Big Bird

Friday Flashback gets airborne.

Air New Zealand took delivery of its first Boeing 747 in May 1981. Two more arrived in June. I flew up to Hawaii in one of them in August. It still had that ‘new car smell.’

Air NZ 747 4

 In showroom condition at Honolulu airport.

As luck would have it, a distant cousin was a flight attendant on board. She might have been called a stewardess or hostess back then, before the word police neutered the language. When the safety drills had been drilled and we were all safely in the air, she dropped by for a chat.

Air NZ 747 3Would I like to visit the flight deck?
You could do that in ’81 if you knew the right people. They hadn’t yet seen a need to fortify the cockpit to protect pilots from crazy passengers. And they certainly hadn’t foreseen a day when passengers might sometimes need protection from crazy pilots. Simpler times. She didn’t have to ask twice so Distant Cousin went off to have a word with the Captain, promising she would give me the nod later in the flight.

She came back an hour later looking disappointed. The Captain sent his apologies but he would have to cancel my visit. One of the engines was surging periodically and he needed to concentrate on that with no distractions. I suspect this isn’t the kind of information cabin crew normally share with passengers. I said nothing but tried to fake an expression that showed I was totally cool with a malfunctioning engine at 35,000 feet over the Pacific on a dark night. D.C. could see through that.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said reassuringly, “we’ve got three more.”

That was the closest I ever got to a ‘Jumbo Jet’ flight deck. And now they’re gone. Air New Zealand retired its last 747 in 2014.

Air NZ 747 2

This was my ride home, ZK-NZW, the second Boeing 747 to join Air New Zealand’s fleet – on 9th June 1981 to be exact. It was sold to Virgin Atlantic after eighteen years service.

 

 

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The Skirl of the Pipes

Are these Highland gatherings, these Highland games (I have never been able to discover the difference, if any, between “gatherings” and “games”), ancient and traditional? If they are, then history is remarkably silent on the point. Was it ever the pastime of the Highlander to hurl the trunks of pine trees about the countryside? Somehow I doubt it. Indeed, I harbour a suspicion that Highland games are only about 100 years old….

Braemar Pipe band

To put it bluntly, I do not believe that the Highland Gathering is ancient nor that the Highland Games are traditional, although they have undoubtedly become a tradition. They are also one of Scotland’s very best advertising media.

Let me hasten to add that this does not mean that I dislike or disapprove of Highland Games. On the contrary, I love them. As a spectacle I do not think they can be bettered anywhere in the British Isles.

Braemar duoWatching the games, the observant onlooker cannot fail to notice a marked difference in interest between the Scots in the audience and the foreigners in the audience, especially among the women. The kilt, it is apparent, arouses emotion in the foreign female breast; the Scots female…. appears to be quite unmoved….the Scots, male and female, are much more interested in the pipe music and the dancing.

This, surely, is because both are, in fact, ancient and traditional, technical and very highly skilled. You have to be an initiate to understand the finer points of either. I like watching Highland dancing, which I find both graceful and energetic: but the technical points are a closed book to me. I love the barbaric music of the bagpipes, but I am quite unable to distinguish between the playing of one competing piper and another on the platform. They sound exactly alike to me. But they do not to the Scots.

Braemar Pipers

Text edited from an article by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald (1900-1981) published in the ‘Sphere’, September 21, 1957.

Images from the Royal Braemar Gathering 1984.

A Donkey on the Lawn

Friday Flashback to Arncliffe in 1973.

Arncliffe 2

 

The village of Arncliffe lies in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, England, and is a popular spot today with cyclists, walkers and people who enjoy fly fishing in picturesque streams (even when they don’t catch anything).

Fans of British TV soap operas will know it was the original location for Emmerdale Farm, first broadcast in October ’72 and still running. The Falcon Inn was cast as The Woolpack pub. Arncliffe’s time in the showbusiness spotlight ended four years later when the production moved closer to the television studios in Leeds.

This scene was shot exactly as found. To be clear, I did not hire or position the donkey for rustic effect. Maybe it was an Emmerdale extra on its lunch break.

The Wreck of the Yankee

“Were you here when the Yankee went on the reef?”
“Oh, yes,” Powell shook his head sadly.

The battered hull of the famous round-the-world yacht still remains as a prominent landmark just beyond the harbour at Avarua.

Yankee wreck 1

The Yankee was a steel hulled German pilot vessel, taken over as a prize of war, and acquired by Irving Johnson and his wife who took young people as working, paying crew on voyages around the world and their adventures appeared frequently in National Geographic and the sparkling, white-sailed Yankee was the dream ship of all the adventurous young who wanted to explore far away places.

“The Yankee under the Johnsons was immaculate. White dacron sails, white hull, varnished woodwork and gleaming brass. She was a picture.

“One day [in 1964] a large sailing ship came into view and as usual everyone started to speculate on what ship it might be because even then a ship of 117 tons and 97 feet was a rare sight and at first it was thought that the ship was the Yankee but as it came closer we could see the hull was grey and when it went to its engines after dropping sails the diesels belched black smoke.

“When the small boats were put over and came in, they were dirty with broken gunwales and with water sloshing around the bottom. There was no way that Irving Johnson could be on board and later the word drifted around that it was the Yankee all right but the boat had been sold to Windjammer Cruises and was being run out of Miami. It was as ratty as it could be.

Yankee wreck 3“At first the trades were from the east and then gradually started to swing slowly to the north with the wind getting stronger. By this time the Yankee was snubbing to her anchor and rolling badly and I thought it was time the skipper got away….but the crew had picked up a batch of local girls and there was a marathon party going on board. I said to my wife, ‘The Yankee is going ashore tonight.’

“When I woke up the next morning at the first light in the sky and I could feel the wind I told my wife, ‘The Yankee has gone on the reef.’ And I called our daughter who was a photographer at the time and told her to get her camera and go down to the beach because undoubtedly the Yankee was on the rocks and she could take news pictures which would be very valuable. And she did and they were.”

Yankee wreck 4BW

“A bit later I took my bicycle and rode down to the main road and there she was.”
Powell heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head again, “I wanted to cry.”

Condensed from ‘How to Get Lost and Found in the Cook Islands‘ by John W. McDermott, Waikiki Publishing Company, Inc. 1979.
Images from 1981.

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, whose luck got worse with time, finally went bankrupt in 2007. Founder, Michael Burke, died of pneumonia at 89 in 2013. According to this Wikipedia page, the remains of the Yankee were cut up and removed in 1995.

 

 

 

Happy Motoring

Class, certainly…. and thrilling performance too!

A Mercury car advertisement from 1950.

The 1950 Mercury is “better than ever” in every way. With its 8-cylinder, V-type, 110 Hp., “Hi-Power Compression” engine, it’s better in performance. Better in economy, better in handling ease, safer too.

See this “better than ever” Mercury. Feel its new comfort. Get behind the wheel and drive it … you too will say, “It’s Mercury for me!”

New “Safe-T-Vue” instrument panel, Improved “Merco-Therm” Fresh air ventilating and heating system.

New push-button door handles and rotary locks mean easy opening and positive closing.

Now available … smart new Mercury Station Wagons and Convertibles.
Readers Digest, April 1950.

And if you take really good care of your Mercury, it might still be around next century.

Mercury 51

1951 Mercury photographed in 2014.

Or you can turn it into a seriously cool street rod…..

Street rod (hotrod) car based on a 1949 Mercury. (Editorial use only)

Art on wheels inspired by a 1949 Mercury.

Do you have any Mercury memories?

Now You Has Jazz*

Friday Flashback says Happy Birthday.

Welsh jazz fans are gearing up for their annual treat next weekend (9th – 11th) when the Brecon Jazz Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary. I was lucky enough to be there for the first one.

Brecon jazz festival 1

A band called Adamant, from Cardiff, leading the first parade down High Street.

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It was a modest programme compared to this year’s offering but everybody had so much fun they decided to do it again.  And again……

*’Now You Has Jazz’ is a classic performed by Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and his “ensemble” in the 1956 movie ‘High Society’. Watch.

A Greate Poole

Two impressions of Llangorse lake in Wales. Text from 1942, images from 1984.

…..during the one short break in an otherwise continuous downpour I visited Llangorse Lake, a stretch of water some five miles in circumference.

Llangorse lake in Wales.

This lake is also known as Savadden, and in a Harleian MS. of about 1695 we read that: ‘In the greate Poole call’d Llyn Savathan once stood a faire citie which was swallowed up by an Earthquake and resigned her stone walles into this deep and broad water, being stored most richly with fish in such abundance as is uncredible…. and indeed the fishermen of this place have often times taken up goodes of severall sortes from the very harte of the Poole but whether these might be goodes that ware cast away is unknowne but we have never heard of any such mischance in oure times.’ The story is probably derived from the remains of ancient lake dwellings which have been identified on an island on the north side of the lake. This island, wholly artificial, was connected with the shore by a causeway of stones and piles, with probably a drawbridge. On it have been discovered the bones of red deer, wild boar, and cattle.

Llangorse lake, Wales, summer 1984.

It is told, to-day, that when the lake is rough the buried church bells can be heard ringing under the water. When I asked a man who had his dwelling by the lake if he had ever heard the bells he replied ‘bunkum.’ When I asked him if it was true that the waters of the river Llynfi, which enter the lake, do not mix with the lake water, but flow through unstained, he replied ‘bunkum.’ When I asked him if the lake was not celebrated for its miracles he replied ‘bunkum,’ and with that amount of information I reached home before the next downpour.
‘Coming Down the Wye’, Robert Gibbings, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. 1942.

Llangorse lake, Wales, summer 1984.

We’ll stay in Wales (where it doesn’t rain all the time) for this week’s Friday Flashback.