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Just another vegetable

So many thoughts running through my head today, the day that sees the completion of my sixth decade. I’m too young to be sixty! Thinking of my mum who went through hell sixty years ago, only to be saddled with me. Was I worth it, I wonder. Thinking of my old dad who died last Halloween. My great aunt told me how he had gone home that evening sixty years ago, thinking his offspring wouldn’t be born on the thirteenth after all, only for me to be dragged reluctantly into the world around half past ten at night, six weeks early and the first to actually survive. There might have been four of us had we all lived.

Sitting on a rock in the sunshine it’s a glorious day for a milestone, perfect visibility with a nice fresh breeze that I’d love to get swishing through my rotor blades, were they not eight hundred miles away. Damn you, Moyle. No, it’s too nice a day to be spoiled by the snake. The sea is a wonderful shade of deep turquoise, beautifully accentuated with white breakers lapping the rocks and rolling onto the sand. Early in the season there’s plenty of room at the moment, but soon the locals will be crowded out for the summer.

The last time I came to Poldhu was a very different occasion. A bright and crisp winter’s evening, I walked down to the beach carrying my dad’s ashes in my backpack. It was remarkably calm for February with a gentle swell causing the briefest of ripples in the bay. The sleeping waters shone like a sheet of burnished steel that perfectly mirrored a scattering of low cumulus drifting above. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular sunset – it was just nice to see the sun! – but the evening was perfect all the same and as darkness fell in the chill of night, it felt right to set dad’s ashes free.

So many thoughts today, such a time of reflection was unexpected. Chris Julian, my autorotational mentor was killed ten weeks after his sixtieth birthday. I well remember how perplexed he was about reaching the milestone, he just couldn’t get used to the idea. ‘Tiz terrible when you’m sixty’ he would complain in bewilderment. His brother Terry gave him a £50 note to mark the occasion – none of us had even seen one before! – but unlike his shrewd sibling, Chris could never hold onto cash and this was no exception. We were all rounded up and driven down to the Port and Starboard to indulge in fish and chips and mushy peas, with the obligatory ‘big mug o’ tea!’ courtesy of Chris’s £50 note. Poor old sod, sixty was the end of the line for him, but I doubt he would’ve coped well with old age.

I had no plans to celebrate (never do) and the few people who matter to me are all far away. Next weekend is Whitsun. In normal times pre-Covid, I would be deep in the south of France now, heading for the Gyro Club Toulouse. Normally I would be with my friends by tonight. We would celebrate together the five May birthdays of club members, four of us within days of each other this week. I think of them a lot and hope that they are all still there when I finally get to return. We lost founder member Pierre Cena last year, the day after my dad died, and back in July, Gerard fell to a terrible accident that shook us to the core. But he was doing what he loved – what we all love at the Gyro Club – doing what binds us together and makes us family, what we will continue to do, remembering our big bear of a friend and all the fun we shared.

I can’t wait to fly again and be with my friends, to get my hands on my gyroplane at last after what seems like an interminable delay. To spin my rotor blades and feel them come alive on the wind and hear their song, such joyous energy – oh yes please! This is such a perfect flying day, I’d love to go to St. Merryn now and wind up the rotors for old time’s sake and catch the spirit of Chris and Tony. For now though, this sixty-year-old kid is going to sit on the beach and have an ice cream to celebrate my continued existence, albeit irrelevant in the great scheme of things – just another vegetable in the great stew of life.

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