PART I: MY FIRST CHIPMUNK
I joined the Air Training Corps – a branch of the RAF for teenagers – and I loved it. I started to learn discipline and respect. We’d have many activities including survival weekends where we’d be taken to a forest and dumped for a weekend along with fund raising events for the needy, and, most exciting of all, from time to time we’d get flying experience at an RAF base in the famous De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk.
On my first flight, lasting around 30 minutes, we were gently flying around – my first time in a small aircraft – and the pilot told me to follow through. This means to gently put one’s feet on the rudder pedals and hands on the joystick in order to feel the pilot’s control inputs. The stick moved slightly forward and we entered a shallow dive to increase airspeed. I then felt the stick come slowly back until it was touching my stomach, and up we went. The pilot told me to lift my legs, but I couldn’t because of the g-forces we were experiencing. Up and over, we’d pulled a full loop. It was the most exhilarating thing I’d so far experienced in my life. However, just a couple of short moments later, something more spectacular would happen.
‘Now it’s your turn,’ I heard through my head set. ‘Stick forward, increase speed to one-three-zero knots, pull back and keep the wings level. Do it’, ordered the pilot in the typical clipped RAF officer’s voice which is recognised globally.
Stick forward, check. 130 knots, check. Stick back, check. Wings level, check. World upside down, check. Flying straight and level again, check.
My hands were shaking uncontrollably from the adrenalin, which, being 14 years old and curious, would have provided for a very satisfying experience had I been alone in my bedroom.
As well as that, I was now hooked on flying.
The ATC would later lead me to my first date, albeit a slightly unconventional one.
PART II: MY OTHER CHIPMUNK
Our entire squadron had gone to RAF Coningsby in the north of England for annual camp. This involves eating in the mess with actual servicemen, doing drill practice with actual servicemen, doing the assault course with actual servicemen, along with a spot of flying with actual RAF pilots.
It was a long drive of several hours and half way our coach stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. We all entered – in our uniforms – and sat. There was a waitress working, around my age, and she was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. I hadn’t really taken an interest in girls up to this point, but she had earned my undivided attention, which the other boys soon noticed.
Shortly after they’d explained to me that I’d have more chance of winning Olympic gold in piano playing than being able to pull her, she came to our table and placed a slip of paper right in front of me. I unfolded it and it read, Anna, followed by her phone number.
Must be fucking blind; must be fucking retarded; must be fucking desperate, was the general consensus among my group with regards to Anna.
Following annual camp – which saw my balls get smeared with black boot polish as an initiation with it having been my first one – I returned home and plucked up the courage to call her.
Following several chats, she invited me to spend a weekend at her place in Lincolnshire – not too far from where we’d previously lived – saying that her parents had agreed. My Dad coordinated with her dad, and, one weekend, off we went.
Finding Anna’s house was a nightmare. It was in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere, not even part of a village. It was just a house standing alone by a road, and surrounded by fields.
Finally, we arrived. I checked my hair in the mirror one last time, got out of the car, grabbed my bag, and with Dad, approached the door. I rang the doorbell. He’s here. Footsteps came closer. The door unlocked. I was met by a warm smile and kind words of welcome. She stood before me, blonde and big. I mean, big. I asked to see Anna, and was told that I was looking at her.
Three things then happened. My pulse broke the 200 bpm barrier; my shirt became drenched in sweat, and Dad, standing behind me, started clearing his throat far too often.
I suggested that there must have been some mistake as she was quite categorically not the girl who’d left the note with me at the roadside restaurant where we’d stopped. She then dropped the bombshell: ‘Oh, that was my friend, I was too shy to bring it over myself so I asked her to do it for me, tee he hee’.
Tee hee fucking hee indeed.
With my legs having all the strength of a limp dick, I turned back to Dad in a futile effort to find a solution. With a grin, possibly the biggest one I’d ever seen him achieve, he said, ‘Ok, have a good weekend, see you Monday morning’, and, just to rub sulfuric acid into the wound, he added, ‘And don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do.’
It would be a very long time before I would try dating again.