water.

One of the groups heavily affected, I imagine, is the Norwegian Historic Display Team, who are holidaying at North Weald for the summer.  I missed the MiG-15 at Yeovilton because it had a fault but was pleased to see it in Clacton’s programme.  It put on a fair display of fast passes and tight turns, but with age to contend with (before we even get to the possibility of any restrictions), it wasn’t as high-powered as its stablemate Vampires at Yeovilton.  It was beautiful though.

Norwegian MiG-15

It was a graceful, somewhat muted display, but lovely.

Another beauty is Sally-B.  I don’t see enough of her because I don’t think she travels far.  She put on her usual sterling display in decent sunshine.  The Red Arrows also displayed in decent weather, managing to put on a full display despite the cloud (which didn’t look to have such a high base but evidently did).

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 'Sally-B'

Sally-B streaming her memorial smoke

RAF Red Arrows

One joy of the seaside is capturing the long, lingering smoke trails of some of the more intricate Red Arrows manoeuvres

But what we all came to see was the Vulcan: she powered over from Frinton with her 1960s smoke trail receding into the wind.  I’d always planned to see her at the sea front once at least: it just so happened that this year, the National Trust are running the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ public engagement event, where people record seaside sounds and upload them.  So I recorded the Vulcan: she reminds me of airshows and airshows remind me of the seaside.  So now, she is preserved forever in the annals of the National Trust and British Library here.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558


Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

I taught my other half to recognise 1960s jets by the smoke trails

After the airshow, we didn’t want to sit in traffic for three hours so we walked back to Jaywick to Dad’s friends, who I hadn’t seen since I was 5 or so.  We had some tea and cake and talked about, well, all sorts!  Then we made our way out of town and it was still pretty rammed.  We stopped off in Colchester for something to eat at a little local pub down an industrial estate road alongside the Colne.  The food was standard cook-from-frozen things but it was very tasty and certainly worth it: the peas were a nice texture too!

Team Raven

Team Raven were a man down.

Eurofighter Typhoon

The Typhoon was a lovely noisy end post-Vulcan.

I spent the next couple of days in Essex and travelled back to Nottingham in time for the Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day.  The weather was supposed to clear up through the afternoon but by midday the forecast had changed and it was set for the afternoon instead!  It was so wet I even missed the second Buccaneer display, on purpose.  I did get to see some of the new things though: the Tornado GR1, a Folland Gnat, a number of the ex-RAF fleet of Lockheed TriStars (in the dismantling area)…

Tornado GR1

I had a ‘what the hell is that?!’ moment with this: I should know it’s a Tornado but the missing rudder caught me off guard! Obviously it makes the fin look much smaller!

Comet airliner

The Comet was still off for works.

Avro Shackleton MR3

The weirdest Shackleton you’ll ever see.

First down was the VC-10.  I’d visited the inside of the VC-10 on my last visit in 2013 while it was still technically in RAF service (they put it back on the roster for a day so we could all get inside), but never been so close to one moving before, only seen them fly (very occasionally).  Turns out, I’ll be wearing ear defenders for that one next time!  They ain’t kidding when they say the noise restrictions hurt them.  It then whined (and wound) its way around the airfield for parking and visits, and greeting it off the taxiway was an interesting sight too.

Vickers VC-10

Oh my God the pain!

Vickers VC-10

Everyone cleared off at the right time, I assure you!

Vickers VC-10

::whines:: A lovely shot though.

VC-10 model

Didn’t expect to see a VC-10 flying!

After a couple of aircraft had done their thing, the heavens opened and it never really stopped.  Various of the #twitterVforce team described it as a washout but I, like some other hardy (tight) folk, stayed until the end, when the sky brightened and a BBMF Spitfire did a few lovely passes.  The aircraft are a great sight in the rain though: the Victor causing great sprays, the Lightning whipping up a storm behind it, the Hunter’s cartridge start smoke oozing into the puddles.  The rain also made the minute’s silence for the two airshow crashes this year all the more poignant, as did a lone skylark.

RAE Canberra

The Canberra wasn’t running on my last sortie: was an interesting sight (though I’ve seen many flying and running Canberras)

Vulcan model

Soon to be the largest flying Vulcan

Victor model

Never seen a Victor fly (apart from on TV during Gulf War reports) so this was a lovely experience.

Victor model

It’s got that spaceship look about it from every angle.

L-39 Delphin

The Delphin is resplendent in its Romanian colours.

Hawker Hunter

As you can see, it’s rather wet now. The smoke from the Hunter’s cartridge start never really went anywhere…

Hawker-Siddley Nimrod

The Nimrod was the last of the dry runners really

Hunting Jet Provost

Made for some nice reflective photography.

Handley-Page Victor

There was a brief moment of brightness for the Victor’s run.

Handley-Page Victor

Then it got very atmospheric again.

Handley-Page Victor


English Electric Lightning

Even more zooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!

I spent the last part of the day in the relative warm of the late afternoon brightness (it wasn’t really sunshine) perusing the Lightning merchandise cabin before heading home.  But I did get some lovely pictures and not ruin my camera in the rain!

Supermarine Spitfire

Sun for the Spitfire.

English Electric Lightning

A sunny Lightning