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ReportsThursday, 14 June 2001
Cardiff, Wales --> Hanbury (UK) Getting from Cardiff, Wales, to my next place took me two hours to get a hitch from somebody. But eventually this afternoon had the unexpected sky as the limit: let's go microlight flying!
I thank God for the fact that Daniele let me sleep in this morning, because he woke me up only at 11.30am. After a shower I ate some cereals for breakfast and joined him in his little office.
A little hour later Carol came back from the optician, for an eye check for the twin children. After their lunch Daniele would bring them to their nursery and drop me off at the A48 motorway heading up to Newport.
I made a very big sign this time, saying Towards BIRMINGHAM please on it. And it really seem to work, after TWO hours, I finally got a hitch from a man with a very difficult to understand English accent – even though he wasn’t Welsh.
We didn’t really have any conversations, he probably wasn’t like that and I just was not into it. So I listened to his Best of Tom Jones album on his car CD player and next on was a Robbie Williams-album… During that last CD I dozed of to sleep and woke up when my driver told me we were passing the city of Worcester.
Just 8 miles after Worcester, I got out of the car along the motorway and I walked to the main roundabout in the village called Wychbold.
Because I didn’t really know which direction to go to my next place, I called my host for today, Nick Williams.
When he heard it was me, he immediately offered to pick me up and after ten minutes I got into his car on the way to this even smaller village called Hanbury. That was just in time, because dark clouds had come together to have a rain party.
Hanbury mainly contains out of farmland and farmers. While driving on very narrow streets with tight green on both sides, we ended up at this little open spot in the high grass fields where a couple of houses were built in a circle with some parking spaces in the middle.
This was the local shopping centre. There was a little restaurant, a shop, a jewellery workshop, a leather workshop and a photographer framing shop. It all looked very idyllic – even though the sun had hidden itself and the clouds were still playing a match with Mr. Thunder.
But the story is: Nick Williams works at this Leather Workshop and his girlfriend Belinda works at the Jewellery Workshop on the other side of the parking lot. As Nick often visited Belinda’s shop and Belinda really liked Nicks’ car, eventually they got together somehow and now live happily ever after.
Nick once made a leather jacket, some twenty years ago. And suddenly more requests came in for more leather products. So that is how he got started in leather land. Currently he has all his orders come in by mail order from fashion companies and he is the only one in the UK who can provide leather in an enormous amount of colours… And he is one of the main leather belts providers in Europe! It’s only a unique Williams’ if you have a gold stamp on the inside of it!
Nick showed me how a belt is made and then introduced me to his other passion: microlight flying!
That really made me enthusiastic! On his office computer Nick showed me all kinds of pictures of his latest flights and his current little plane. If the weather would clear up this afternoon (which I had doubts about), we might go up for a fly!
In his car to this little cottage, hidden between the trees, he told me why he had invited me over. “I heard you on BBC Radio 2 on Steve Wrights’ Afternoon Show and they mentioned your website. When I got home I looked at that website and simply had to invite you; just for the hell of it!”
At his home three or four or five cats were walking around in the kitchen, together with a little dog, called Toby. As soon as Toby liked me he walked in front of me with his ball, ready to play throw-and-fetch.
I met two of Belinda’s three children from a previous relation, but they were so much in a hurry that I forgot their names.
Nick showed me around in the house and when I had settled in the living with his laptop on my lap, he came towards me an announced: “The weather looks good now for an hour. If we hurry up, we can make a nice flight in the air.”
I couldn’t believe that at first, but he really meant it and I hurried to look for a warm sweater and got ready to join him in his car.
He drove to this local farm, just 5 minutes away and drove onto the farmers’ land to a hangar. Inside there were three microlight aeroplanes and Nick carried out one of them. After some last checks he started the engine and warmed it up.
I sat behind him in this little open cabin, got tied up in the belts, got a headphone with a microphone on and a final helmet came on top.
As he got in in front of me we slowly ‘taxied’ toward a little airstrip in the middle of a grass field.
We were ready to rrrrrrumble!!!! And after a few seconds of speeding on the grass, the microlight plane got off the ground and in to the air. Above the trees, above little and little sheep which became white dots in the green…
It’s like a roller coaster ride and when Nick makes a sharp turn to the right or left, the complete plane leans over to one side. And as you might see on the photographs, there is nothing next to the seatbelts that held me. But I had all confidences in them and in Nick and I really enjoyed it!
We flew over the motorway, while Nick demonstrated the down spiral – this is when the plane make little circles going down, with only a little power in the engine.
We got up really high or flew really low, just over the top of the trees.
The view was marvellous, I could even see the high buildings of Birmingham in the North!
The weather was still pretty cloudy, but not so windy – which was good. I did feel my legs and hands getting pretty cold at this height. Just a few miles away from us we saw the rain falling down. That looked like a very smoked area, but it was the rain front coming towards us.
Counting the seconds we had two minutes to go down before the rain could catch us and Nick told me it wasn’t that great to fly in the rain. It’s even very dangerous and it can damage the planes’ propeller.
So at the moment we got down on the airstrip (see the pic), the first raindrops made contact with the lens of my camera – the landing wasn’t even that bumpy.
With quite some speed Nick drove the plane back to the hangar, scaring most of the sheep in the fields. When he finally carried the plane inside of the hangar, the clouds threw down buckets of water - we dove into the car to go home.
A few days ago I was standing on a rock pile looking over the Dartmoor National Park and today I am suddenly flying in a microlight aeroplane above the English Midlands!
I could not conclude what this all is about: faith or just pure luck? But as long as everyday is different than every previous, I will continue my journey.
At home we looked at all the pictures I made with my camera and Nick was overwhelmed by my simple digital camera I had, using the 1,44MB floppy disks inside, easily to be put inside of every A-drive of any computer.
Belinda offered to go and have dinner at the local pub in Himbleton, called Galton Arms. Not only to offer me a great meal, but also to let me get in contact with the local folks in this little village.
The steak meal filled pretty good and when I got near the bar to make some photographs, old the blokes suddenly wanted to hear about my Big World Tour.
“So whad-a-ya doing here for? Did you end up here!?” is what a lady asked me out loud.
The old chaps at the bar all enjoyed me taking pictures of them for that Internet-thing, but after one minute they discussed the importance of the local pheasant hunt again…
When we drove home from the pub around 11 o’clock I realised I had quite an unusual day today. “Just see it as a good way to forget all about boring Bristol” , Nick gave as his excuse.
Good night Hanbury, let me fly in my dreams too…
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