November 25, 2009

A Day of Thanks

I wasn't raised celebrating Thanksgiving but live in a country where it is. I've been very fortunate to be invited every year to different people's houses for the day of celebration. I always accept the very 1st invitation I get and look forward to meeting new, interesting people and being involved in how they celebrate. For me, Thanksgiving isn't a time that I think about food but more what I'm thankful for, to think of the less fortunate who may not be spending the day with their loved ones, might be homeless, unwell or just don't have anywhere to go.

Its important to me that every year I give back in some way. This year I donated what I would have spent to cook for 50 people at my house. Its just my small way of being very thankful for what I have.

Happy Thanksgiving.....

November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

Sadly for my grandfather, eldest of three brothers, his war time was to end tragically. He was an expert navigator and bomber fighter, attached to the RAF and took part in most of the major bombing raids in Germany and France. In the Battle Of Brest - the first major daylight bombing raid - he was recommended for a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) but, because they were short one medal, circumstances on the day meant he was the one to miss out.

A letter he wrote home in 1941 was telling:

"I have been on quite a number of big bombing raids now and realise that the chances of survival are not as great as they might be. Nearly every trip we lose a percentage of our crews and already a great portion of my class have passed on to that happy hunting ground where we will all assemble at the sound of the great trumpet.

Personally I have no fear of these trips at all, and even much less fear death, particularly when I realise that should that be my fate, I will walk the same lanes and fields as the thousands of other young men who have so gladly and willingly died for this great cause.

Not only that, but we will be in the same realm as the great soldiers of England who have gone before us and blazed the way. I feel proud that I have been allowed to serve as an officer in the Royal Air Force and I want you to feel proud with me rather than sorry for me.

After all my sacrifice is very small. It is M (his wife, my grandmother) and JS (his son, my father) who are making the real sacrifice. Sometimes I feel very mean having left them like I have to fight the great battles of life....."

In 1942 his tour had ended and he wrote to his wife and son (my father) to prepare to shift to Canada as he had a position training air crews there and that is where they would live. Then experienced volunteers were called for a mission over Denmark - my grandfather volunteered for one last mission. Sixty aircraft took off on Sunday May 18th - the plane was hit twice by flak and crashed at 0210 at Galskling, 2km west of Middlefart.

My great grandmother received the "missing believed killed" telegram just hours before my great aunt was to be married. She kept that information to herself until after the wedding. Another great aunt remembers finding the telegram under the mattress as she made the bed for a guest, later that evening. It was to be months before there was finally confirmation of his death.

Of the 60 planes that set off on that final mission, six were lost and only one of the crew lived, was seriously injured and taken prisoner. There is a memorial to my grandfather and the crew of MacRobert's Reply at Middlefart, Denmark - the stone was taken from the crash site. My grandfather's grave is at Odense near a memorial to the fallen.

My father, who is an only child never had the chance to know his father.

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Here are a few excerpts from my great uncle's log book - he was an RAF Flight-Lieutenant Beaufighter pilot and night flyer. He was attached to the 29th Squadron, stationed at Brize Norton.

July 23: (his first sortie) enemy aircraft approached from the North East, scrambled after them, pitch dark night. Got to within one mile of them and they scooted for home.

July 25: Daylight scramble in bad weather. Jerry driven off - one crew missing.

August 5: Weather very bad. Dark, raining and bumpy as hell. Intercepted a JU88. It took violent evasive action and got away in the dark. It is believed I damaged him canon fire.

August 13: Tonight Jerry raided Canterbury in strength. Three of us went up to intercept. The flak was terrible. Dunne and Hay were shot down. For Jerry shot down.

September 10: (crashed at Bradwell Bay). Flaps damaged by flak and had to make a blind landing in nil visibility. Lucky to get down.

September 13: A JU88 got on my tail and I just saw it in time to peel off. Tried to dog fight with it but it was too dark so I buggered off before there was one less in the family.

November 13: Over Flushing my starboard engine was hit and started to emit sparks. Got an emergency homeing. Over base, the cloud base was just clear of hills and while on circuit the engine ceased. Maintained height on one engine but hit four trees on approach. Managed to crash land and plane went up in flames; got out by the skin of my teeth. Knocked about and not allowed to do any heavy flying for 3 months.

This marked the end of his first tour.

I will never forget those who have either lost their lives or been gravely wounded in any war.

November 9, 2009

The Brilliance of Anime

From hair blowing in the wind to the sun hitting the lens of the camera and the rain falling. For the full effect click at the bottom of the frame to make it bigger and turn up the volume.

The added bonus is that its set to "Ce Matin Le" by AIR (one of my favourite bands). Their music is often referred to as electronica, influenced by the synthesizer sounds of the 1970's such as Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Francis Lai.

Found via DailyMotion.

November 1, 2009

The Phenomenon Of The "Fan" (or groupie)

Over my career I've pretty much spend time with almost every well known actor, celebrity and/or pop star. Most are down-to-earth and live much the same lives as we do, to a certain extent, I'm referring more to the fact that they tune into Project Runway or want to discuss who's going to win American Idol. There are the exceptions, some are complete nutters but obviously for confidentiality reasons I shan't divulge those tasty tidbits.

But I'm more fascinated in the fans really. The ones that will spend days camped outside the theatres, sound stages, venues where their "idol" is to appear. Wearing handmade T-shirts, re-living with other fans the "I nearly met him/her once" stories. They wait patiently for hours hoping to get a glimpse or possibly their hand touched as the celeb is whisked past. On occasion some are invited backstage.

And this is how it goes: they walk in, usually in pairs - jittery, whispering, clutching each others arms, almost in hysteria. As they approach their object of desire, all goes very quiet - they just stop, stand and stare, feet shuffling not really knowing what to do. They share glances with their friend, mouth O.M.G a few times and then start to feel fairly self conscious.

Most well-known people are wonderful with their fans and will chat quite happily knowing that these meetings are sometimes awkward. Whats strangest to me though is - some fans are more interested in having cellphone photos taken with their "idol", then swiftly twittering or texting them out to their friends and others. They're not really that fussed about having any form of conversation with the one person they have lusted after, know the lyrics to very song or watched every film they've been in.

In a way its almost as though they have already played this meeting out in their mind and don't want to corrupt the fantasy.