It's confession time again. It's good for the soul
There are a number of things in life that I unexpectedly found unsettling and which made me quite nervous.
One such is helicopters, sometimes known as choppers, whirly birds, petrol pigeons or diesel dodos.
I had quite enjoyed my first helicopter flight, in a beast that looked like the love child of a goldfish bowl and a budget Meccano set. It was Royal Navy helicopter called a "Wasp". That was a fun tour of the countryside around Devon. All I needed to do was blank out the the thought that it had only one engine.
I also enjoyed being dunked in the "dunker"; a mock up of a helicopter fuselage that gets dropped into a great big swimming pool and spun round so it's upside down. You get to fiddle with a complicated seat belt, watch some bubbles and find your way out with everything back to front and inverted. All this while wearing overalls and those naff looking plastic helmets that outward bound centres use. It reminded me of the first time I rescued a black rubber brick whilst wearing my pajamas.
However, there then followed a series of less than positive experiences. These included looking for a lost helicopter in a very big sea, (another ship found it and rescued everyone), watching a Lynx helicopter slide gracefully off a ship's flight deck into a pretty lumpy sea and several times feeling very travel sick in the back of helicopters. To my mind, it felt felt like being in the very back of a support group van, with smaller seats, your worldly possessions on your lap, no windows, deafening noise and an overwhelming smell of diesel all the while being driven at high speed round a roller coaster track.
Another thing is that I tend to say something I later regret whenever a helicopter flight is involved. Some minor example are, "That's no problem, of course I will sit wedged in the back here behind all this kit whilst you sit by the only exit - and window", "No, that strap is just fine, not too tight at all", "Why does your navigation system look like an old car Satnav tie wrapped to your instrument panel", "Should that dial really have all those cracks in it?".
My most ill considered comment came halfway through a "ride along" helicopter flight in an American police helicopter. It had been arranged by some kind friends and I was really grateful for the effort they had gone to in arranging the surprise for me. It was in southern California on the second day of a trip to explore the west coast of the US, a part of the world I had never visited but seen on the telly - a lot.
Anyhow, having been told there was no need to wear a bullet proof vest in the helicopter, and had the safety brief from the pilot I guess I was rather unsettled and nervous. However, faced with two very all American hero cops I found my stiff upper lip and off we went. As a true Brit I chatted about the weather and how rainy it was in Cornwall. As a cop I gave as good as I got with the banter.
It all took a turn for the worse when the banter and chat about the weather collided. I had just made some comment about two solid weeks of rain and drizzle at home and said there had not even a sighting of the sun. I think I went on to say how great it must be to get constant sun and live your life with a Hollywood suntan. With a rather abrupt change in tone, the co-pilot said "What do you mean?". I said something along the lines of, "With a tan like yours you would be the envy of every pasty faced Cornishman". His response was, "I'm Spanish".
It was a really quite helicopter ride after that.
PS Please drive safely, be kind, be honest.
PPS The one in the photo was the one with cracked dials and the "after market" Satnav.