Wednesday, 30 October 2013

An autumn Saturday afternoon

The last weekend of October '13 was slated for the clocks going back by one hour and a visit to Norfolk to see a couple of dear friends.

Saturday, after a drive from the Midlands to one of my friends' farm near Old Stratton and a lovely lunch, my friend John and I set off to see Rugby Aviation Group member Gary Reid, who lives not far from John's farm and who has been building a Steen Skybolt in his garage over a number of years (he tells me 10 so far). Below is a picture of a Skybolt and what Gary's might look like after completion in what he hopes will be three years.
Steen Skybolt
We had an hour with Gary and it was surprising for me to hear how many people they had in common amongst friends and acquaintances. A nice introduction for my friend John,  who was impressed with the quality of workmanship and the tea and cake served by Gary's wife Sara.

From here we went to the airfield at Old Buckenham to see someone John knows, but unfortunately this chap had left the airfield just prior to us arriving. So off we went in the direction of another WWII airfield, Tibenham, near to which is Priory Farm, a small airstrip with some hangars and the home of Boeing Stearman restoration specialists Black Barn Aviation.
 It was in their restoration sheds that Martin Shaw's Stearman was rebuilt originally and after his ding illustrated by the picture below.
Martin Shaw surveys the damage of his beloved Stearman

John and I visited one of the hangars, which contained a Stinson Sentinel, the only one on the UK register as well as two beautiful Stearman biplanes, one belonging to Black Barn Aviation's Paul Bennett and the other to a private owner. As with Gary's Skybolt, the quality of workmanship on these American trainers was fantastic. Paul's partner in Black Barn Aviation, Bob Sage explained some of the difficulties in sourcing the right components for the restorations and where they can be found to cost of bringing components into the UK, i.e. shipping an important duties.

Sunday morning the weather was lovely, thought a bit breezy so we wandered around the charming city of Norwich, before meeting up with friend and ex-colleague Alan and his lovely wife Lorna for lunch in the Rare Grill. Whilst waiting for them to arrive we sat in the reception area of the hotel the restaurant is part of (George House Hotel) and spotted Napoleon Solo (The man from U.N.C.L.E.), the actor Robert Vaughn. He is now a frail looking 81-year old, but easily recognisable.
After a lovely lunch, a fond farewell and an uneventful drive back to the Midlands, we arrived home before the storm (that never came).

Theo Claassen
28 October 2013

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