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PRELUDE TO BREAKOUT

How many bottles of whisky does a hill need before it comes up with the goods? You ask yourself....
You wonder if these Northumbrian farmers ever have pangs of guilt as they guzzle the bottles of whisky down their scraggy necks at Christmas time!
The really expensive whisky, furnished by the good offices of the rank and file of the Northumbrian Hang Gliding Club....bought and paid for with the blood, sweat, tearsand guts of the toiling peasants of the millennia...Paid for, with every revolution of the millstone, every jolt of the wheel, as it crushes the corn beneath its rough uncaring periphery. Paid for with every blister, chafed unceasingly by the roughly hewn oars....And the unrelenting opposition of the boundless ocean ......
And on Saturdays...When the captain wants to go water ski-ing..??!!
Purchased...with each new scar.....every rough scratch...that only tired hands cannot feel....and always more cotton to be picked...all the way to the distant horizon.....More...More..and more....
Doesn’t he go on?!!
And after the cotton....The Barges....Hauling, day after day...come rain or shine ...bare toes, flattening against the rough clay of the familiar path as they seek more puchase.....More barges..Bigger barges...Ocean going barges...Battle ships....Thru deck cruisers..Aircraft carriers....
The Bales...For heavens sake, don’t lets forget the bales...You is a totin them...I is a totin them.....Lawdy,Lawdy...All Gods children is a totin them!
And those Northumbrian farmers?.....Do they care?....Do they for one minute give a tosspots toss??
Gert that down your neck!!
Do they, for even one single second ...think to themselves.?..This whiskey.....Magnifico...El prima donna...Justa one cornetto...Mama Mia...Shesa finada whisky...She`s a good `da whisky, anna I lika da good whisky....Tenna years, I`m a drinking desa goodada whisky...complementas of da Milana Hangy de Glidy club...How I lovesa dem....!
Hang on there pal.....!
What country you in?......Its the Northumbria Hangy De Glidy Club!...And we are the stupid bastards who have been buying you that good whisky for the last three million years....Forgive me for asking, but have the hills we have been paying you for...with all those bottles of good whisky, ever came up with the goods?
" Justa one a cornetto....Its a now ora da never"
Have we ever...ever....ever...had a good cross country flight off of one of them?....Have we ever had a bad cross country flight off of one of them?....Have we ever had anything like good flying off of one of them?
" My mama sheda tola me...."
What does he care?
He gets his whisky every year that the Good Lord sends....Good whisky for duff flying...old lamps for new!....Its enough to make a grown man weep!....the Northumbrian syndrome...It just cannot be beaten...It can’t be by-passed....and it certainly cant be brought to book.....!
Or can it?
Such were the many and varied thoughts...weaving their devious way through my brain, as we made our way up the rough track towards the top of Biddlestone....
Have you got a brain?
You did have....but the spokes fell off....I see...
O.K just wait there until the van comes!
Biddlestone..Our one and only southerly site...The reluctant virgin...the tired housewife...always with a headache when you want it badly...never quite on the face..a little bit too much west in it....A little bit too much east in it....But today....smack on....right up the flute.
Well man!...would you believe it?!
And such a big turnout too....There was Dapper and Dancer, Vixen and Prancer.....and one or two other old dears there too...Rob Turner, thumbing through the thickest book in the world....His book of excuses....Ronnie Freeman...flying with his latest glider...the one he got back in...Lets see now....How time flies when your fitting de-flexors...
All waiting for the dice to be tossed...some rigged and ready...others dragging the long black bags from off of the roofs of their cars.....Now I ask you ...Is that the proper way to carry your mother in law around?
And all the time, lying there...unnoticed by every one....smack in front of the face of Biddlestone...courtesy of the resident farmer...and probably because of the guilt attached to all that good whisky, he’d had over the years..Three quarters of an acre of newly ploughed field....Maybe his wife had nagged him to plough it.....maybe she knew more about the needs of hang gliding than he did...Or more than likely it had been created in sheer ignorance of everything....But there it was....absolutely ideal for converting solar power to lifting power...Just let simmer for a while...add a pinch of hungry hang glider pilot, stir slowly,in any direction that you like...as long as its downwind-ward...Big helpings for bold pilots....tiny morsels for timid triers...for those with a leaning towards South Middleton....sometimes known as "Losers Retreat"....Step forward those stout men....Proudlock..Turner....Trapper Hall...There was plenty.....
There was plenty....for those with the hots for Wooler...it was there in abundance....But for those with Berwick-On-Tweed in mind....there would never be enough to go around!
After an early take off...with lots of good solid lift around...I viewed the top of the hill at my leisure..there were gliders rigging everywhere...it was like the top the Cairnwell,during the Scottish Open....a multi colored patchwork of glider quilting....People were running around with their immediate neighbors bottom batons sticking out of their eye-balls...There were sheep getting into podlights by mistake....and asking for a harness check!..It was Bedlam..A man in a forky tailed evening suit, faced the gliders from the front edge of the hill...tapped the side of his rostrum with a baton and began to tune in, a cacophony of different vario noises....Pandamonium reigned...Every body wanted to be off...except.....
Paul Earley......
Was there really a glider inside that bag?
He tried to remember all the things that Jorel had told him....
And still the cars kept coming up the track..It was like "Waggon Train"...At any moment I expected them to form into a circle before the indians attacked...Who was that stuck halfway up the hill?....Now pulling over to one side,and starting to rig his glider...It was Super Ron...say no more!!

THE BREAKOUT

And now the air was full...there were gliders everywhere. at all kinds of heights...all turning as the mood took them....The bolder ones making their way out over the farmers house...Over the ploughed field....Up and over the road...Why?...Why?...all the lift that was to be had was originating from the little ploughed field. Gathering strength as it charged towards the face of Biddlestone...and the hill was doing the rest.....Acting like a lever...it was accelerating the tiny punch drunk thermals...Into whopping great big, Tyson like upper cuts!
A craven hung along the battles edge....Wiping the sweat of fear off his glasses......There was only one answer....But where the hell do you find a phone-box at a place like this...that’s the rub.!
Over to the right...Clive Bridges was doing well...Over I went...Got it!
Windee, Windee....Back we go....lost it...pull forward...look up...people were high....Wallis...Wildbeast..
They were drawing the crowds in....got to get forward...and try to get into some of that.....And still there were people scratting about..out over the road.....This is it...Look behind...Clive was losing it....I was getting it... top of the stack....but not each minute...not every minute...Wildbeast,still doing well....Where was Wallis?
The radio sprung into life....It was Arnold....With the only possible response..
" *beep* you arshole"
There...climbing towards a beautifully forming cumulus...One bandit.
But!..But!...I wasn’t ready to go...not just yet..I was enjoying it too much...the day was still young...anything could happen.....
Wildbeast circled past...
They are going....Those men are leaving...They are heroes!!!
" Wallis ..Where are you going?...Don`t leave just yet...come back...and we will leave together later...You and I..”.
Freemans voice...pleading over the radio..
" *beep* you arshole!"
Paul Early ..kicked another sheeps turd..Looks like the phone box would have to be done without...No one looking...His hands going to the lapels of his jacket...a mighty tear...the quick flash of red and yellow...looks faded...have to get that cape to the dry cleaners before next weekend..Right arm raised in the fist clenched position. a quick kick off with the right foot....
The decision was taken. I knew that I’d taken it too late...I was gonna have to leave now...the decision wasn’t even mine...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes...They were high now..
Wallis on top...circling...circling
Wildbeast....doing allright...getting close to cloudbase now..I should have really flew fast downwind to where they were doing it...and then done it myself...I should have done it...but I didn`t...and then,just because I didn`t get to do it ...where they were doing it..it was looking very much like I wouldn`t get the chance of doing it at all...for very much longer...cos...while they were doing it ....I was duffing it!
Long before cloud base...while they were just specks above me...Lost...Finito....Didn`t I tell you so!
Here...Take this four down to chew on!
Look back up wind...towards the hill...too far to get back...turn and run...This seems familiar ...Haven’t I seen you doing this before?...You there...Yes you!...You with the bottom bar around your ankles...You with that worn out body...You with the tears of frustration running out of the eyeballs of that Halloween turnip you have been using for a face for so long....What’s this knob for?
DON`T TOUCH THAT!.....Its the six down knob!
Too late...look in the distance...those hills look familiar?...The Bowl..Ritto....Dunmoor Cairn...Those Blue Remembered Hills..
I heard the cavalry trumpet....Da..da..da...da...da...da...da...da ...da da..da...da ...ditty....ditty ...ditty..da.
..SAVED....If only I could last that long.....down....down....got to make it to Ritto...Suppose it wasn’t working?...racing downwind now. glance down. Two cars with gliders on the roof....Parked in the Bowl...What the hell were they doing there in a southerly ?...At least, would be okay for a lift back
I scraped onto Ritto, just above the top...It saved my life...Just a small rounded hill...not much to write home about...but it was working...Time to get the Hoover out....Back and forward I went, up and down, I went...A house pilots job is just never done!
The two people in the cars...Mike Ramsey...and Dave Hunter...Told me later that they had wrote me off
...So...What else is new?
Back and forward I went ...then back and forward again...sometimes I was going forward, when I should have been going backward....Once I met myself coming back from where I hadn’t been....Back and forward I went.....Watching they must have thought that they were at Wimbledon...left right...left right....was that a line call?
But I waited...and waited...slowly, slowly, catchee monkey..Small thermal..around we go...getting stronger..tighten up...Missed it...glance at the Lyndsey Ruddock...Not a lot of spare height..Got to get onto Dunmoor....
You are not going to make it bonny lad...scrape in low...turn. getting close to those craggy rocks..Stay in the turn...and another tall fern bites the dust..Made It..!
Made it...But for how long?...there was still only the corner of the hill working
I now had time to digest the garbage that was coming in over the radio...Wallis had got to cloud base over the Bowl..lost it,and run downwind to Low Bleakhope...Good name that..Isn`t it?...BLEAK HOPE.....Sums it up for me really!....Anyway he arrived there to find nothing working...Turned to look for the Wildbeast...who by this time had been joined by Clive Bridges..and they were still climbing to the left of Hedge-hope....Away he went to join them..everybody`s voice was three octives higher by this time..You have probably noticed this yourself...when the flying gets hot...somebody starts putting a tourniquet on your shallots!

DISCOVERY

Back at Biddlestone...There had just been a body count...Only Ronnie Freeman left...and the bloke with the blue cape, red tights, and yellow knickers...(Or is it the other way around?)
The Kommandant was furious!
Donna and Blitzen!...Das fleigerschaft hat off gerfluckt..!!!
Deutschland uber alles!!...Ein,swie,drie,fere,fumf,sex.
..oops,shouldn`t have mentioned that..
Ein hundred,fere und swanzich, Ein hundred fere und fumfsich..Allez kaput..!allez ge-gannan!....Auf Weidershen...pet
....Die menshen hat ske-daddled..Von Ribbontrop, und bottom
...Luft Hansa..knees and Bumps a daisy..Mein Kamp,and tentpegs
..Und dasser grosser schweinhund.....Stevie Hall!....
Not the most patient of men....Stevie Hall..Or the most gregarious...I saw him coming towards Dunmoor...Not quite as low as I was...In fact, he was quite high....Good...get some company, at last...
WE ARE NOT ALONE!...
.Hi you...yes you...come back here....where do you think you are off to?...You wont get far in that thermal Stevie!
I watched.......An arsehole and his lift, are soon parted...The words of the song kept going thru my head...You know how it does....?!
I watched him as he turned in the lift that he had....drifting over the back of Dunmoor,not really screwing much out of the lift....
You stuck up sod!...This hill not good enough for you eh?...Still too much muck on it eh?...Give us a chance man,to hang the curtains...sort the welcome mat out...I cant do all this hoovering and the rest of the work as well!
Piss off, and find your own hill to fly then....I don’t care...I can rough it!
I watched him gain height....approaching the back of the hill where it falls away into the Happy Valley...and just as he was approaching THE "DURD"....He got it...!...What did he get?...what he always gets.....He got zapped...good and proper...Bye-Bye Stevie!!...For you, Pilot Officer Hall....the great escape has ended!
From this moment on..Go carefully...Watch it....don’t get caught in civilian clothes, use the main roads only during the hours of darkness...Further remember, that if you are re-captured...as laid down in the Geneva Convention, you are only obliged to give name, rank and number!
Even as I speak, Red Cross parcels are on their way to North and South Middleton...In the old barn by the farm, you will find the camp pervert,Proudlock,and his lackey, Turner...Who also made abortive escape attempts..You are to give them succour,and comradeship until the arrival of the others, but at no time undress, unless your back is to the wall!!
How long was I going to be stuck here, I thought?
Fourteen hundred hours!!
Two o’clock to any civilian reading...the day was getting on.....
Patience, bonny lad...You are stuck here, until such time as the right thermal comes along.....But the right thermal might never come along and I’ll be stuck here...Humiliated...a five mile XC and a thirty mile round trip to get back to Biddlestone!
Back and forward I went, back and forward, back and forward, up and down...sideways...you name it...I done it!!
I looked towards the shepherds cottage...at the beginning of the track up to the Bowl...He gets a bottle of whisky off us at Christmas as well. were my ears deceiving me?
" Justa one Cornetto"
I just had to get away from this place....Those voices on the radio were driving me crazy...Wildbeast...Wallis...Both high. Seeing the sea...I heard Berwick mentioned once or twice...They couldn’t be that far surely?...
Why me God?
Why wasn’t I seeing the sea as well?...I can swim...I’ve got a cossa..granted its got a top part to it, and longer legs than most...and I wear it with a bowler hat...so what?...I’m cleared for beach landings. I was at Dunkirk. I like willicks..Just look at these inflatable armbands....Giz a look man...go on ...Giz a look!
Its funny how you torture yourself, at moment like these...in actual fact, they were both at that time, not very far from being DOWN...and they were not all that far away, from where I was...so I was getting high blood pressure for nothing.....which I suppose is better than having to pay for it!!
BUT....The positions of the pawns in this great game of chess where on the verge of being changed...A half pound bag of smugness was winging its way towards me...these frothing lips where soon to be returned to the mild snarl mode, once again...Within minutes I was circling in the most beautiful thermal that you could ever have imagined..
.Where have you been man?....I thought you would never get here!...I switched the main computer over from "To and Fro",to "Roundy,Roundy"...and away I went, higher and higher...so high that I could hear the droll voice of Nick Pain, somewhere down in the Dales coming in over the radio!
I was climbing at last...vario going like the clappers, altimeter numbers spinning like a fruit machine...this was the way to do it....Circling leisurely...Cheviot to my left,Wooler to my right, Cheviot to my right,Wooler to my left...(You know how it is when you change the direction of your three sixties!)...Climbing...all the time climbing...Over towards Middleton...Gliders lying in a field...was it two...or was it three?...Grown men beside them weeping......And now everything on the radio coming thru crystal clear....Clive Bridges DOWN ...by the Yeavering Bell....Wallis....DOWN....just north of him....Wildbeast....DOWN..place unknown, but not far from Wallis...... AND NOW THE TABLES HAD BEEN TURNED!
The voice from the pit, was about to speak and once again frighten the living.... upon the whole vast plain of Wooler-land the mildly contemptable...and the vastly, incompetent were about to tremble!

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

" MAD DOG ......AT FOUR THOUSAND FEET!!"
Only a few mild words....and would you believe it
I could see them all in my minds eye, scurrying to hide their gliders..hurridly pulling the wings of their gliders in...throwing fern leaves and freshly hauled up grass, over the glaring conspicuousness of their brightly colored sails...Calling for the mountains around them to fall on them and cover up their vast incompetence...wishing the earth beneath their feet to open up and swallow their iniquity...
The voice of the Wildbeast came over the radio.....like....Fagin....pulling on his fingerless gloves, and asking slyly.

"WHERE ARE YOU" (You have to pick a pocket or two boys!)
Wallis....from his place..deep in the prickly bushes, eyes searching the skies, plucked up the courage to answer...still fearful that the radio transmission, would give his place of hiding away...
" DO YOU THINK HE WILL GET AS FAR AS THIS?"
Proudlock....In gay abandoned mood....
" HE IS AT SIX THOUSAND FEET OVER THE COAST..YOU ARE ALL BEATEN"!
Fagin again,...."Where are you Miller?"
Miller wasn’t answering...Miller was too busy struggling to stay up to answer...Miller was on a downer....
The thermal that I was in lasted up to about four thousand feet, give or take a few, at this time I was just behind Wooler and a bit to the west...The skies behind me, and in front were just a mess of blue...Not a cloud to be seen for as far as the eyeball, mark one could see.
Losing height all the time...I flew in between Harehope hill, and Humbleton hill...Over the A697 road, towards some newly mown corn fields...Nothing...turn down wind..pick up a bit of a blip..turn in it..lose it...find it again....turn in it...lose it...and all the time with one eye on the vast road less interior that I was heading towards, and the other eye on the multi-thousand volt power lines that were not far away and to the side...No...salvation was not to be had anymore that day
I gave up the ghost at about fifty feet above the ground level...A little bit late really..and just managed to get the glider turned around and into wind for a nifty little landing....scattering some good looking sheep as I did so...None of them came back to ask me where I had come from, so I felt that I did not owe them anything, and I just packed up my glider into its bag without saying a word to them..
.I can play it cool sometimes!
And that’s it....The end of my story..Wake up now....Wake up and ask me...."How can he make a daft little X mile flight from Biddlestone,last nine pages?"
Its easy man...especially if you are a boring *beep*!
Anyway...what are you complaining about?....You are getting free Italian lesson....Free German lessons...You have never had it so good....You know what Arnold would say!!
And just to round it off...The distances?
WILDBEAST....PETER WHITE...Proving once again that coming from Whitley Bay isn’t such a bad thing...TOO FAR 21.75mls
WALLIS..."Ein Bandit Maskin".Joss stick rules...OK....19.25mls ....FAR TO FAR
MILLER....."MAD DOG"...Against all the odds. and a few evens even....18 mls.....NOT FAR ENOUGH
CLIVEE..BABY..BRIDGES 14mls What a tryer.
TURNER,PROUDLOCK, TRAPPER HALL,AND SUPERMAN...11mls ..YUK

Written for a Northumbrian Hang Gliding Club magazine....Can`t really remember the year....Probably 1992....typed and saved onto a PCW 8256....Thought it was worth saving so slogged away re-typing it onto this state of the art computer courtesy of the Microsoft Corporation......Looking back...at that halcyon day...what ever became of the hero’s of the story?.....
.Well....Wildbeast....Peter White,who won the day...had a very bad accident during a club competition in the Bowl....Dunmoor...the "Durd"area...about two years later....He left the sport.
Gordon Proudlock,got himself married and has not been seen since....even by the wife!
Rob Turner, bless his lovely soul, was killed hang-gliding in 1999,at the Model Ridge....Sadly, sadly missed
John Wallis left the sport....Got himself a houseful of delightful kids in next to no time....took up proper flying, passed all the required exams.....But he never quite forgot his first love...and lo and behold...now in this year of the Lord 2000...He’s back...just as keen as ever!
Clive Bridges....Long-gone....Disappeared into the vast trackless wastes of Sunderland and never wrote home....So there you go!
Trapper Hall..still makes regular phone calls to the living....spends most of his time now down a burrow that he’s been digging for himself somewhere around the High-Spen area....Whats up Doc?
Still keen though....I`ll grant him that!
Paul Early.....Superman....Long gone...cape and all...Glider still in its bag...still pristine....Spends his time surfin the net....scattering abuse upon all and sundry.
Ron Freeman...Done nothing on the day...but always the best pilot in the club
I hate him...(Not really!)
John Miller.....Older, wiser, uglier, and still battling the odds....Say no more!
And last but not least....Arnold...Who was he...and where is he now?
Well I’m afraid the official secrets acts forbid any disclosures of his present day where-abouts.....except to confirm that his bedside manner is still as subtle as it ever was!!
JOHN MILLER...NEWS AT TEN...TREBLINKA
August 2nd 2000

John Miller

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