A truly splendid day! RAF Odiham families day was spectacular. My feet hurt but I have that warm, buzzy feeling that you get after a thoroughly spendiferous time. The ethos behind any Families Day is a chance for the military to say thank you to the families, without whose enduring support and sacrifice, the work of those who serve would not be possible.
The highlight was, of course, The Grenade’s and my 20 minute jaunt over Basingstoke, in the magnificent MkIII CH47, aka the Chinook helicopter. I was so excited as we arrived at the station. Unpacking the car, I could hear the ambient thud of the rotors rotating in the distance. As we walked up to the airfield, we were greeted by the marvelous sight of four parked aircraft with their blades turning. These are the same workhorses that are used tirelessly to support UK training, operations and UK based tasking.
The Grenade and I left Hagar with The Menace, and Mrs Vino, The Little Moo and Game Boy (our guests for the day) while we queued for our helicopter adventure. We were ushered into the main briefing room and took our seats.
After about 20 minutes, we were shown a short Health & Safety briefing video.
When it had finished the Flight Lieutenant, who was giving the brief said, “Simple enough. Any questions?”
The Grenade’s hand shot up.
‘Sh*t.’ I thought, ‘what is he going to say?’ He can be very unpredictable. I was checking the exits to see how I could surreptitiously leave without drawing any further attention to ourselves.
“Yes, young man.” said the young officer.
‘Damn!’ I thought.
“I am SO going to get airborne!!” he gleefully declared.
“Yes, you are. Good question,” came the reply.
A huge sense of relief swept over me as we shuffled out of the room to our next queue. Unsurprisingly, the whole thing had been organised with military precision. There were four tents, one for each aircraft. We were allocated to aircraft 4, and were on the second trip of the day. As we were waiting, the first trip was coming in to land.
Inside the holding tent, before embarkation, we were given our helmets.
The beauty of the helmet was that it muffled out all the noise of the rumbling rotors, and also, the witterings of The Grenade, who was asking me a barrage of questions that I couldn’t answer.
“When we go up in the aircraft mummy? Will we not be able to breathe because the air is thinner?” He said.
“No, we won’t be going up that high.”
“How high will we be going?”
“Probably beneath the clouds.”
“But will we go above the clouds, and then the air will get thinner.”
“No! We are not going above the clouds.”
“Is the air thinner below the clouds?”
AAAAARGGHHHH! Silent screaming.
“I know why don’t you ask Daddy these questions, when we get off.” I politely, patiently and calmly suggested. Science was never my one of my strong subjects. Why does he never ask me one on art and literature, or about the plot in Grey’s Anatomy, or why women should be cherished?
A bit more waiting, and then it was time to get onboard. The Grenade was really excited, but also, really cautious. He clung to my arm tightly and weighed it down like a lead weight. As we walked across the dispersal, the noise of the blades thundering round reverberated through my body. Each step brought us closer to the roaring beast, until, as we neared the ramp, we were blasted by hot flushes of air, blown out by the enormous exhausts either side of the cabin. Directed by the crewman, all rigged up in their helmets, flying suits, with winding leads and cable adorning them, we walked up the ramp, took our seats and tightly fastened our seat belts. Once everyone was strapped in, the aircraft lifted like a big, rumbling wobble board. I felt a surge in my stomach. The air was thick and cushioned. I felt sick. The aircraft lunged upwards and the pilot rolled it to the right. We were airborne at last.
The Grenade beamed and was silent. He was silenced by the awe of the magic of flight.
I love the colour pallette of the Chinook’s interior. The contrast of the bright redness of the straps against the hard seats, and the shiny, and yet dull, grey, stitched diamond check of the interior. For 20 minutes, we rumbled, rattled and rolled. I mainly felt sick. I wished I hadn’t skipped breakfast. Note to self; don’t fly in Chinook on empty stomach.
Very soon it was over. We rattled back to base with a big final lunge on the way down.
Then we disembarked, down the ramp, and across the dispersal, back to the tent to hand the helmets back.
Seamlessly executed and exhilarating. It was great. A real treat and something for which we are truly grateful. Thank you so much RAF Odiham.
The Grenade and I joined a very disgruntled Hagar.
“Awright love?” I said.
“SHEeee has been a complete nightmare.” (By SHEeee he means The Menace)
“I can’t take my eyes off her for a second, otherwise she is off, and so I have to chase after her. This happens all the time!”
‘Hmmm’ I think to myself. ‘Sounds fairly par for the course to me.’
” That’s not a nightmare. That’s normal.” I said.
“But it’s really stressful and annoying.” he bleated.
“Honey – it’s called parenting!!” Shaking my head in despair.
The rest of the day involves a balancing act between keeping everybody happy. There is so much to do that it isn’t a problem. There’s free standing aircraft, fairground rides, lots of display stands, an arsenal of military stuff, plus the Mother’s Union are giving out tea, coffee and free cakey buns, and an air display that lasts for the whole afternoon. The kids run riot. We scatter, come back together, catch up with old friends, scatter and come back together again endlessly, all day.
I even managed to slot in a cheeky file and polish, with the lovely lady from Transformations, in the Fountain Mall in Odiham village. I said I would give her a little plug. We had a lovely little chatola. She was telling me that Hart Council are planning to levy a stealth tax of £150 on all hairdressers. It’s an outrage! I told her to go to the papers. She even gave The Menace’s nails a quick lick of paint too. Her beautiful daughter, Paris is offering a cut and blow dry for £20 with a £2.50 of that going towards Help For Heroes. I am sure that she’ll be inundated with lots of singlies wanting to jump at the offer!!
We then headed off the the air display. We were waiting for the RAF Falcons to jump out of Chinook, at a height where the air was probably a snipsy bit thinner, when I felt The Menace tugging at my trousers.
“Ass cream, mama” she said, as she looked lovingly at me with her baby blues.
‘Ay?’ I thought. ‘Surely she’s too young for hemorrhoids, and anyway, how would she know?’
“Ass cream, mama” and points at a little boy eating a Mr Whippy 99.
“Oh!” The penny drops. “You want an ice cream bubba.”
We had a super day, all of us. Here’s Mrs Vino, The Little Moo, Game Boy, The Menace and The Grenade all hanging out in front of static Chinook.
Footnote: You know when you are getting old when…….
you think this bloke’s arse is hanging out of his trousers? Why is this cool? You know what – at a stretch I could forgive him if he had buns of steel and designer grundys, but Diet Coke break he is not.
I just wanted to scream at him…”chum everyone can see your pants. Chum, your pants are showing!”