now my little ones….cease your weeping…edge
yourself closer…sit here, at my feet, draw up your
knees, wrap both arms around your legs….rest a weary
chin on the rucks of your new long pants…..let that
long distance look come into your eyes as I begin my little
yarn….let me pick up that catapult…..kindly
from the floor, and the sweetie paper so recently trapped
on the lining of your trousers, hanging out there for all
the world to see. And put it there on the mantelpiece,
until its time for you to go.
See how the flickering of the last log, chuckles a final
call to the red lined shadows dancing on the far wall….the wind outside is howling, howling,
shouting of dark deeds, and broken promises….scrabbling the glass of
the loose panes on the side window.
Once upon a time!
“CONCENTRATE ON WHAT YOU HAVE….NEVER LOOK
AT SOMEONE ELSE…TO THE EXCLUSION OF EVERYTHING ELSE!”
From Nick Pains log book….and lesson one for the day!
Pilots log…star date…Sunday, April 9th 1989…Cross Fell…south
west and a quarter west….wind speed 15 to 29 mph
This was the day that there was to be a four way competition with the North
Yorks…George Cayley, Arthur Dayley club, Dales club, and ourselves, the
glorious…Northumbria hang gliding club, the venue by previous arrangement
was to be the Dales…Wether fell.
On the Saturday, Wether Fell had been blown out....So this little lad decided
to cut his
losses, and turn out to Cross Fell, In Cumbria on theSunday, come what may,
to try to
salvage what otherwise would have been a wasted weekend.....A wise decision,
When I said rest your head on your knees....I didn’t tell you to fall
asleep... Pay attention.... You just never know.... It might get better
I took off on my second flight of the day, feeling very ropey....due to flue
coming on, pains In the back, etc......The sky did not really look all that
grand either, Perhaps it. needed to see a doctor as wel1
No it, didn’t look to grand at all, at all, And for long periods of time
the lift would just disappear. . With never a please may I be excused or anything..Was
this due to the wave being set up haphazardly from the Lakes district? …The
downflow, just happening to be coming in the vicinity of Cross Fell, killing
off all the budding thermals..Like..... A four down. makes short work, of a
two up!.... I dunno..anyway.... around about two oclock things seemed to be
happening..... There were more clouds forming....And more thermal than there
had been previously...Times they were a changing .....Somebody's birthday treat
was breaking out from its wrapping
I decided to fly along to Wild Boar. Why not?
Wild Boar, as you know is a precipitous ridge just to the left of take off
There seemed to be more cloud forming in that area......My hero..NICK
was there....So I spent a lot of eye ball glue...watching his every move...and
following him. . Hoping for access to the hidden secrets of a great cross country
Whenever..and this was often... he left the ridge...penetrating forward.. I
followed....trying to reason out why he was doing what he was doing... What
was he going for??.....How would he get back with so little reserve of height?
...... this practice..just about put me on the ground, along with the grouse
beaters....And him also....So I decided to retreat back to the safety of the
ridge, and the arms of old Mother Ridge lift
Its much better, being a cowardly pilot, skulking low on the ridge ....Than
a bold pilot walking tall on the ground....Don't you think ?
Around about three oclock....A biggish thermal came through and as I wound
it back...being careful not to go back with it too far. Not at this moment
in time being committed to leaving the ridge. Nick. who was behind, and above
me, came in over the radio...In his usual droll manner....Like an undertaker...Under
the influence of too much embalming fluid...... He sort of slides the lid off
the microphone.....and in between the creaks out comes this amazingly, less
than human....Rasplngly ghoulish imitation of a European Burke and Hare sound
alike competition winner.....
" I'm going with this one "
Was necrophilia dead? ….and was it all right for a medium?
The statement that he was going with this one,. came as a bit of a surprise
to me. . Reluctantly, I decided that, If he was going, then naturally...I was
going also, I mean...what’s the use of staying in the classroom after
the teacher has gone?. . . I was going. Yes. . Of course but not without a
lot of reservation, I knew from previous experience. just what kind of sink,
there was to be had... behind Cross Fell..at this point. . You didn’t
need to be going around hitting icebergs to really get to know all about that
I took a good few lungfuls of oxygen to delay the onset of the bends and committed
myself over to the back of Cross Fell...with Nick at cloud base above me....Aprox
3,500 ft ato…and myself about 800 foot lower. …Back into the yawning
Pictures of the man in the barrel going over Niagara Falls flashed through
my mind..And with the lift rapidly disappearing... I knew that I had suckered
myself into another no win situation.... The back of Cross Fell....Was.....and
always will be...A sinkhole!
Beephole meets sinkhole!
I should have known better!!!!
Wildbeast..Peter White....who had been climbing below me...now came past me......About
299 ft higher....And a little to my left. I realized then, that it was time
to get back to thinking for myself...
"CONCENTRATE ON WHAT YOU HAVE. .... NEVER LOOK AT
SOMEONE ELSE. .... TO THE EXCLUSION OF EVERY-THING ELSE!"
The words from Nick’s log book came to me again and against the screaming
in my head....to turn downwind..... turn downwind and make a run for it...I
parked into wind and waited....then I waited some more....for the vario to
scream twenty down...but it didn't....lift....pause.....turn....half the lift....half
the way round...pause........ lift. half the lift ...half the way round..
0.K.so far......doing all right...the patient was not quite dead yet..
In fact, It was looking like, he wouldn't be even needing a sick note!!
I was getting happier...I was doing all right...I was doing better than all
right.... I was doing better than them...because they were not doing that well
themselves...as the voices on the radio were speaking two octaves higher!....
I glanced downwind with half an eye, the other eye and a half, still inputting
the information from the Lindsey Ruddick...and controlling the steam valves
pushing and pulling on the bottom bar..
Nick was running from the cloud he had left with...The one that I was sure
that I was still under...
Peter looked to be low.....Heading for Alston. I don’t know what was
going through his mind.... I only knew there wasn't much there to stop it!
I watched Nick....being a glutton for education, I see..... yes, that has the
look of a cloud just forming, that’s where he is going.to!
But, it was miles from me. . .much, much -too far away for me. ..... I glanced
to the ground in textbook fashion. .. Decaying shadows, told their sad, story.
. . . of squandered struggles and last whispered good byes!
If only, I could spell...Au-revoir
Within seconds, the lift had gone as well..and for the first...and only time
that day..I ran down wind...for maybe half a mile..perhaps...then just before
Alston.....good fairly solid all round lift made the vario sing..and I turned
and began circling back..by this time a much happier man!....
The wrapping was coming off the present...and it looked very much like it was
addressed to me!
I had covered ten miles.. I had escaped the sink hole behind Cross Fell.....One
of the pilots I had left with..Peter White, the Wildbeast, was on his way to
the ground and wasn't going to be reprieved from that fate, as far as I could
My hero...NICK...wasn't doing very well...And here I was a simple country boy...
getting all the breaks...It was a good feeling
I knew that I had stumbled into the lift of a cloud...The same cloud, which
Nick...in his infinite wisdom....had made a bee-line for, minutes previously....but
In his haste, had decided to leave ....to look for better, down wind......
This was the second lesson, that I learnt that day....
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH PAUSING INTO WIND
(Even on high wind days!)
I wasn't taking too much notice of the altimeter at all that day, but I suppose
that I would have been at about 2800 ato..... 6000ft ASL.at this point, I looked
down wind, still climbing, still in reasonable lift....the whole of the Tyne
valley lay before me.......Hexham.. to my right, in the distance...still happily
ensconced, beside the same river, where it has been for the last three million
years..... The Roman wall clearly visible, on the Winn Sill....as it cut its
dash across the cold, .rugged, unforgiving Northumbrian countryside..
Did Hadrian, ever see it as I saw it that day?....
All that work, Just to keep those greedy, grabbing Scots beeptards away from
" Let them fly Tinto......And like It!”
These were the words that an archeologist had found written in the roman toilets
just after they had left
Saying it all....scrawled all those hundreds of years ago probably on some
nil wind day, by some half Greek, half Geordie bricklayer. Who didn’t
want the likes of Bob Sutherland flying at Cross Fell any more. A sentiment
still echoed even today, by the more enlightened.
But not Nick....
Not my hero Nick....
Nick had no sentiments.
Seventeen miles, has no sentiment!
The eagle had landed..... Nick was on the ground!
The North’s premier hang glider pilot was down. . . .And out!
The earth, had reclaimed her own......
And on Whitby beach a lone coffin. . .finally snagged into the cold embrace
of a weed encrusted rock. .
We had warned him before about flying during daylight hours!
Nick,....my hero.....no longer in command of his destiny, his brief glimpse
of the Roman Wall, but a fast receding memory.....
Forlornly looking skyward, from his landing field, Seventeen miles from take
Seventeen miles.....as the crow files...now, if seventeen crows each flew seventeen
miles....How far would a single crow. .....
Incidentally.....did I mention that Nick flew seventeen
Is there anything worse.....When you’re all mapped up for a hundred mile,Big
One.....To be down after a little one?......With someone above you at cloud
base who isn't even fit to wipe the sheep-beep off of your front rigging wires......
Is there no justice In this harsh world?
Weep with me for those you see.... through the little end of a telescope
Nicks forlorn voice came to me over the radio, Where was I?
How was I doing?...and was I aware of the pricking sensations yet?
What else could I say..except, thanks for the use of your log books for past
Thats what had made it possible for me to be where I was at this moment...that.
and a little bit of luck as well!
I'm just above your field now, nearing cloud base again...I can see you walking
about with that little doll in your hands..
“ Don’t walk west from where you are...the road that way leads to
no-where...Try the road that drops down into Whitfield''...
What more help could I be?
I resolutely decided to take no further notice of the radio traffic still coming
through the ether...I wanted to talk to winners..Men of mettle...Right stuffers..not
party frocks...not ladies hand-bags
I needed to concentrate....
I drifted over the Tyne at Bardon Mill, still high, but not in anything going
up any further.....Pausing for a while In my circling I looked back upwind
to where I had just came from...The whiteness of a cloud forming caused me
to pull on speed...back the way I had come...
I don’t suppose for one minute that I was managing to penetrate forward...The
wind at this height was a little to strong for that...But it seemed as eager
to meet me, as I was to meet It....
" How are you?...So nice to know you"
I was soon back in wisps of milk white cloud...friendly cloud not thick cloud,
just good transparent lift cloud...It seemed to pull my lips into great orgies
of laughter, as though there was a good joke, hidden in every corner of that
big white envelope..
I chided it for its untimely arrival...And woo-ed it out of its flimsy lifting
I milked it....then I left it....
We Geordie-Boys don't mess around with the redundancy notices!!
I drifted off, down wind again...looking for new lift...noting
the landmarks as I went on my way....not, going up any
more. but not going down all that fast either...
The Military Road...hove into view
If I were to look East along its length, I could have possibly recognized the
spot where I had landed the previous year.... in haste
The memory flooded back...
I had went over the back of Cross Fell without a map.... in high winds...but
certain sure that the wind was westerly..... rather than south west...
I had absolutely convinced myself. that the cooling towers that I could see
in the distance were the cooling towers of Ferry Bridge.. and the aerodrome
coming right up was a
MATZ...somewhere near Leeming.....
After landing on the military road near the reservoirs, and found that people
were still speaking Geordie, I then realized that the aerodrome was RAF Ouston
and the cooling towers turned out to be Stella power station….(its been
knocked down since then!)
I still take a lot of flack from that one....
But so what?...we all make mistakes.
I had my heads crewed on this time I still didn't have a map.....but I knew
exactly where I was....
Yorkshire isn't all that big a place after all!!
I drifted on back over the Military Road.....this road had been built by the
Romans so many years ago...that now there wasn’t even a single cement
mixer to be seen.
On the north side of the road were two lakes. .. or Loughs. .. with a sizable
gap in between them......
Something jogged in my memory banks again...
I remembered then, somebody saying to me....As they were slavering over their
pastie and chips in the Shepherds Pub that the way to miss all airspace was
to go through the gap formed by these two stretches of water
Well that’s another problem solved.
I drifted back....looking for lift...Housteads car park passed beneath me....
I looked along the length of the Roman wall...stretching away in the general
westerly direction from which I had came....below me was Broomlee Lough..and
a little further west of that, Greenlee Lough, with their massive stone buttresses
facing northerly.... if only we could fly them
But no...there only purpose in life now was to be worn down by the leather
shoes of a million inquisitive feet..and be gradually altered by the rabid
stone throwing of a thousand snotty nosed skool kids
I was so busy taking in the scenery that I hadn't noticed that somebody had
reversed -the telescope. . . . . everything was so much bigger than it. had
Those cars coming down the road. .they had wheels on. . . . and windows along
-there sides. . . There were people inside of them......Look....one was pulling
into the lay bye.....their eyes had caught site of something....
What were they waving at?
I realized then that it could only be me that they were looking at...no zeppelin
raids had been planned for the "Once Brewed" on that day.
I altered my tack and with the few hundred feet that I had left began to look
for somewhere with good landing facilities
Over the road was a corpse of trees......The tumblers in the memory bank of
the flight computer clicked into place.
It was quite late on in the day…woods were supposed to give off their
lift at the end of the day
I wasn't going to give up until I had put the theory to the test......the choice
was simple.....you either got the rotor from off them or ……
I was only about seventy-five foot above the road by this time and hovering
between the prone flying position and the....feet out ready for landing position
At any minute I expected Micheal Aspel to leap out of the woods and race across
the road with his little red book
John Miller....cross country pilots dupple-ganger...six figure map reference
stretcher....cooling tower spotter extraordinaire blouse stitcher.....adult
impersonator pervert....plonker...and now double upright bender......
" This is you life!"
The people in the car were raising there cameras. . . for a good action shot...one
of the kids being held ready for his little wee-wee got so exited that he missed
his aiming point...and probably would be blaming me for his new short pants
being soaking for the rest of the day......
I wasn't bothered in the slightest...Out of the woods....came the goods!
You must think that I am pulling your leg by now....I mean these things never
happen you are saying to yourself.....only to other people....
And in this you are right.... I am the other person.
Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent
Bear with me a little longer..my little story ends in Bellingham but I am not
quite there yet......
You know how it is when you catch a thermal low down.....
You absolutely have to throw caution to the wind...or you will never stay with
it...you have to ride that glider like a cowboy in a rodeo....
You have to forget what it says in the workshop manual...
" This glider should not be flown at a greater angle of bank than twenty
Or inverted when there is an "R" in the month"
They have yet to make a thermal that recognizes these rules
Thermals can't read....So away I went again higgledy piggledy, sometimes in
the harness. Sometimes out of it,. . . sometimes upside down sometimes not,
some-times in charge, sometimes not...
But I made it...gradually. as I got higher...every thing got sorted out...things
smoothed out....the Military road and its captive audience receded as I got
higher....The little lads mother tucked his shirt under his bum to keep him
dry...the cameras got put back into their carrying cases...and I suppose that
they all lived happily ever after...
Now wasn't that exiting Albert?
I was not to get back to cloud base with this one....the sky by now was looking
very frontal....The sun was being obscured by a veil of high cloud, but I got
back up to about 1200ft above ground level...high enough to see two lakes in
These were the lakes which I now realized were the portals marking the real
gate through Airspace.... I could see the faint blur of the coast in the distance.
Thirty or so miles away.
It would have to wait for another day.... I had wrung as much distance out
of the sky as I was liable to get this day.
I settled for a longish glide downwind to my eventual destination....Bellingham.....And
an even longerish wait for the pub to open.
An eventual pick up by my very good pal...Rob Turner put a smile back on my
face......and later in "The Rat" the cheers, jeers, and excellent...unlivable
without...abuse. of all those I hate, in the glorious, unmatchable, multi-talented,
wonderful, NORTHUMBRIAN HANG GLIDING CLUB . . . made an old man very happy.
And as for myself?
I never listened to a word they said!
Distance for the day......33 miles.....not much when you
think of the massive distances which go into the cross
country league each week.
But the answer, well, for me lies in the competition on the day...Facing the
Fighting the same battles. . .and If you get lucky, winning the day
That’s what counts for me....and will always count....
Incidentally....did I mention that Nick Pain flew seventeen miles?
Jan 6th 1990