Being Silly

It’s official. In the differently shaped world of the Hedgehog, silly is the new serious. Maybe it’s because I never really got around to growing up, or as I have kids of my own, or even – after 40 – days fast forward into weeks and weeks into years, and you have to fill the rushing time with something.

But whatever it is, I have inaugurated Rule#3* into Al’s approach to dealing with the real world. And it is simply “Every week I shall do something properly silly“. There is already quite enough doom, gloom and despondency waiting for a mouse click, or the flick of the paper. What’s needed is some balance, a sense of the stupid, and a reason to giggle.

Today this took the form of trying not to be punched backwards by a gale force wind, whilst being seriously inconvenienced by a wing shaped lump of foam. We waded through damp bracken to crest a high point on the Long Mynd, before being properly bested by Mother Nature.**

Waves of weather washed over us, hail – driven on by screaming wing – piercing any unprotected skin, occasionally clear patches rushed past at the speed of stupid, only for the next front to surf the slope and break right over our heads.

I broke the Wildthing on the second flight. Although that’s an inaccurate statement because a) it was already a bit broken from smashing into a brick wall last week, and b) because it wasn’t flying, it was merely travelling backwards and out of sight while I pointless twirled the sticks.

It took me a while to realise it was broken, as I’d lost it in about fifty acres of featureless bracken. Amazingly I found it nearly HALF A MILE AWAY by twitching the controls and listening for echo of staining servos. Now a non silly person would have taken one look at the damage, the weather and their lack of ability to fly in such difficult conditions and gone home. Sulkily and unfulfilled.

Being silly, I taped the fuselage back together, grafted some further botched repair to prevent the wing from flying free, and headed back to the ridge. Feet soaking, jeans sodden and fingers frozen, I tried again. And again and once more, as the model cartwheeled backwards adding more damage without really ever properly flying.

Being really silly, I kept on going and was rewarded with ten minutes of brilliant fun as the air smoothed out with distance from the edge. Silly possibly went to stupid as practising rolls with a wing held on by parcel tape possibly was taking the whole thing slightly too frivolously. But the model held together long enough for me to see the next weather front rolling up the valley.

We quit then, because two hours of this kind of silliness is really enough. Tea and medals followed and we couldn’t keep the stupid grins off our frozen faces. It reminds me of riding Mountain Bikes when clearly staying inside was the sensible option. Or setting off for an extra loop when light and tired legs are against you.

So it seems I found another way of being silly. And that can only be a good thing. Rule#3, er, rules.

* Rule#1: Life is too short to drink with arseholes.

Rule#’2: If the answer isn’t “a big glass of wine and a sit down” then re-phrase the question until it is.

** Who was clearly having a bad hair day.

Splinter Groups

There is a cost per use issue here that I need to air. My cheap’n’cheerful glider has seen a few hours flying – intespersed with spectacular but non debiliating crashing – for a lump sum of sixy quid. The two planes with proper noisy engines have amassed a cost about six times that for, oh let me see, six minutes flying.

This ratio has not been any way balanced by the sad splintery remains for the Boomerang which suffered a mid air collision at the hands of my instructor. Hardly ever happens apparently, and while that’s a comfort of sorts*, it failed to prevent a furtive scoot into Hereford with a scribbled list of the exotic wood and glues that may fashion a repair.

And so into the model shop, which is mainly configured for those lonely souls who have failed to put away their childish things. A point much demonstrated by two men – showing no external evidence of a recent escape from a high security loony bin – rifling vigorously through the model train accessories bucket searching for two matching sheep.**

This is under the fond gaze of the three proprietors clearly plucked from the all Herefordshire final of “Least chance of ever getting laid” competition. This surreal pastiche of badly skewed humanity was enhanced by an extremely venerable old lady, laden down with a tea tray, hobbling carefully from kitchen to till in a time period best measured using the term “epoch

I hurried out before being Borg’d by cardigan, and hid the geeky balsa under my coat. Honestly, I’d rather be caught reading “Hardcore Poodle Sex” by my mum that trying to explain to anyone I’ve ever met why I’ve been shopping in a place where strange, unwashed men get excited when discussing train gauges.

Which was pretty much my experience of climbing a big Welsh hill last weekend after bagging up the remains of my Boomerang that ended yet another unfulfilling flying experience. I stuck the Wildthing under my arm and made slow progress up half a mile of vertical hill to be met with a view that had CGI written all over it.

And a bunch of men – although as they were all dressed by their mum and sporting bobble hats and goggles, I’m making a bit of an assumption here – who could be best described as somehow positioning the Hereford Model Shop misfits as sexually charged Brad Pitt lookalikes. They ignored me, on the grounds that I wasn’t sporting food in a beard or my own carefully cultivated selection of warts, and I ignored them right back while trying to work out how to fly a light glider in 35 MPH winds.

Unless flipping upside down before firing it off behind you like an unguided missile, and then burying itself in soft peat counts, I’m not sure I quite got it. I went back to riding bikes which feels familiar, safe and really not that stupid. Which tells you everything you need to know about the shadowy world of the Aero Modeller.

Love the flying, really do especially the glider which is a mere 5 minute drive away from being chucked off a decent slope. It’s mentally quite absorbing, technically interesting but peopled with a group of aliens who somehow tuck Mountain Bikers in the middle of the sanity bell curve.

Bit of a worry if I’m honest.

* Not really.

** Full size, that’s fine.

Beacon of dark

The Worcester beacon is a properly pointy landmark at 425 metres above sea level. Which is pretty close to what the surrounding plain is at, with uninterrupted views east to the Siberian Steppes* and – to the west – the proper mountains of Wales.

Allegedly. Because every time I ascend the southern slope of this Worcestershire Alp, the last 50 vertical metres are generally in cloud. From which a light, and yet extremely irritating, drizzle visits moistness on my sweating person.

The descent off the top, and in the dark is one of the finest in the Malverns. It’s long, varied, bumpy, occasionally significantly involving, and well worth the twenty five minute climb from the valley bottom to get there. All was not sweetness and dark tho, as we’re extending our night rides a little further every week. And as you’re gurning up the beacon’s lower slopes, it’s a nasty realisation that you’re less than half way round.

Thursday’s ride played out at 27k with 3100 feet of climbing, all within a three hour weather window through which the rain incessantly poured. I was staggered by my lack of total brokeness at the end, but disappointed with my ‘drunken demon possessed manikin‘ assualt on the downhills. The fitness is quite new, the rubbishness sadly constant. I blame the tyres.

And since that felt like two rides in one, this weekend shall be bike free. In addition to being a bit leg weary, Random has somehow made it to her eighth birthday, and all my time is taken answering the same question “Is it my birthday yet?”. This started about a week ago and has become a little wearing.

Birthday obligations were not sufficient for a bit of pointless parent hobbying to take centre stage today. After fetching** the SuperCub out of a tree, and finally getting to fly one of my scary engined models under the beady tutelage of a ex Squadron Commander, I got bored of rules and chucked the Wildthing off a big hill in Shropshire.

This time it didn’t fall out of the sky straight away. No, that required my notorious flying skills to send it fifty vertical meters down into the valley. But only once – after that, the whole thing went rather well, loops, staying above the ridge, failing to properly crash and a lack of nervous twitching made 30 minutes pass like 30 seconds. I absolutely loved it, which makes me a) geeky and b) desperate to develop a machine to give me twice as much leisure time.

And it’s so much less hassle than engines. On my day off on Friday, I spent another two hours in the same muddy field for 8 minutes instruction. The flying was great and surprisingly non catastrophic, but the sacrifices to the God of Nitro Engines is becoming tedious in the extreme. As is ingesting a fuel that has so many warning notices, it comes in a separate leaflet.

Tomorrow I shall be a) riding my bike b) flying my glider c) flying my noisy trainer or d) Making Jelly and collecting bit of wrapping paper from where the dog tried to eat them.

It’s probably d) which has to be the right choice. I’m not always good at those.

Hope it rains then.

* Although you’d need some pretty funky binoculars, and the word would have to be flat but I’m not letting such things ruin such a dramatic statement.

** Not me. I chucked a hissy fit and refused to have anything to do with it. The builders took pity and nailgunn’d four fence posts together and beat it out of the tree. I fixed it and flew it afterwards but it’s a bit bent. The front end goes left, the rear goes right which reminds me of a certain political party.

Fly like a…

.. Turd. Although not your common in the garden average pooper. No, what I am attempting to describe here is an organic-mineral cross that gives the sinking feeling of a bare footed encounter with some utter smelly horridness, matched with the flying characteristics of a shot brick.

That’ll be my glider then. Looked ready for action, flew ready for a bin bag. There was a proper, grown up aerodynamic reason for that which has little to do with the build instructions, and much to do with my inability to follow then. I’ll not trouble you with the plane-crash journey from childish enthusiasm to traditional despair, but this kind of little mistake could happen to anyone.

Of course it happened to me. Starting with A trudge up a muddy slope with three family members who wore that look of disappointment once “come on, let’s all go it’ll be fun” turned out to be anything but. Even the dog looked pissed off as we wouldn’t let him go and chase sheep*

A friend took my flying wing under his, and attempted to introduce it to aviation. It bit back with the resolute terror of those afflicted with proper vertigo. Instead of leaping into the air as a randy salmon, it performed a fast half roll and embedded itself in some innocent bracken. We tried again, only this time with more enthusiasm, and amazingly that did make a difference.

Matthew - Wilding Flying  (14 of 15) by NADMAC Photo Matthew - Wilding Flying  (3 of 15) by NADMAC Photo

It was harder to get out of the ground. I’d not built a glider, I’d built a hand powered drill. Some comflaggerated-fluffage later, wiser men than me kindly pointed out my stupid f*ck up and – in a moment of temporary insanity – let me fly theirs instead.

Matthew - Wilding Flying  (6 of 15) by NADMAC Photo Matthew - Wilding Flying  (9 of 15) by NADMAC Photo

At which my frustration took flight, and I spent a number of extremely focussed minutes playing chess with the air. I have to admit to being rather smitten with the whole thing – it’s not a boy’s toy full throttle power sport, more a slightly less sedentary hobby than, say, fishing. The glider does most of the work, while you just give it an encouraging nudge in the right direction**

Matthew - Wilding Flying by NADMAC Photo Matthew - Wilding Flying  (12 of 15) by NADMAC Photo

I had to give it back as a) it wasn’t mine and b) it was far over a valley at about -100 feet. My flying pal effortlessly brought it back while I wondered how cheating could beat experience and hand/eye co-ordination. If it is the same as bikes, pointless upgrades are probably not the answer.

Worth a try though would you say?

* He’s not a Yorkshireman, therefore he’d do it all wrong,

** Which after this week, is going to be my new approach to work.


Hobbies, strange things aren’t they? Somewhere between mere displacement activity and a serious mental illness. And even at the not completely bonkers end, fierce debate rages over the classification of how one spends spare time.

Not being good enough to fly real aeroplanes is a representative example. It’s not a hobby, it is sport* so told to me by a humourless middle aged man, wearing a non ironic Christmas jumper and a serious expression. Really? Oh yes, it was reclassified in 1987 by the association of Who Gives A Shit, when a bunch of fat, pointless people really cared about it.

I may have paraphrased a bit there; unfortunately while my face was performing conversational normality, my mind had wandered off on a flight of fancy. Not actual flying because so far that has been denied my by the weather, my engineering skills, and some cruel acts of fate involving spending hobby time trying to get interested in wooden floors.

I’ve broken one model twice before it ever even got off the ground. Possibly trying to fix a key component “ the throttle “ with a wheel spoke was complicit here. All my repairs are now sponsored by Mr Heath and Mr Robinson, after a real effort to impress involving balsa wood, scribbled drawings, and appreciative beard stroking by those who know lasted all the time it took to say Hey look, you can do this… ah.. it’s broken

The other plane finally flew, although it did exhibit the handling characteristics of a food blender powered by a Saturn Five rocket. This vertical take-off was lengthily preceded by two men “ one who knew everything and the other who knew nothing “ standing in a muddy field willing the recalcitrant little bugger to start. Eventually the traditional incantation of Start you sod, otherwise I’m emptying this tank of nitro fuel over you and fetching the blowtorch! generated the sound of an angry wasp miked up to a sub woofer.

So I’ve** built the Wildthing which, you many notice, has no engine and is therefore configured for me to crash without any help from a willing instructor. But that’s not the thing really, the best bit is these flying wings are specifically designed for combat. Yes that’s right, the simple concept is to take out your opponent by playing airborne chicken.

My one skill is flying into things. The ground mostly, but let’s not worry about such technicalities “ I’m confident of some kind of success this weekend. Not in my local Hills though, because the self appointed nitwits who apparently care for the Malvern’s are specifically chartered to ensure nobody can have any fun at all.

That’s a rant for another day, but come Sunday a magnificent gladiatorial battle shall play out in the skies above the Long Mynd. A location where a few of us will be attempting to kick the shit out of each other’s models, while protecting our own. RAMMING SPEED MR SULU shall be my battle cry.

Now THAT sounds like a sport.

* I’ve spent the thick end of ten years riding round in a muddy field being told Mountain Biking is a real sport. Maybe the guys on TV count, but the rest of us are just delusional. The acid test is to ask a complete stranger and they’ll tell you EXACTLY what it looks like.

** Carol.