Biscuits Weren’t Enough

Yesterday I was in work helping move our HQ from one side of the site to the other. We have new offices and stores, which will be nice. The cadets did most of the work and I’m really pleased with the results. We’ve now got a good space for administration of the unit and filing etc. We had a box of biscuits left over from a competition in April and so I carried them to the cadets, thinking I would make their day. But, as it turned out the Kent and Sussex Air Ambulance landed just as I brought the biscuits over. The cadets were super excited by the Leonardo AW169 and the biscuits were a long second place.

Kent Air Ambulance
Kent Air Ambulance

Obviously it’s not a good thing that the air ambulance lands near you. It means you either live in a hospital or airfield, or something terrible has happened to someone nearby. I do hope that whatever and whomever was affected are ok as can be.

Air Ambulance operated by SAS
Air Ambulance operated by SAS

Given that summer camp didn’t happen this year for reasons of pandemic it was nice to be close to an aircraft and also hear the start up sounds that I miss so much. It’s a really impressive piece of kit and I thought it was pretty quiet – other staff thought it was loud but then they aren’t often around twin afterburning jets.

Specialist Aviation Services Kent Air Ambulance
Specialist Aviation Services Kent Air Ambulance

Later that day I took part in our virtual sports day. I went for a 10 km run but made sure that kilometres 2-6 were at a “competition” pace. I did not enjoy anything from about 3.5km into the race onwards. But I did it and got what I think is a respectable time.

1km time - I'm happy
1km time – I’m happy

These times have now been added to the virtual competition and while I know I’m not the fastest, there will be points for participation. One member of staff I spoke to managed the 5km in 18 minutes. They have longer levers than me though and age on their side.

5 km - not to be repeated
5 km – not to be repeated

So, an interesting day. Helicopters, commissions, books, DVDs and VHS tapes all needed to be sorted out. Then the challenge of not killing myself while trying to run “fast”.

90% Sure

90% sure that’s me.

The CCF Facebook page look as though they have a picture of me on their front page header thing. I mean, that’s cool an’ all. Feel a little glowing of pride. I’m 90% sure. It’s definitely the helo I flew in. It’s definitely RAF Shawbury. My OC was in that position taking photographs as I entered the helo. I seem to remember him showing me this afterwards. Black boots, stable belt, quite tall. That’s enough evidence for me. #proud.

Better The Second Time

I recently spent some time away at St Martin’s Plain Training Camp. I was part of the team training cadets on aspects of cadet skills. It was the second time that I have gone through this particular process and I have to report that it was definitely better the second time.

Channel
Channel

This picture shows what the view was once the weather had cleared up. It’s always interesting weather on the top of the hill next to the body of water. In the distance in the picture is the channel looking across to France.

SMP Views
Rough Line Of The View

Overall, I had a good weekend. Looking forward to the next one.

Au Revoir

Just had a really good weekend down at lovely old Saint Martin’s Plain training camp, part of the Cinque Ports Training Area. I was involved with training the cadets certain skills and I was very busy all Friday evening, all Saturday and then most of Sunday. To give you an idea I was teaching from 08:30 Sat morning until 21:30 that evening. It was hard work but thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding.

SMP Classroom
SMP Classroom

The above was my teaching space. It was quite suitable and we made it our own space. I had a good group of cadets.

While I was at SMP, on the Friday evening at 23:00 the UK left the EU. Kinda. It was a sad moment especially as I could see France from one edge of the camp. Kinda. There was a subdued sense of failure around the staff room at that moment. We then got back to annoying each other because it’s a good distraction from the utter shit this country has to face over the next year.

There Be France In The Distance
There Be France In The Distance

France is hidden in the mist. But it’s there.

We currently have to abide by the EU rules but have ZERO say in any of those rules. We used to have a veto. Not now. This was what the Brexiteers pushed for and got.

For the next year we are going to try and negotiate a trade deal with a bloc that currently is 60% of our global trade. We are going to negotiate with them using a team which has no experience at negotiating. All our negotiations for 40 years have been completed by the EU team, but they now sit on the other side of the table. We also have to negotiate all the existing trade deals the EU has with other countries too as we won’t have our own deal with them.

The chaos is only just starting and it’ll reach its peak when we leave the transition period on end of 31 December 2020.

2021 is likely to be fucking terrible.

Cisterns and Ranges

I had a lovely time recently staying at Lydd Camp in the farthest reaches of Kent. I was there to attend a DDCT(E) operators course which was good fun and very interesting. The camp itself is steeped in history and has some “interesting” quirks. Needless to say that I passed the course, as did everyone, and it was fascinating watching the way things are taught from a military perspective rather than my normal civilian views on things. The SASC were very good in their delivery, which was to be expected. I might make myself a small crib sheet with the important stuff on it.

One night we [there were three from my contingent] went to the Pilot for food and it was lovely and scarily “local”. There was a fund raiser on for the lifeboat and we had some success with the raffle. The food was pretty good. It’s a shame we couldn’t see the landscape in the dark because it is haunting down on the largest shingle area in the world.

There’s a nuclear power station right on the coast and the powerlines ran close to the camp. They made a lovely crackling sound! Here’s a shot:

Lydd Camp Powerlines
Lydd Camp Powerlines

It’s important to thoroughly check out your accommodation when you get somewhere new and figure out the shower, toilet, and drying rooms along with where the emergency exits are. On such a reconnoitre I found a single toilet with a door that locked [some didn’t] and a seat which was attached [some weren’t] and a light that worked [you get the idea]. I was struck by the cistern in this little room. It had been painted many times but looked quite lovely.

Finch and Co Belvedere Cistern
Finch and Co Belvedere Cistern

After some extensive googling I can confirm that this “Belvedere” model cistern was made by Finch and Co in London and is most likely an original feature of the camp. Humans just don’t make stuff this interesting anymore.

Regular Visitor

This year I have been travelling to the Cambridgeshire Lincolnshire borders to stay at the sleepy extension to Wittering village. This compound used to fly Harriers until that type was grounded due to budget cuts. For now, RAF Wittering is home to 5AEF flying Grob Tutors and the A4 Force, the base is home to a massive logistical section of the UK armed forces.

Most RAF bases have a gate guardian. A retired aircraft looking out over the entrance to the base, guarding the way. At RAF Wittering the gate guardian is, fittingly, a Harrier. This year I have spent more time at RAF Wittering than I have visiting family. I’ve been there for overnight trips to take cadets flying with 5AEF and I’ve been there over weekends to help out CE SATT develop their SAAI course.

She Who Must Not Be Named
She Who Must Not Be Named

I am very happy to say that I am now a qualified SAAI which means I will now be used extensively to train and test cadets and adult volunteers on weapon systems. This journey has been quite a long one, starting five years ago and gradually building up experience and waiting for the correct timings to fit into life. The hard work hasn’t stopped yet. I now have to plan and create more lessons along with learning another weapon system so that the progressive training will continue next year.

Happy Place

I’ve just had a lovely calming weekend as part of the Directing Staff on the RAFAC Personal Awareness Course at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre, Amport House. When I say as part of the directing staff really there’s just Carol and me ably assisted by George. It’s a shame that Jayne couldn’t make it this time, she’s always a delight to be around.

Postcard Amport House
Postcard Amport House

This was my fourth time in this place and I have really enjoyed every time. It is my understanding that this retreat is being moved to another house soon and I hope it has the same “getaway” feeling to it. You see, that’s the point. It’s a safe space for people to talk and exist. It’s away from the world. It’s a [slightly under-maintained] old house with calming spaces giving the chance to discuss and listen knowing it’s OK to do so.

Happy Calming Place
Happy Calming Place

I’ve been here before:

There’s so much to say but plenty I can’t say because the whole idea of the weekend is to experience new things and scenarios. I wouldn’t want someone [somehow] stumbling across this website and reading everything that was going to happen. The chairs above look lovely but are in fact not-plumped. When you sit in them you sink. But, they allow for discussion and relaxation. The whole building is a maze and I pretty much get lost every time. You can walk from one end to the other without going outside but sometimes you just know it’s easier to be outside the walls moving in obvious directions.

Pleached Limes
Pleached Limes

So, here’s to my colleagues and to another round of this brilliant course at Beckett House.

Sunny Retreat
Sunny Retreat

Harriers Ascending (no more)

I really enjoy the things I do, if I didn’t it would be sad for me I guess, although many many people struggle to find enjoyment in their lives. I’m at RAF Wittering for a couple of days of training and as much as the commute from Kent to (almost) Lincolnshire on a Friday afternoon is hell it is great to be here. Everyone I meet or speak to feels privileged to be able to visit the places we do and have unique experiences.

While driving to the 504 Sqn building I passed two Harrier aircraft out on the pan enjoying the morning sun. It would have been a silly thing to keep driving past them so I stopped, got out the phone camera and tried to capture them in their morning glory.

Harrier GR3
Harrier GR3

This beast is, as far as I can tell, and I’m happy to be corrected a Harrier GR3. Although it looks a little old I do like the matt effect paint. There was a time when these screeching jets were all the rage around RAF Wittering but now the air force has a new VSTOL plane based at Marham. Next to the GR3 was the trainer:

Harrier T2 or 4
Harrier T2 or 4

I think there are only a few viewing angles where this one looks gorgeous. The extra bubble canopy really doesn’t help. I’ve never been a big fan of Harriers, they were always very noisy and didn’t seem that impressive to me but I might be slowly changing my mind. I saw two Spanish AV8 fly at RIAT this year and there’s definitely something special about them, especially on the slow pass and hover.

After getting back in the car I head to the little car park by 504 and what do I see but two fire appliances/trucks/engines or whatever you want to call them. I’ve got a mate who is a firefighter and so I tend to send him pictures of any trucks I see. It was while taking these I realised these trucks were from Ascension Island and the little air force base there. Amazing, the things you see.

Fire Appliances from Ascension Island
Fire Appliances from Ascension Island

Apologies for my shadow getting in the way. There was an issue with the sun and directions for the best photo.

Skills Are Lacking

I’ve just spent a weekend at RAF Wittering where I was practising my skills at instruction. I can assure you, worryingly to my profession, that my skills are not that good and I need loads of practice. The next weekend is within the month and so I need to read a lot, learn and instruct. I’m secretly looking forward to this as a challenge is always a good thing. Even if I’m not that good there’s still the challenge of getting better.

She Who Must Not Be Named
She Who Must Not Be Named

Here’s to the next few weeks of learning!