As I write this in early May, memories of all the events since my arrival in the UK are starting to fade and unless I capture them now they will be lost in mists of my synapses forever.
After two relaxing days with friends in Fort Worth, Texas, it’s wheels down at Heathrow after an uneventful flight from Atlanta on probably the last A340-600 I will travel on as the days of the four engined passenger jet is rapidly coming to an end. The A340 and B747 are gradually being retired. I must admit I still like four engines 4-1 = 3 whereas 2-1 = 1. But technology, efficiency and fuel economy rule the day.
With only two days ‘til Brexit, I am not sure what to expect – queues at the airport waiting to leave, empty shelves at the supermarkets? The next few days may be an interesting experience. In 1997, Anne and I flew into Hong Kong ahead of the handover of the former British Colony to China. We followed each of the ceremonies and were there on the docks at midnight as the Royal yacht Britannia sailed into the night. An interesting experience to be part of History. Will this be a repeat performance?
The Hilton Doubletree had me in my room by 9:30am, a real early check in! Great staff and the benefits of Diamond Status with Hilton Honours, which expires at the end of the month, but that is another story. We have found that staying at an airport hotel for the first night allows us to recover from the overnight flight better before we start catching up with family and friends.
Everything seems very normal. No panic buying, or people fleeing the country. Has it been cancelled? No, it seems that all the activity is within Parliament at Westminster but the MPs cannot reach a consensus on anything. Those freeze dried breakfast meals I purchased at REI in Salt Lake City for emergency rations will be for the next motorcycle trip after all.
A trip to Oxford street, which is very normal, sees me secure a new mobile phone for 0.99 pence and two bottles of Anne’s favourite perfume which is no longer available in Australia! So back to Brexit and I make my way to the centre of everything, Westminster. The crowds are there, but mostly tourists. A few hardy souls, appropriately dressed according to their Brexit belief are outside the gates of Parliament. Slogans are shouted, but it is very cold and these must be the most hard core and enthusiastic of people to be here. A car covered in fresh snow goes by to emphasise the cold. I head back to the warmth of the London Underground.
Streak and Storm. The reason why I am back in the UK. Since engines off in October 2017, Streak and Storm have slumbered quietly in storage. My cataract surgery in 2018 precluded any adventures that year, but now 2019 the feet are starting to itch again. With the last service in Almaty in Kazakstan, the first item of business is to have the bikes serviced and obtain an MOT so we can put them on the road again. With Matt, the service manager at BMW Mottorad in Oxford having left and the warranty period well and truly expired, we decide to use a local motorcycle business who had previously worked on Anne’s side-stand, to undertake the work.
I arrive at the location where we store the bikes, equipment and clothing. Alan has the bikes out and ready, I pull out my motorcycle clothing, which has travelled twice around the world – all those memories it evokes! I am back on Storm, engine splutters to life and dies, probably the fuel stabiliser, it needs a few revs but I am off. The weather has been kind to me and although cool, the sun is shining and blue sky prevails. I am riding again through the New Forest in Hampshire, avoiding the ponies, watching the dappled light stripe the road as all those great feelings that motorcycling evoke in me flood back. This is glorious, bring on the summer.
Unlike Jack, a friend’s son who rides two horses standing up in the Australian Outback Spectacular, I have no such way to ride two motorcycles, so it takes most of the day to move both bikes, since the only local taxi has existing bookings, but it all works out in the end.
The full service for both bikes will take a week as they need to be fitted around other work being undertaken. No problem as I have a few things I would like to do amongst catching up with family and friends.
I have followed Chelsea FC since returning from South Africa as an 8 year old in 1963. While not a fanatical die hard supporter, I have kept abreast of what is happening and watch games on TV when I can. On our many times in the UK in the past decades, I have looked for tickets, but always found them sold out to members. I would love to go to a game but the prices for the ‘special packages’ are AU$ 400-500. I am not paying that price. Purchase of tickets on the secondary market is illegal in the UK, and those tickets are over AU$ 200 each.
I suddenly find tickets are available for a Premier League match against Brighton and Hove Albion in a couple of days. Brighton’s progression in the FA Cub has meant a rescheduled midweek date. I get a ticket in the fourth row for AU$100, Stamford Bridge here I come! Match night sees me heading south from Olympia, spotting a Chelsea blue scarf ahead, I follow, winding my way towards the ground, merging with the ever-growing stream of supporters. The stadium looms large and in a form I do not recognise, except from pictures.
I realise that I was last here for a soccer match in 1977, some 42 years ago, Chelsea vs Millwall. Wow time really does fly! In those days, grounds had standing sections and I would be in “the Shed” where the Chelsea faithful & hard core supporters would gather under what was a real shed, posts and a roof only. All that remains today is the old back of wall, which has become a monument to great players of the past. A fitting tribute I think to the “Shed”.
It’s great to be inside, I grab a drink bottle before heading to my seat, the first time I will have ever sat at a football match. No you cannot keep the lid of the drink bottle as you may want to throw it on the pitch, Health and Safety, How far can you throw the top anyway? What a great match 3-0 to Chelsea. I could see all those names from the TV match right there in front of me and loved the atmosphere and chants – not sure about away supporters in the Shed area, but that is progress I guess. Yes I will go again, probably in another 42 years if I can get a ticket at a reasonable price. Note to owner, please get on with building bigger capacity stadium.
The Shuttleworth Collection is an amazing aeronautical museum with both civilian and military aircraft, cars and motorcycles from the 1900’s to the 1950’s, located at Old Warden aerodrome some 50 ml./ 80 km. north of London. I had heard of the collection but knew nothing about it. The collection was started in 1928 by Richard Shuttleworth, an avid aviation enthusiast who later died in a plane crash in 1940. His mother established the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust in 1944 and the trust has continued on since that time.
What differentiates this aviation museum from many others I have visited is the fact that the trust aims to maintain the aircraft collection in flying condition and a number of times year they hold flying displays of part of the collection. There is is a huge engineering effort to keep these historic aircraft flying, some require detailed engine overhaul every 20 hours! One is able to see this work undertaken and talk to those involved.
I was fortunate to meet a former trustee and pilot, who I understood from others at the Shuttleworth Trust, was instrumental in keeping the Shuttleworth Trust as a flying rather than static museum concern. He and a friend were kind enough to let me tag along with them as he provided anecdotal information from flight characteristics to acquisitions on the various planes we walked past. A big thank you to both of them for sharing this experience with me. I see the Shuttleworth Trust via its website does capture some such information. I hope they and others continue to do so as sadly, with the passing of time, this is lost if not recorded and provides a direct link to the planes and the lives of those who flew them.
The most vivid memories I have of historical sights I have visited, such has Pearl Harbour or Monument Valley was being guided by someone with an intimate connection, a retired US Marine who was on a battleship in Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 or a day long private tour off the beaten track, just the two of us with a Navajo guide discussing their culture. We were lucky to have such experiences.
Back to the matters at hand, I was looking forward to riding Streak and Storm back to storage, but they were not ready before my departure from the UK so I had to forgo that pleasure. An overnight stop in Hong Kong to soak up the local atmosphere, then back to Brisbane, home & Anne. Good to be home.