Tuesday 30 March 2021

A VIEW OF CHICHESTER HARBOUR - Sunrise from Langstone

Tom's daily walk....

Tom Bowman and I have travelled all over South America when we were colleagues at Microsoft. And later, when we were both working at the BBC, on one jaunt we were both stranded in HK, then Dubai and then Istanbul.  The world ground to a halt from the dust cloud in 2010.  

Now there's less travel and more time to think and write. Thank you Tom.

Chichester Harbour, early hours at Langstone

It’s usually first light when I set off down the track and across the fields to the Chichester Harbour shore at Langstone. Just before the sun appears, the birds in the hedgerow look at you quizzically and a little proprietorially, the path is their domain it seems at that hour. 

A corner of the harbour I like is by the Royal Oak, reputed to have been an 18th century resting place for smugglers including the notorious Hawkhurst Gang.  From here at low tide you can see the remains of the Wadeway, the path across to Hayling Island used when the ferry wasn’t running. It predates the railway, and the later road bridge, perhaps all the way back to before the Romans.  No-one fancies it today!

Langstone with its pretty cottages, sometimes sandbagged against high water, old mill and associated pond and gorgeous views is a popular spot.  

Best time to be there if you prefer it quiet is right around dawn.  Sometimes you will be totally alone with just the ever-changing view and resident and migratory birds for company.  But there is an early morning community of regulars.  Some are now on first name terms, maybe won over by my fussing over their dog, others are still on comment about the weather or just nodding terms. The early hours allow for more private hobbies, like the middle-aged mum who sits and draws or writes under the same oak tree every week.

Tarry at home for another hour before setting out though and the shore front is transformed with runners, multiple dogs and even prams.  Some people add to the human detritus along the shore, others are dedicated to keeping the place clean. Aside from high summer the litter pickers have it under control.  The birds don’t seem to mind too much either way.

Some mornings I can walk east along the shore as far as Emsworth and hardly see a soul.  Often though I’ll take the track beside the woods and fields of Warblington Conservation Area, past the Saxon era church and the ruins of a castle destroyed by the parliamentarians in the civil war.

Time to get home for breakfast.

Walk with Tom most days right here <link>

Friday 26 March 2021


My good friend Dave who piloted Boeing 747s concludes his absorbing three-part part story, “A view from the flight deck”; absorbing insights and an incident or two.

Dave comments:
"I used to go to Narita at least once a month for seven years.  In winter time, and it being a morning, departure from NRT, the sun would start off behind you, gradually move along the horizon on the left side, go down for a while (we got to 1448 nm from the North Pole), then come up as you approached Europe from St Petersburg and as you got towards LHR it would set again before landing". 


Now and then we would be treated to some spectacular Aurora over the northern latitudes. Over the tropics we would get some energetic light shows from massive thunderstorms, especially during monsoon season over India and Africa. On occasion had to deviate up to a hundred miles to get around them – some of which were monsters, over 60000 feet to the tops, which could cause major problems even for a  jumbo. Altogether best avoided and first-class passengers don’t like having aerial tours of the cabin unexpectedly.


The best views are the ones coming into faraway places. 

Places like Sydney, Vancouver and San Francisco with their harbours, landings into islands where the runway, often built out into the sea, sometimes seemed bigger than the island itself and of course the old airport in Hong Kong with its low approach over the local population…. the view just before landing was always more dramatic from the passenger cabin. 


 As for the hours spent up the front during cruise, when everything was going smoothly and no storms or turbulence to cope with, most of the time was idled away with magazines/papers, or, for the more dedicated, time read the manuals to refresh technical knowledge.  


It was officially sanctioned by the authorities that in quiet phases of flight one pilot could push his seat back clear of the controls and take a nap as it was considered better than both pilots staying half awake.  Cabin crew are required to check on the crew every 30 mins in cruise (just in case) and consequently an awful lot of tea is drunk.


In the days before the 9/11 lock-in, passengers would also come up for a visit and ask inane questions but it was fun and kept us busy.  I once had 7 children and some adults in the cockpit of a 777 (which was much larger than the jumbo) and keeping them from twiddling things was like playing whack-a-mole.


I spent over 6500 hours doing about 650 flights on the jumbo and never had any major technical problems. It was a superbly reliable aircraft and was built to withstand everything thrown at it.  



Modern aircraft are so well designed and built that the biggest problems were, and are, nearly always caused by people….. mostly from passengers on board but sometimes caused by external events….



I was on the way to San Diego coming up over Greenland when we got the message that US airspace had shut and then Canada also weren’t letting flights in. Nothing we could do but turn back and so after 10 hours airborne we ended up back in Gatwick.

The hardest part of that day was going around the passenger cabin pretending not to know what had happened and explaining that we weren’t being given any updates.  I’m not a good liar but it was a case of having to. Some very worried people got off that evening.


Editor’s Note:


Dave, thank you very much for three great pieces! The jumbo was, is a great plane and your writing has brought the whole experience of flying one to life - GREAT VIEWS!


Wednesday 24 March 2021


Lockdown creates many opportunities to reach out to old friends. 

Reconnecting with Paul James now living in Dubai was a bonus, and naturally I asked for his view...


Friday 19 March 2021



Continuing the series ‘A view from’ my good friend Dave who piloted Boeing 747’s resumes his three-part part story, ‘A view from the flight deck’, fascinating insights and an incident or two. The average person works 1645 hours a year. Dave’s time on Jumbo Jets equated to 3.95 working years.


Preparing for flight comes in two stages as for any aircraft type – the planning stage in the office where all aspects are considered – weather, passengers, cargo, aircraft technical status, fuel requirements, etc.  Once these have been decided each crew member has designated tasks and, once at the aircraft, one person will inspect the aircraft externally, which can take over 20 minutes, and liaise with the engineers, refueller and ground crew. The other crew will carry out the flight deck preparation brief the cabin crew.  


The actual flight deck prep takes two people about 30 mins on the older jumbos but only requires one of the pilots on the -400 … much quicker as many of the systems are automated and just required setting up rather than going round testing each one.  The remaining time is then devoted to setting up the navigation computers for the proposed flight, dealing with air traffic control and then figuring out how to get out to the runway.  Getting around some airports is sometimes much more difficult than actually flying there in the first place, particularly in the USA. Making a wrong turn in a jumbo can be quite embarrassing. Once these basics have been accomplished it’s then time to brief each other and agree a plan.

All that takes about an hour.  


View from the cockpit…. Same as any other airplane except that there was a lot more time to take it in and to realize there is a lot of this planet with apparently not much going on.


We used to refer to certain desolate areas as the ‘GAFA’s…

1.              The ‘Great Arctic Fuck All’ for the frozen wastes of northern Canada

2.              The ‘Great Australian Fuck All’ for a large part of the Aussi mainland…. 

around four hours of not much at all changing…...and Siberia, en route to Japan, was another case entirely…. eight hours of even less.  Always felt sorry for the poor Russian controllers shivering away on the ground below.


A lot of long-haul flights occur at night, so the view was mostly darkness and not much to look out for apart from other aircraft. Particularly so over Africa where there was no effective air traffic control from Algeria to Zimbabwe. We spoke to each other on a special frequency and offset our individual navigation systems to avoid any close encounters.




Shortly after settling down into cruise on a full flight from Jamaica to Gatwick, and the purser came in and told me a passenger was having a fit.  Two minutes later his heart had stopped and two nurses were giving him CPR. He then died.

We had no choice but to divert to nearest suitable airport which was in Puerto Rico.  Dumped 45 tonnes of fuel into the Caribbean sky and landed in San Juan with 400 people in the middle of the night and no US visas. 

The coroner was called to certify the dead man dead* but he was drunk and crashed on the way to the airport. He eventually arrived and we deplaned the young man. (He was a 24 year-old drugs ‘mule’ and the little bags of cocaine had burst in his stomach).

However, having spent four hours on the ground and refuelled, the crew had now run out of duty hours available and we couldn’t get back to UK legally so the only option was to return to Montego Bay.  Another 45 tonnes of fuel dumped over the Caribbean.

On disembarking a few of the passengers thanked us for a lovely flight hoped to see us again soon (that day).



 On a flight from Heathrow to Beijing we had an escorted Chinese passenger being returned under extradition and handcuffed to two Border Agents but, being a half empty flight, a whole cabin section had been closed off for them.  Flying up over the Baltic Sea a young woman had worked out what was happening and decided to free the convict and attacked the border agents.  


The cabin crew pulled her off but the captain (a good friend) decided we didn’t need another eight hours of disruption and so we dumped a load of fuel and landed in Helsinki. Two Finnish special forces guys boarded the aircraft at the rear door and I escorted them up to meet the ‘problem’ at which point she turned round and kicked one of them in the veg department.  Her feet didn’t touch the floor again but most of the rest of her body did on the way to a black van.  She had to make her own way back to UK and her family were charged £25000 for the refueling.  

Saturday 13 March 2021


My good friend Dave who flew Boeing 747’s begins a three-part part story; He shares fascinating insights and an incident or two.

A big beast on all counts and required a good deal of respect and forethought.

First impressions?  It’s big in every direction, except the flight deck, which has to be the same size as any other commercial airliner.  Each of the pilots has to be able to reach all the important bits from either seat. Earlier 747s had three crew; two pilots, and an engineer, because the flight deck was quite complicated with old-style technology – especially the flight engineer’s station. The newer 747-400 was a 2-crew aircraft and much more refined… and quieter.


The flight deck itself is about 25 feet above the ground (third floor of a townhouse!) so the first sensation is how high up you are. There are no opening windows in the cockpit and it’s a long walk down to the ground, so a horn is fitted to the nose gear bay to attract attention.


Taxi-ing the aircraft requires mental adjustment from previous aircraft because the sensation of speed is much reduced and a groundspeed monitor (speedo) is used to stop you going too fast around the taxiways. Making turns is also an art as the aircraft pivots about the main wheels which are about 90 feet behind the person steering them.


For the same reasons, taking off for the first time felt very strange as it felt as if you weren’t accelerating and had to be confirmed by use of instruments.  Also on previous smaller aircraft, the engines were relatively close by and the noise became part of your feedback of aircraft behaviour but the jumbo engines are much further away and so engine instruments (like car engine rpm) were a more important part of instrument flying.


Landing a jumbo is equally challenging as the main wheels are touching down about 90 feet behind the cockpit and the pilots are still about 50 feet above the ground.  Then there’s the necessity to bring 250 tons doing 150mph to a stop in less than the available tarmac in front.  There are sixteen big tyres to do the job.


Now we come to the size and weight of the 747.  A big beast on all counts and required a good deal of respect and forethought. The   747-400 weighs just under 400 tonnes fully loaded, of which nearly half is fuel – some even carried in the tailplane.  Take-off speeds are around 160 knots which translates to 180 mph and at hot and high airports where the air is less dense, like Johannesburg for instance, the actual (True) speed is over 200 mph to get airborne.


Once in the air the handling is beautifully balanced…. I was once told by a training captain to “treat her like a lady and she will respond to your wishes” i.e., she doesn’t like to be thrown around. 




A favourite. In Kingston I was taking over a flight from London to fly it on to Mo’ Bay.  The inbound crew had had a problem with a drunk loud-mouthed British couple and requested the police on arrival. Just before landing the man had attempted to steal some belongings of a neighbouring passenger.


Jamaican police are not small fellows and I observed the man was being escorted down the steps and then he swaggered off to the terminal.


Back at the airport the next day I spoke to a lovely BA operations girl and asked what had happened to him.  His girlfriend was being escorted back to the UK on my flight and the boyfriend was now residing in Kingston jail.  A white man.  She said the first thing that the other ‘guests’ do is to punch out their teeth… so the white honky can’t bite…. She then added, with a giggle, that his girlfriend might not want him back. 




Wednesday 10 March 2021


Annagassan Port, County Louth, Ireland on a beautiful February morning.   

Annagassan is on the truly and thankfully undiscovered east coast of Ireland, there’s still plenty of activity at the port and if you look closely enough you might even see one or two fishing boats out on the water.  This is an area steeped in Viking history and as you look out you can see the Cooley and Mourne Mountains sweeping down into the sea (as the song goes).

Low Water at Annagassan

When I moved here people thought I was mad and now think I’d be mad to ever leave.  Some say....’wow from London, Sydney, Singapore, New York to here’ and I’m like ‘yeah amazing right, how lucky am I’.


When the world gets crazy or things get jumbled I come here and often realise I’ve been holding my breath.... for how long I wonder ?! now I’m here I can EXHAAAAALE.  From home to the port is an 8-minute walk/2 minute drive.  I’m always keen to walk myself and the dogs the whole way, they however love nothing better than to jump in the car so we can whizz down here as fast as possible.  I mean why waste valuable time walking when you could be spending more time at the sea.  

Currently closed, the Glyde will open its doors soon we hope


Sometimes we’re completely alone like this morning.... just us, the sound of the sea and the birds.  Other times we meet friends including the four-legged kind.  Whether the tide is in or out it’s our sanctuary and I feel blessed to be here.

My thanks to dear friend and former colleague Aileen Markey. 

She now runs https://unglu-d.ie 


Are you a Coeliac or Gluten Intolerant ?...Unglu-d is the place for you. We’re a dedicated gluten free business designed to help if you’re new to a gluten free diet or on the diet for some time and looking for new ideas. We have our own range of products, run introductory baking classes and also share news on products, recipes and events.

Tuesday 2 March 2021


From a photograph by PJ Leher   https://www.instagram.com/pjlehrer


 you stub your toe on the miracles of Modernist architecture sooner or later you’ll discover Mies van der Rohe, (1886 – 1969) the Prussian titan of the Modernist movement, last director of the Bauhaus, a man for modern times. Get this far and you’ll find the Seagram Building! A black shimmering lovely that lives at 375 Park Av. New York  


Completed in 1958, it is a proud 515 feet tall, designed as the corporate headquarters of Seagram and Son, the Canadian distillers. The CEO’s daughter Phyliss Lambert gave ‘Mies’ (that is how we refer to him by the way) an unlimited budget. What she and her dad got was one of the most influential buildings in the canon of American architecture. Oh, and at a cost of $41 million it was the world’s most expensive skyscraper at the time of its completion. 



he building’s 38-story structure combines a steel moment frame, a steel and reinforced concrete core for lateral stiffness. In terms of its construction approach, it grabbed a number of ‘firsts’ for the use of concrete and steel.


The Seagram Building and the Lever House across Park Avenue set the architectural style for New York City skyscraper for several decades. Lever House was covered here in October https://draft.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/5255565130713497508/4663686501684903198


Joseph Seagram sold the building in 1979, today it is owned by Aby J. Rosen the West German-born American real estate tycoon who lives in New York City. As the co-founder of RFR Holding, which owns a portfolio of 71 properties across the US. I am sure the Seagram Building is a favourite, not least because it has three restaurants. Perhaps Aby gets a discount?



ies called his buildings "skin and bones" architecture. He was always concerned with expressing the spirit of the modern era. He is often associated with his fondness for the aphorisms, "less is more" and "God is in the details".


Mies van der Rohe did a lot of impressive work in Germany in the early part of the 20th century; until he left 1937. The Bauhaus was closed in 1933, having been raided by the Gestapo in April of that year. 


He settled in Chicago and worked from his studio there for his entire 31-year career in the US. He created over 40 significant buildings in the US and Canada. Returning to Germany in 1968 he designed the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.


Best-ever profile here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Mies_van_der_Rohe