Looking forward, looking back…

Well, we’re halfway through January and it’s my first post of the new-ish year despite the resolution to write more regularly and the weekly alarm which I set but ignore!

We have much to look forward to this year with Granddaughter starting a new job shortly, having achieved her Master’s degree late last year, a family wedding and a new arrival to come in the summer, plus we want to entertain more now the house is usable again after a bit of work, and get out and about to catch up with friends and family at home and abroad. Let’s hope this year goes more to plan than recent years!

So, the looking back… Granddaughter came to stay for a couple of days last week and we were going through some old photos together. I noticed this one in passing and thought I’d give it the light of day.

In the mid-1980s after we married, our first holiday abroad was one we could barely afford, but we found a bargain buy in Tunisia where we stayed in a not-so-posh B&B down the road from a rather better equipped hotel with all the facilities (pools, restaurant, bars, etc) available to us, so we snapped it up. We enjoyed the country and went back a few times in following years. On this occasion it was just the two of us and as we pottered round town we saw signs offering flights at Hammamet Aerodrome, so decided to explore…

We should probably have taken warning from the fact the there was a sign on the gate made of grey sugar paper (remember doing posters on that at school?) with ‘Hammamet Aerodrome’ written in glue and glitter!

There were two microlights parked up, and a couple of pilots, a Frenchman (if I recall correctly) who looked suspiciously like a rugged ex-Foreign legionnaire from a novel, and a pleasant, younger Tunisian chap, were plying their trade. We scraped our dinars together and decided we could each do a flight round the bay and were duly strapped into our disturbingly Heath-Robinson contraptions.

Helmet on…

Stew went first with M. le Légionnaire and seemed to be away for ages. Eventually we saw them returning towards the dusty airfield and a safe if rather juddery landing on a slightly rutted surface.

My turn had come. I was almost going to duck out, and the young man was very careful to make sure whether I was happy to go, to be fair. I thought how jealous I’d be of Stew if I didn’t grit my teeth and go, and off we went.

If you look closely, the knuckles are white!

After the initial shock of seeing nothing much solid beneath my feet as I looked down over the Bay of Hammamet, I was entranced. We flew over a wreck site and the clear sea afforded a glorious view. We seemed to set off back in no time at all, and I was so busy looking round as we headed in to land (usually my nail-biting moment) that I was oblivious to a little drama that was playing out, and we landed safely on the rather basic runway.

After I’d thanked the pilot effusively, I said in a quiet aside to Stewart that I did feel a bit cheated as he’d had such a long flight and I’d only had 10 or 15 minutes; he gently pointed out that I had been aloft for the best part of 40 minutes – I’d been just so engrossed that it had shot by. Stewart also then enlightened me as to the mini-drama that had unfolded – all I had noticed was a bit of radio chatter… (Unfortunately either he’d run out of film to record it for posterity or was just too intrigued by proceedings to take any pictures!)

As our microlight approached the aerodrome, the sophisticated Hammamet Aerodrome Landing Control & Clearance System apparently came into play as follows. The pilot must have alerted the Chief on the radio to a donkey that had ambled on to the runway area, I assume in an over-optimistic and not very fruitful search for better grazing. The Chief then shouted to another man who was sitting comfortably half-asleep on a verandah with a small boy at his feet. The resting man jerked into action with a well-aimed kick to the boy’s posterior, galvanising the little lad into action. Said lad grabbed his little stick from the floor and ran onto the runway where, directed by barked commands and arm-semaphore instructions from Verandah Man, he herded the reluctant and unco-operative donkey with pokes and prods of the stick until the way was clear for us to land. I was extremely glad that I’d remained oblivious to all this action!

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