Learning to Glide

My instructor took me to the edge of the plateau and pointing with his arm down the hill said, “Can you see that long field some 500 to 600 metres away. That is your landing field. Don’t worry, it is quite a soft field and we have had it fairly freshly ploughed and raked, and spread some straw on it” He told me to take my long scouts socks off in order to feel the flapping of my trousers on my bare ankles. This time there were ten beefy boys at each end of the bungee.

My heart was pounding as if it was trying to leave my petrified body. They stretched the bungee to the full and I could hear the glider’s timbers and ply starting to creak underneath me. Eventually, out of my bone-dry throat, I managed to croak the word “Go”. The instructor released my tail and I was shot out like an arrow down the hill. Momentarily the rush of wind took my breath away. I was glad I had a pair of goggles shielding my eyes as immediately a huge fly hit the left glass and obliterated my vision with blood and the remains of his body. In a blind panic I pushed the goggles up on to my forehead and regained my composure. Luckily I did not encounter any further flies during this flight. To my surprise I found I could control the beast quite easily and concentrated on getting to my landing field. When I crossed the boundary my trousers stopped flapping and I sank very rapidly indeed to mother earth. With a sickening thump I hit the ground and stopped immediately. Jumping off I examined the glider. After such a thump I was convinced something must be broken. To my great relief I could find no damage whatsoever.

Very soon, a local peasant, hired for this purpose, with horse and a small trailer, joined me to take my glider back up the hill. We loaded it onto his trailer and holding one wing walked a very long way up the twisting field road. We were nearly at the top when the ruddy horse decided to have a rest again. On starting it gave a sharp and sudden pull. It caught me unawares and my aching legs could not cope. On falling flat on my face I let go of the wing which in turn fell on top of a few hard stalks of cut down bush protruding from the ground and I heard the sickening tear of the fabric. My instructor did a mad jig and told me to go with the glider into the hanger and repair it, under the supervision of peasant mechanics. So I spent the rest of the day and well into the night repairing the wing. Despite my shame I was

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