You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
I took a few days to recover from my jet lag. I suffered from horrendous jet lag and the combination of summer, fasting and grieving was making it tougher. Thankfully, there were plenty of things to keep me busy and occupied. Despite the roller-coaster weather with temperatures lurching from one extreme to another, the garden managed to survive among the very tall grasses and weeds. Very messy and overgrown. Babe did his best to keep the plants watered but he wasn’t able to do any mowing. Unfortunately, the sunflowers and courgettes didn’t survived and the broccoli was literally covered with caterpillars. Pottering about in the garden, deadheading, weeding and mowing helped me to cope with my grief. It was my sanctuary. But not for long.
On my first day at work, my heart was shattered into a thousand pieces again. My best friend, CYH, had finally succumbed to her illness. Inna lilla wa inna lilla hirrajiun. I was grief-stricken when I called Babe and later informed my manager that I needed to go home to gather my thoughts. Thankfully. he was very understanding and told me to take the week off. I was no use in the current state of mind. I’m so thankful to him and my HR department for letting me have the space to recover. Babe was very supportive and very in tune to my delicate mood which I really appreciated. During times like this, hugs meant a lot.
We went for long walks at our favourite playgrounds to get some fresh air and clear our heads. As soon as we drove through the gates of Brandon Marsh, a stoat ran across the road. Oh what a greeting. When we got out of the car, a Kestrel was hovering over the reed beds. I think it must have spotted something, because it plunged to the ground but unfortunately came up empty-handed. The name Kestrel was derived from the French ‘crecelle’ meaning ‘to rattle’ a reference to the bird’s call. Similarly, tinnunculus in its Latin name meant ‘little bell ringer’, another reference to its call.
Around us different species of bees were buzzing on the yellow heather that were abundantly spreading in its glorious golden hues. There was a wonderful variety ranging from tiny bees, to honey bees and the great fat bumble bees. Heather blooms provided a very late source of nectar which helped the bees survived the winter and boosting egg production. It was lovely listening to the droves of bees buzzing about with a satisfied kind of hum sipping nectar from one bloom to another.
‘How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower’
Then it was time to head into the reserve. But I was distracted by the Common Spotted Orchids littered the swampy meadow beside the car-park. At this rate, I’ll never get into the reserve :-). There were so many of them that they carpeted the meadow with their delicate, pale pink spikes. The orchid got its name from its leaves which were green with abundant purplish oval spots. I found it hilarious that their twin tuberous roots had earned them the name Orchis which was literally ‘testicle’ in ancient Greek and their powdered roots were used as an early aphrodisiac.
As we walked along the corridor of the visitor centre, we looked up in the eaves and saw these 4 pairs of eyes looking down at us from their nest. These contented chicks seemed in no hurry to fledge but then with food on demand and a tranquil atmospheric nest, it was no surprise. We didn’t stay long because one of their parents had flown in and was waiting to feed them. The parents took turn to feed them by catching insects on the wing and collect them in their throats into compressed pellet of insects before returning to the nest. Watching the chicks waiting for their parents to return with a mouthful of flies was fascinating. The moment they detect food was on its way they leaped up with great big golden mouths ajar hoping they will be the lucky one who gets the meal.
We walked through the woods, as sunlight dappled down upon our heads through the leaves beneath a cloudless June sky. We sat in the hide at opposite corners gazing into the lake, listening to the cries of the Lapwings, Black headed gulls and Common Tern. Everytime, one of its parents flew in with a fish, the Terns chicks rushed out of their nest, screaming to be fed. They looked like a big ball of fluff. A bright flash of blue whizzed past the hide with its cries trailing behind it. On the island beside the hide, the long staying Fulvous whistling duck had finally woken up and was having a drink. A Great Crested Grebe suddenly appeared right in front of the hide and distracted us from the duck.
We continued on towards the very empty East Marsh Hide both in and out. The reeds and grasses were very overgrown too. We then popped to Teal pool where a flock of Redshanks with their long, bright red legs. They moved in erratic way while pecking and swept through the water with their bills. They later flew off with a white triangular wedge up the back and a wide white triangle on the rear with their agitated, far-carrying cries ‘tlu-leu-leu. They were known as ‘yelpers of the marsh’ because they were off with the slightest hint of provocation.
We also checked out the Santa Pod summer nationals. This was the 2nd time we’d been here and was surprised to see the place quite empty. But even then, all the best places had been taken. But, we didn’t mind because with our powerful DSLR cameras, we can take photographs anywhere. We trekked to our favourite place at the furthest end where the finishing line was. On the track, the qualifiers were blazing through the tracks with the smell of burning rubber, the deafening noise and the quarter mile of tyre smoke.
A drag race was an acceleration contest between two vehicles over a flat, straight distance of a quarter mile. Both vehicles competed from a standing start and the contest was run after qualifying in tournament style eliminations, the loser being eliminated and the winner progressing till there was one driver/rider left. The race was started by means of the 'Christmas Tree', a traffic light system in the centre of the track just off the start-line. The racing machines front wheels were moved into light beams across the start-line that detected the vehicle, these coupled with the finish line sensors activate individual time and speed clocks for each lane. The lights on the Pro Christmas Tree count down, amber then four tenths of a second later, green. The race was then on, first to the finish line was the winner unless a red light shows in that lane, meaning the vehicle left before the green and automatically disqualified.
There was a pre-race routine that consisted of running the machines across the starting line, giving them better traction. Before that, the drivers slowly pull up under the bridge and then revved up their engines for a burnout. It looked as if each driver was trying to outdo each other. After four or five burnouts, they pulled slowly into the staging beams while they revved their engines in a way that they seemed to taunt each other. When the lights turned green , they zoomed down the track with the front wheels in the air and flames coming from out of the header pipes. It was a total sensory overload and I could see why Babe was hooked.
There were many classes of race machine and eligibility was based on various requirements and specifications. These included vehicle type, engine size, fuel, vehicle weight and allowed modifications. Among them were the MSA Pro Modified, Nostalgia Fuel Car Challenge, Comp Eliminator, Super Pro ET, Pro ET, Sportsman ET, Super Street, Junior Dragster, Topspeed Automotive Street Eliminator, Outlaw Anglia, Funny Bike, Super Street Bike: Winner Garry Bowe, Runner-up Chris and Supertwin Top Gas. We tried to see as many as we could but after sometime, I felt that they seemed to merge into one:-).
We also checked out the grandstand which was free. But we didn’t stay long because we couldn’t get good photographs without being photo-bombed. People were walking, moving around, trying to find their seat and standing when the race was on. Spectators could also walk into the pits and among the race machinery. The crews, riders and drivers were quite happy to talk, but I think they needed some space when they were busy thrashing to make the next round! It was also a good chance for photographs and autographs but we didn’t take the opportunity.
Super-gas and Alcohol,
Not to mention Nitro-methane.
Engines revving high as hell,
To speed's beyond insane.
White smoke at the starting line,
Then pull up to the tree.
Get prepared to nail the gas,
And set your spirit free.
First the g's will throw you back,
And pin you where your seated.
Reaction time must be great,
Or you will be defeated.
You hear that big bore screaming,
The fuel a magic potion.
You take off like a rocket ship,
Your sled is set in motion.
Blower whine is piercing loud,
As nitro fills the air.
Halfway down the tires shake,
And give you quite a scare.
But you've been down this road before,
So wipe out any fear.
Get that bad boy straightened out,
You know how to steer.
You see the finish line ahead,
So keep that sucker floored.
And as you crossed that line,
The crowd around you roared.
You pull a cord to launch the chute,
To get that dragster stopped.
Such a feeling to win a race,
It's one that can't be topped.
ETA was under five seconds,
At 300 miles per hour.
Due in part to nitro-methane,
And 7,000 horsepower.
Yeah, Top Fuel is the life for me,
Couldn't live another way.
Now it's time to pack it up,
And come race another day.
~Brian ‘Ode to Drag Racing~
Babe and I completed the week by hanging out beside the Airport retail park compound. A bit strange to spend the weekend but we were waiting to catch a glimpse of the XH558, named ‘The Spirit of Great Britain’. The last airworthy Vulcan bomber, was touring the UK with a series of flypast to mark its final year of flight and Coventry Airport was one of the places it flew over. We were among the first to arrive and staked our place, which was right under her flight path. For about an hour, we stood there in the cold watching the traffic along the infamous Tollbar roundabout. We could see cars parked on the double-yellow line along side the perimeter of the airport fence. People started gathering at the park and there was anticipation and a bit of a party atmosphere.
When the Vulcan finally appeared in the horizon, smoking away in the distance with the unmistakable four thick trails of exhaust trailing behind it. She appeared to be just hanging in the air as if suspended from the sky like a mobile. As she thundered above our heads to the airport, we could hear the rumble of her Olympus engines, the whistling and the trademark howl. It circled a few times around the airport before flying back again and disappearing for good. I was videoing her every movement during this time and all you could hear were the sounds of cameras whirring away. Everyone waved and clapped. No one could keep their eyes out of the sky. It was a truly awesome sight and sound.
2015 will be regarded as the last flying season for this mighty plane, By then, she will have far exceeded the 250 flying hours promised before her restoration. This was because the three expert ‘technical authorities’, BAE Systems, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and Rolls-Royce have collectively decided to cease their support. Without that support, under Civil Aviation Authority regulations, the plane was prohibited from flying. When XH588 was retired from RAF service in March 1984, no-one expected a Vulcan to fly again without the supporters perseverance and determination. 2015 was going to be a spectacular summer because she will be making her presence at nearly all the air-shows but also a very emotional one. Air-shows without the XH588 will never be the same again but to paraphrase Dr Seuss:
“Don’t cry because it stopped, smile because it happened.”
This blog posting is in memory of my best friend,
Che Yoon Hussein (24th January 1953-23rd June 2015)
I’ll never forget this. We’d a good laugh cos she’d fish and chips and I‘d fried Mamak noodles.
“Remember the best, friendly words, kindly deeds.
Remember the roses and not the weeds.
Remember the pleasure, forget the pain…
Then only sweet memories will remain.”
Our last time together with my sister buying a t-shirt for Babe