My Month of August – 2017 Edition

I’ll get straight into this month’s ‘what I’ve been up to’ post with the very exciting news that last week, I flew solo in a helicopter for the first time! Here’s the photographic evidence…


…and here’s the obligatory pic of me and my amazing instructor Matthew once I was safely back on the ground! It was only five minutes round the airfield, but it was such a sense of achievement. Today I’ve flown solo again, for 40 minutes this time (still in the circuit).


The first solo came at 20 hours’ logged flight time, at the end of a week off in which I had loads of helicopter lessons (six, to be precise), so the hard work paid off. There’s still a long way to go on the journey to getting a licence, but it’s a major step forward. I’ll put together a separate post with more about the first 20 hours of training for anyone who’s interested in learning more about it. In the meantime, here’s a still from the 360 degree camera we tested out on one of last week’s flights!

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Before my week of helicopter flying, Lee and I spent a few days driving around Belgium and Holland, beginning at Ypres and the amazing Sanctuary Wood Museum before heading to The Hague via Bruges and Delft. Then we went to Amsterdam before beginning the drive back. I’ve got more posts lined up with loads more photos from the trip, but I’m struggling to find time to write them up. For the time being, here’s one from Bruges…


…and another from Amsterdam.


This one was taken in Middleburg, in the Zealand province of Holland. The quiet residential streets reminded me of the little mews houses you sometimes stumble upon in the middle of London. (The dress is from Boden, and is my new favourite one on account of its having pockets).


When I wasn’t helicopter flying or exploring Europe, I devoted a good deal of my summer break to reading. I particularly enjoyed The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch, about which I’ll write more in my next reading list update (here’s what else I’ve been reading over the last few months).


In the garden, the agapanthus (pictured) is in bloom and the leaves on the apple tree are slowly starting to fall, signalling the imminent approach of autumn – the most wonderful of the seasons, in my view. In other garden news, I have been attempting to cultivate a pumpkin patch (Halloween being one of my favourite times of year). I was really excited to find a pumpkin starting to grow, and then pretty gutted when, a few days later, I found that it had fallen victim to our resident mouse!


In preparation for the arrival of autumn, I’ve been hard at work stacking logs for the log burner, which has already been called into action on a few chillier evenings this month.


What with the holiday, we’ve had little time for any other day trips this month, but we did have lunch in Cheltenham, where I was most impressed with the caryatids on Montpellier Street. These took me right back to my time in Greece during my classical archaeology degree, when we went to Athens and saw the original caryatids on the Acropolis.


I’ve also been down to Oxford a couple of times, visiting friends and helping my sister move house. The Radcliffe Camera never fails to impress, though I must say it does bring back scary memories of diving in there for some last-minute cramming in between exams!


This is the side to Oxford that most tourists probably don’t see – the quiet backstreets of Jericho.


It’s been a bit of a struggle getting back into a work frame of mind after having had so much time off recently, but a day spent working at the airfield helped to ease me back into the working routine. It’s been a while since I’ve worked down there, as it’s been so busy, but I enjoy being there when it’s just club members and instructors (rather than the general public), as I know most of them and it’s sometimes nice to be sociable when you spend most of your life alone at your desk at home.


The other bonus of working at the airfield is that it’s usually possible to hop in one of the aircraft for an after-work flight. In this case it was Wilhelmina, and I let Lee do the flying as it was just after I’d done my first solo in the helicopter and my flying brain was maxed out! It’s always nice to see hot air balloons when you’re out flying. We sometimes fly close to them (having checked by radio that they’re happy for us to do so), but on this occasion we couldn’t find the balloon radio frequency, so we didn’t!


The August Bank Holiday saw me travelling down to the far north of Italy for a client meeting across the border in Switzerland. It was a pretty awful journey, but the meeting went well and it’s always nice to be in Italy, even for only a short time. This was the view from my hotel room window.


I had a bit of a wait at the airport for my return flight home, so I settled myself somewhere where I could watch the planes taking off and enjoyed this simple meal, worthy of note because the large bottle of water and glass of wine cost the same: €2.30 (bargain for wine, extortionate for water!). In fact, the massive glass of what looks like white wine is Prosecco, and there must have been at least two flutes’ worth in there. They only charged me for wine, but the full price for Prosecco was still only €3. Reason enough to move to Italy?!


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