After a frustrating two-year hiatus, I finally got back to the Gyro Club on the 26th of September 2021. Yay! It took a marathon trawl through post Brexit regulations: what can and can’t be brought into France (mainly can’t) – no fruit, veg, dairy, meat, cereal, etc – which considerably narrowed the choice of camping provisions. Next: proof of funds for duration of visit, date of return, proof of accommodation (my miniature camping car plus address of Gyro Club), additional vehicle documentation and a partridge in a pear tree. I even had the stupid new UK sticker ready for my van, another pointless piece of bureaucracy when everyone knows that GB stands for Grand Bretagne. Now, as a French friend pointed out, we appear to originate from the Ukraine. Cheers Boris.
I hoped all the boxes were ticked with the ever-changing Covid rigmarole, and all my ducks were nicely sorted in tidy rows. Fingers crossed. 8pm Friday, sailed happily into Roscoff and joined the queue for immigration praying I hadn’t overlooked some new form or regulation, but… Passport, pass sanitaire – now sod off, it’s dinnertime. No checks, no paperwork, nothing! A weekend living off powdered soup and pot noodles when I could’ve had my usual camping treats of fried Spam, eggs and mushrooms after all. So if you’re going to France, try to arrive at mealtime and don’t worry too much about the paperwork.
Arrived at the Gyro Club on Sunday evening after a nice steady drive down, nursing a failing turbo. All my good intentions about keeping a safe distance in case anything nasty had joined me on the ferry, well, that went straight out the window, swiftly followed by the hopeful theory that kissing was now verbotten. Wrong on both counts, but what can you do! It was a bittersweet reunion all the same. So thrilled to see everyone again and be greeted with such a warm welcome, but a Gerard-sized hole in our midst really brought home the sad reality previously numbed by distance.
At long last I got my mitts on poor neglected Delta-J. She was in remarkably good nick having been stood for so long gathering dust and a generous portion of mouse droppings, although I had left her trussed up like an explosion in a Chinese laundry. Two blissful weeks went by, pulling her apart and trying to remember what I had wanted to do to her two years ago when the time ran out.
That left one whole wonderful week to make up for lost time together, blowing the cobwebs away in fine style. Yet again I thank the veteran mentors who trained me so well on the gyro-glider. Because of them, rotor handling is so ingrained – even after a two-year break – it came back instantly and automatically. What a joyous buzz to hear the rotors sing again! Temperatures were still in the twenties even in October and as usual there was sod-all wind, so it was mainly a matter of booting lazy Dragon Wings up the arse with the pre-rotator to get them interested. They really don’t like warm air.
But we survived with new memories to treasure. An idyllic sunset patrol with the Pyrenees silhouetted against a golden afterglow, the moon rising in perfect balance as the sun dipped below the horizon. A squadron fly-out to Sabonneres scrambling to keep up with the big boys, not forgetting two memorable backseat rides to Auch and Luchon, a spectacular flight through the mountains that I would never dare attempt on a screaming two-stroke. Merci beaucoup, Eric et Pierre.
Once again I find myself wondering how I got to be so lucky.
A bientôt et l’année prochaine.