Do I have a keen interest in aviation?
Would I happily sit at an airport all day watching planes take off and land and deciding which is a Boeing Thingummy or an AirWhatsit?
Probably not but none of that stops me loving John Gillespie Magee Jr's poem, High Flight, (he was killed whilst flying a Spitfire in 1941)
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Designated the poem for December 11th in Poem for the Day Volume Two, the book I have resting on the shelf behind the kitchen sink so that if you've got to be there you can at least read something nice, and this page stayed open for months,
And apropos of the flying connection, sometimes a book arrives out of that big blue yonder and knits together several others that have been lurking on the 'always meant to read' pile and a new reading trail emerges; all making one of the pleasures of a good book its hidden capacity to get me interested in absolutely anything if it's well-written and accessible.
So it was The Flight of the Century Charles Lindbergh and the Rise of American Aviation by Thomas Kessner (to be published by OUP on 2nd September) that started this most unexpected trail. Please note that I've tried hard to refrain from all the puns about the book 'landing' or the occurrence of a reading 'flight of fancy', it was tough but I've managed to stay grounded through this one.
Now I'll add to the list of doubts, what interest do I have in the rise of American aviation?
Not a jot, but I do have an interest in a life well portrayed. Charles Lindbergh of whom I know the minimal amount to be able to converse superficially and mostly gleaned from the film Spirit of St Louis starring good old James Stewart.
Well I opened it and that's been me done for over the last three days, unputdownable reading, a gripping and ultimately tragic and very poignant account of Charles Lindbergh's life, and my thoughts on the book on here soon.
But I have even more astonishment to share because it's now been confirmed and I want you to be the first to know ...at about 5.20pm local time, on May 21st 1927 Charles Lindbergh, piloting the Spirit of St Louis, flew over our house.
Yes really, and I'm some excited about all this.
Look, this very bit of sky and I've done a helpful little artist's impression to give you an idea.
'Well to the foot of our stairs I will go,' I exclaimed, 'He flew across Cornwall towards Plymouth, he must have flown over our house.'
Bookhound, by this time so beleaguered with 24/7 Lindberghia, knew exactly what I was talking about.
'Well, you'd need his charts to prove that.'
'They're in the book...I've got them here.'
Out came the magnifying glass followed by an agonisingly long perusing pause.
and here's the very delicately annotated version in case you want to verify.
'Weeeeell, I think that's quite possible, he'd certainly have followed the Tamar down to Plymouth, so he flew quite near.'
'Well at least past...'
'Oh alright then, Charles Lindbergh flew over our house.'
So, as I said, all confirmed and we might have a plaque made and put ourselves on the Lindbergh Trail
Meanwhile this aviation lark had me digging out a few more books that had been hovering (sorry).
With recent coverage of the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary tells the author's story of his experiences as a fighter pilot, shot down in the Second World War and undergoing months of treatment for burns at Archibald McIndoe's pioneering plastic surgery unit at East Grinstead, hailed as one of the classic texts of World War Two, we'll see.
I'm inclined to weave in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery because I have never read it and I really should have done, and can I find a copy anywhere on the shelves here? No, but there's a new Collector's Library edition out very soon, lovely little editions and I assume unabridged.
Alongside that I'm dipping into a book I've been staring at as it awaits its slot, (sorry it couldn't last) Aloft by William Langewiesche, a reflection on the first century of flight and how flying has altered not only how we move about the earth but also our perception of the world and our place in it. Aloft as a title perhaps slightly misleading, this being more about planes that have failed to stay aloft, but it's equally riveting in this brave new aeronautical world I find myself in.
If I'm really feeling up to pursuing this vapour trail further I may add in Alain de Botton's A Week in the Airport, an account of his week as writer in residence at Heathrow, for which he moved into the Sofitel Hotel, the Terminal 5 outpost and to the sweet background rumble of a plane landing every minute.
He probably deserves a medal, as do all of you for reading through this very over-excitable mess of a blog post.
Chocks away and any more aviation reading to suggest?