As 2018 draws to a close, I’d normally be writing a post of all the highlights of the year. But to be honest, I’m very glad to be seeing the back of what’s been, on the whole, a pretty awful year, and I think my time is better spent trying to get through my huge backlog of blog posts rather than trawling up memories I’d rather forget! With that said, December has been an unbelievably busy month, so here’s a look back at what I’ve been up to.
As always, I’ve been doing a fair bit of flying, mostly in the helicopter, taking advantage of some beautiful crisp winter days to do some more challenging flights into various different hotels with my old instructor Matt. This was the view when I arrived at the airfield on one such day (sadly the Twin Squirrel was not my ride for the day!).
This was taken at the Fish Hotel, near Broadway.
And this one at the gorgeous Buckland Manor, also near Broadway. This was an instant hit due to the beauty of the hotel and the friendliness of its staff. I’m already planning a return visit!
Just before Christmas I went on an exciting flyout with the Heli Air gang in five helicopters. We landed first at Birmingham Airport and I was flying at the front in the R22. This excellent photo was taken by Matt while I was flying. It’s not often you get to fly into a major international airport, so it was quite an experience (I was very glad Matt was doing the radio!).
This was the view from our parking spot.
We were there for a tour of the air traffic control tower (the new one, not the old one that you can see in the photo above), which was most interesting. Even better, it coincided with the arrival of an Emirates A380 – always an astonishing sight on account of its immense size relative to other airliners.
From Birmingham we flew on to lunch at Barnsdale Lodge in Rutland. You can just about see all five helicopters landed side-by-side in this photo.
The landing was a slightly tricky one as it meant dropping into a small fenced area, right alongside another helicopter. Much precision needed!
Earlier in the month I went down to Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey and added a new type to my log book with a flight in this nifty little helicopter, a Cabri G2, with my friend Dave.
The reason for the trip was to fly down the London heli routes, which is an incredibly exciting experience for a helicopter pilot. You’re not allowed over central London in a single-engine fixed wing aircraft, but you can in a helicopter providing you stick to clearly designated routes and follow the correct procedures talking to Heathrow on the radio (which luckily Dave took care of!!). The views are absolutely spectacular flying along the Thames (H4 as this stretch is known in heli speak!).
I’ve done a couple of ground-based trips this month, too. The first was up to Newcastle to visit my grandparents.
I had a nice little wander around first thing in the morning, when there were few people around.
I had breakfast at the Sage, a concert hall on the Gateshead side of the Tyne.
I then took a train up the beautiful coastal route to Edinburgh, where a friend of mine was conducting the ballet ‘Cinderella’, and we had an excellent afternoon exploring the city before the show. I couldn’t believe it had been more than twenty years since I was last in Scotland! This was the view from the wonderful restaurant where we had a nice long, boozy lunch (it’s called The Outsider and I highly recommend it).
Despite the perishing cold, Edinburgh proved to be the most magical place, particularly in all its festive glory.
I just adored this incredible Christmas tree hidden away down a little alleyway.
The Christmas market was wonderful, too, and I even managed to find a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a helicopter!
Next morning I just had time to head over to Victoria Street to capture this photo before my train back to Newcastle. Unfortunately it was shop delivery time, and this was as lorry-free as I could manage!
At more or less the opposite end of the country I enjoyed a weekend in London with some pals from the Italy retreat I went on in October. One of our number is an actress and she’s in Dr Faustus at the Globe, so we had a delightful lunch at the Swan before watching her in the play.
These gorgeous townhouses are right alongside the Globe and looked inviting with their Christmas decorations.
London can be quite magical too – especially that skyline.
It looks lovely during the day too…
From London I went straight to Heathrow and flew out to Italy/Switzerland for my final work trip of the year (my flight home was my 28th international flight of the year!). It was another long day of meetings, but I managed to get out for some fresh air at lunchtime.
I couldn’t resist this shot!!
I only had a couple of days at home before heading down to my parents’ for Christmas, but I took the opportunity to stroll around the village admiring the Christmas decorations and general wintryness of everything.
Including, of course, my favourite spot by the fire at my local pub.
This was Stratford-upon-Avon on a rainy day when I should’ve been flying.
Down in Wiltshire with my family for Christmas, I enjoyed the company of this absolute little sweetheart.
We went for some nice walks.
Found another dream house!
I explored the lost village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, which I’m in the middle of writing a detailed post about.
And I went down to visit my brother and his girlfriend in Hampshire. We had a nice walk in the New Forest and saw some horses (not pictured).
One way or another, I’ve barely had time to breathe this month (which is why I still haven’t got round to blogging about Hong Kong!)! I’m now busily making plans for 2019 and hoping that it’ll be a better year than this one has been. I’ll end with this photo taken on Boxing Day by my very talented brother Andrew.
Wherever you are and whatever your plans for 2019, I wish you a very Happy New Year!