August 18, 2012

All now getting back on track again

Fingers crossed! I’ve now been here in Plazac for exactly two months and as anyone can soon see from reading My Trike over that period, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs of all sorts in that comparatively short time. But despite them all, I’ve never regretted coming here for a moment. I always said that I thought I’d enjoy a much better quality of life in my retirement here than I would have done in the UK and already I’m pretty sure that that will be the case. I love the area, the climate, the people here and my house and although from time to time, I do miss having company at the moment (besides Toddie that is), I have plenty to keep me occupied. And who knows what might happen on that score, anyway, as you never know what might be round the next corner, do you.

But the other big reason for coming was to spend as much of my time as I could flying my microlight in the freedom of France compared to the highly regulated and controlled environment of the UK and this took a real knock, of course, when I lost MYRO. But I always said that I would only ever see this as putting my microlighting ambitions back a bit and not as an end to my hopes and plans, and I’m excited to say that this is how it is now turning out, far sooner than I might ever have dared hope for 😀

A couple of things have happened that have made the unexpected possible. Firstly, I received the insurance payout for MYRO. The loss adjuster acting on behalf of the insurer was a pleasure to deal with, if it’s possible to say such a thing under the circumstances, and once all the formalities had been completed, I was pleasantly surprised to see the agreed amount already in my bank account when I logged on one morning quite a bit sooner, I have to say, than I originally expected. So it’s thanks to him and thanks to my insurer for making what could have been a stressful and depressing process as painless and quick as possible.

The other thing was that I completed the sale of my business, which I’d had on the market since before leaving England and had been involved in negotiations for, for several weeks beforehand. So it was with a sense of pleasure and anticipation that I was able to start scanning the ‘microlights for sale’ ads safe in the knowledge that if I did find one that was suitable, I could enter into meaningful discussions with the seller. The only problem was that because of the ridiculously high prices that second-hand machines are being put on the market at in France (see my earlier posting entitled ‘My Table and Chairs’ which refers to this problem), I was probably going to have to search the UK market for what I wanted.

This meant that I wouldn’t be able to inspect possible purchases myself, not immediately anyway, as with everything that I still had, and still have, to do in connection with my residency here, there was no way that I could just drop everything and head back to the UK. I got round this by contacting a few trusted friends who agreed to take a look at anything that I was interested in on my behalf and reporting back to me on what they’d found. I am indebted to Peter, Ken’s brother who is now flying the X-Air which Ken and I found in Lancashire some two or three years ago and which we worked together on to get it through its permit while it was at Linton, and which I’ve also talked about and posted pictures of on several occasions here on My Trike. I’m also indebted to Rick Goddin who, although we’ve still never met in the flesh, offered not only to fly some distance, if necessary, in his Sky Ranger to view any aircraft I might be interested in, but also to repeat the process with me on board if I then came over with the thought of buying it. Many thanks indeed to these two gentlemen to whom I owe a large debt of gratitude.

I have to say at the outset, that much as I’d like to have one, my budget precluded my going for a 4-stroke engined aircraft. 4-strokes have a reputation for being more reliable than 2-strokes, burning less fuel and having more power for a given weight. On the down-side however, they are much more expensive when new, and therefore push up the prices of 4-stroke second hand aircraft, and are also more complex and costly to maintain. So that meant I would probably have to look for an aircraft with a 582 Rotax 2-stroke engine, the big brother of the 503 that MYRO had.

I spotted a very nice Thruster on the AFORS (Aircraft For Sale) web site that had been upgraded to a 582 Sprint and that fell nicely into my budget. However, the asking price was a snip and when I phoned, the seller had already taken a deposit and was putting it through permit for the new owner. This was a shame as far as I was concerned, because it was a comfortable two-seat machine with good performance and with a good, strong undercarriage that would have been ideal for the kinds of runways we have down here. That didn’t leave many other realistic choices as I’d already ruled out a 503 or 582 Rans S6 because of its inherently weak undercarriage that would always make landings a nerve-racking affair. The Rans nose leg has a tendency to collapse when subjected to anything resembling a hard landing, which can be quite a common occurrence down here, and I couldn’t face any more traumas like that 😕

My thinking was similar to when I first decided to bring MYRO down with me to the Dordogne. After the challenge of the long flight down, I don’t need a high performance aircraft for touring once I’m here. Indeed, aircraft such as the CTSW, C42 and Sky Ranger even would find it challenging to operate from most of the many short runways in this part of the Dordogne due to the longer take off and landing distances they require. Also, I will be quite happy to fly slowly and enjoy the scenery, taking photographs and videos, which I enjoy sharing, as I do so. So that made me turn to the trusty X-Air, the newer design, big brother of the AX3, of which there were three on AFORS. I phoned and enquired about all three, and these were my thoughts on each of them.

The first one in Northern Ireland was a 2001 aircraft that was priced competitively at £5900 and had between 450-500 hours on it (the seller was not specific). However, it had been totally overhauled with new skins fitted in 2010 and there had been limited hours added since then, as the seller said he had bought it for someone else who had decided that he didn’t have the money for it after all, so he had to re-sell it! A bit of a strange business, in some ways. And also it was being offered as just the bare aircraft with no add-on mods or accessories.

Next there was a 2000 aircraft with Mylar skins that were fitted in 2010, that was priced at £6999. The airframe and engine had 325 hours on them and although the engine had been regularly maintained, it had never been overhauled. The seller said that the engine was in excellent condition and concentrated on singing the praises of the Mylar skins. However, the official life of a Rotax 582 engine is 300 hours, after which they are running ‘on condition’. This was also the situation when we found Ken and Peter’s X-Air a few years earlier, and much as it sticks in the seller’s throat, it does mean that the price of the aircraft must be significantly marked down as the new owner has to allow for an engine and gearbox overhaul costing £2000 at any time, no matter what the seller’s previous experience of the engine has been. The seller also suggested that this consideration was outweighed by the aircraft having Mylar skins. Now Mylar is not the same as Ultralam, which is what MYRO’s skins were made of. Ultralam is very UV resistant and as a result, skins made from it have very long lives. Indeed, MYRO’s were the original ones from when it was new in 1994, which emphasises this point. However, Mylar is made from the same material as Dacron and so has a similar resistance to UV and this means that Mylar skins will last no longer than Dacron if exposed to similar conditions. That means that the main argument for Mylar has to be one of performance, fuel economy mainly rather than airspeed as the latter is more or less dictated by the design of the aircraft’s wing. On this point the seller was vague and couldn’t quantify what the improvements were compared to a Dacron covered aircraft. I offered a price much lower than the asking price which the seller turned down and I see the aircraft is still on AFORS but at a new ‘final’ reduced price of £6650. I still don’t think he’ll get it, but who knows, but I crossed it off my list in any case.

This finally made me turn to the last aircraft on my list, a lovely X-Air being sold in Kent, not far from where I used to live. And it also turned out that the seller and I had a lot more than that in common. He had done his training with Rosie at Canterbury, the same as I had, and he’d finished it off in the X-Air in question, which he’d finished building in 2004. So in fact, Rosie had flown this actual aircraft. It also turned out that it had received its annual permit inspections from Jim, who used to inspect MYRO when Rosie owned it and although we’d never met, I’d spoken to several times about the original flexwing ‘our trike’ that Ken and I had bought when we first decided to get into microlighting, and when I first started to write the My Trike blog. So it’s a small world!

The X-Air was at Ashford, Kent (and still is at the time of writing) which meant that Peter only had a very short distance to travel to view it for me after my initial conversations with the seller. Here’s a pic of the aircraft in question.

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Although it was completed eight years ago in 2004, it still only had 135 engine hours and 120 airframe hours on it, less than a tenth of MYRO’s figures! It had never needed new skins in that time, of course, and had always been hangared meaning that its skins were in excellent condition, as Jim confirmed to me in a phone call. But it was being sold with a new, unused set of outdoor covers in any case, which I found a further attraction, being as the aircraft might have to be left out in the open for a year or so before I am in a position to be able to afford a new hangar. It was also being offered with an ICOM A3 transceiver package fitted that included a pair of headsets, which I also found attractive as my Vertex isn’t officially approved for use in France (or the UK for that matter) while the ICOM is (well, more or less anyway). It also came with a DUC two-bladed prop, which I’m told is a very efficient design, carburettor heaters to prevent icing, which are an extra, and a tail-mounted strobe which is also an extra. All in all I thought this was a great package and after Peter had nipped down to view it for me, the seller and I agreed a price and I paid him a deposit.

This was the easy bit done, and in fact this all happened a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to mention anything, however, until all of the necessary arrangements were in place and the final part of the jig-saw dropped neatly into position this morning when I received an email from the French insurance company that I’d been referred to by my friend Wim. ‘Insurance, what’s the problem?’ you might ask. It’s this. Just as with MYRO, I don’t want to keep the aircraft on the UK register because of all the hassles and on-costs that that would involve, especially if it was operated in France. So it will need to be insured by a French insurer who must be prepared to take it on initially with its UK registration, which will then be changed. I’ve had the same issue with my car, which I also have here and am in the process of transferring to French registration. And today I got the email saying that this is OK, that the change must be made within a month of the aircraft coming to France, which suits me, and detailing the costs involved. The main difference between France and the UK is that French insurers only offer ‘all risks’ cover, like I had on MYRO, on aircraft valued at 10000€ or more, so this excludes the X-Air and I will therefore have to carry the ‘hull damage’ risk myself. But surely lightening can’t strike in the same place again can it? 😯

My plans are to return to the UK to evaluate the aircraft and complete the purchase this coming week. There is a complication insofar as I can’t leave Toddie behind as he’s much to old to be left in kennels, so I have first to return by car to the UK with Toddie (Wednesday 22nd), complete the purchase and probably fly it to Headcorn airport (Thursday 23rd), carry out general handling and familiarisation flights at Headcorn (Friday 24th), depart for France in the X-Air from Headcorn, leaving my car and Toddie at my stepson’s (Saturday 25th), arriving at Galinat airfield in the Dordogne (Sunday 26th), returning to the UK by a Ryanair low cost flight from Limoges (Tuesday 28th) and finally, returning to France by car with Toddie (Thursday 30th).

And that should be that! After all this toing-and-froing, my plans for my retirement in Plazac should hopefully be back on track after all the upsets and disruption that have occurred over the past two months. I hope so anyway, but we’ll have to wait and see. In any case, I’m looking forward very much to the long flight down again and just keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will be kind – and that the vis is better, so this time I actually get to see a bit of France along the way 😀

August 16, 2012

Not quite the same old treadmill, but…

I’ve been feeling a bit miffed for the last couple of days. I came to Plazac to enjoy life in my retirement and leave the pressures of the daily grind behind, but I’ve found that apart from the odd few days, or so it feels anyway, when I’ve been able to enjoy myself just doing nothing, I still seem to be finding myself most of the time sitting indoors in front of my computer with the sun beating down outside. And not from choice either!

A couple of days ago, I put together yet another ‘to-do’ list and just about everything on it was time-sensitive. And that, of course, means stress – just how can we ever manage to escape from these things? The items, in no particular order of priority but just as they came to me when I jotted them down the night before, included

  • Go to post office, must send letters that have to be sent locally and to the UK (and that I already spent time creating anyway) …
  • Car, complete extremely complex paperwork to register it in France as one deadline already missed due to UK manufacturer only just sending paperwork required by the French authorities after several weeks, sign yet more paperwork received from the French insurer and, oh, complete and send off the paperwork to cancel the UK registration …
  • Microlight insurance, send email to possible French insurer that a friend told me about as I have upcoming plans (of which more later) and a fixed deadline now rapidly approaching …
  • French health registration, which I thought I’d done with, sort all of the papers including the ones completed by the office at Terrasson, which have been sent back to me in a wad by the health authority, get my birth certificate officially translated by a translator at the Court of Appeal of Bordeaux and send them all back again, together with the translation (yeah I know, don’t ask me 😕 ) …
  • UK Income Tax Return, fill it out and return it before the tax deadline …
  • Old business, disposed of some weeks ago, assist new owner for agreed time period …
  • Local microlight airfield, contact owner, check cost, availability etc …
  • Water company, pay latest bill before it’s overdue …

And so it seems to go on, a never-ending stream of paperwork that as fast as you get it cleared, another batch seems to find its way into your mail box. And, of course, all the more tricky to deal with because the emails and correspondence I write also have to be in French 🙂

But I guess that’s the game I signed up for when I came here and I’m only miffed really because it just seems to be never-ending. It won’t be, of course. The car and health registration will only have to be sorted out once and the microlight stuff too. The MYRO problems haven’t helped in that area either, of course. And paying water bills is something we have to do wherever we are – and at least I don’t now have the spectre of a monthly mortgage hanging over me these days, as I did before I sold my house in the UK. So on balance, although I grumble, and don’t we all, it ain’t really all bad 😉

But to finish off and show just how peeved I was, here’s a pic of me taken yesterday…

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Wochit…. who just said, ‘Miserable looking perisher…’

August 14, 2012

Not everyone’s idea of a square meal…

But for me a glimpse of foodie Heaven!

I’ve never been a great meat eater. I’m not a veggie by any stretch of the imagination and although I could go for days without eating any meat at all, I have no wish to be one. I like a good steak, a nicely barbecued sausage, a well cooked shish-kebab or succulent roast chicken as much as the next man, but I don’t have to have meat any more than I have to have potatoes or cabbage, which quite honestly, I rarely eat. Even before I came here I was already eating lighter, more easily prepared meals that, coincidentally also happened to be ‘more healthy’, although that wasn’t my principle reason for choosing them. I think the main consideration was that as I was mainly ‘cooking’ just for myself following my separation and divorce, I wanted things that were convenient, quick and easy to prepare and didn’t need a lot of clearing up afterwards, so I had gravitated towards dishes like rice, chicken, vegetables and, of course, salads.

Salads always have been a favourite of mine and as it has been pretty hot for most of the time I’ve been here, I tend to have one almost every day. I like to make a whole batch in advance, the way I did again this evening. I wash, chop and mix all of the ‘dry’ ingredients, like lettuce, radishes, carrots, onions and courgettes, then spin them to get any remaining water out and store the mix in containers in the fridge. Then I just grab a handful when I want a salad, add the ‘wet’ ingredients like cucumber, tomatoes and peppers and finish it off with some chopped cold meat or cheese.

And, of course, no salad is complete without its dressing. To me, a salad without dressing is like strawberries without cream, Guinness without a head or spotted dick without custard – look the last one up, you non-English speakers 😉 It just ain’t right! And the French, naturellement, are the masters when it comes to salad dressings. My local Intermarche has quite a few to choose from and I haven’t yet finished working my way through them yet, so I’ve still got a few treats in store. When I first came here, I started off with Vinaigrette Nature, which is quite simply vinegar with olive oil spiced up with Dijon mustard – but proper Dijon mustard, mind, not your phoney stuff. It was cheap and delicious and made any salad into a real treat. Next time I scanned the shelf and the one that caught my eye was Red Wine Vinegar vinaigrette with Red Onions. My goodness, when I tried it for the first time, to me this could have been the pinnacle of vinaigrettes and I was worried that I might have peaked too early 😉 But anyway, I stuck with it a few more times until yesterday when I found that it was also a favourite of the latest intake of tourists and the shelf had been cleared. Quelle horreur! But I didn’t panic because I knew that this being France, there was sure to be an equally delicious alternative to choose from, and I was right. Just a bit further along I found vinaigrette made from Vinaigre de Cidre, Jus de Pomme et Echalotes. It even sounds delicious, and although I also bought a bottle of Vinaigrette a la Moutarde a l’Ancienne (another traditional Dijon mustard recipe) as a back-up, I just knew that I’d struck gold with the first one.

By the way, while I’m typing this, I’m also enjoying a glass of rose wine, well-chilled or ‘frappe’ as they say in France, and a fine accompaniment to …… well, almost anything 🙂 Many people who know no better turn their noses up at rose but I used to work in the wine trade many years ago and know that all types of wine have something to offer. Rose is the ideal summer drink, light and fruity and if you’re too snobby to drink it, that’s your hard luck and you don’t know what you’re missing. The roses that find their way to the UK are invariably a bit ‘thick’ on the palate, heavy and over-sweet, but over here that definitely needn’t be the case. Just like the vinaigrettes, I’ve also been working my way through the roses (OK, and the whites and reds too…) and haven’t had a bad one yet. Everyone knows about Rose d’Anjou from the Loire which when bought in the UK tends to reinforce the rose image that I’ve described above. But Cabernet d’Anjou is usually a different kettle of fish (if you’ll excuse the description in relation to wine) being lighter and drier in character. And I’ve had some lovely ones in the last few weeks that have proved that. And I’ve also had some marvellous surprises. The Intermarche stocks rose wines not just from Anjou but also from all of the principal wine regions and many of these as well as being fresh and fruity, are also deliciously dry. The one I’ve just taken a sip of is AC Costieres de Nimes, a southern French wine from the burgundy region, which we usually associate with hot, red wines. But this isn’t – it’s light, fruity and beautifully dry but with 13% alcohol, which initially looks surprisingly high, but isn’t when you think of the region it’s coming from. And know what? It was under 3€ a bottle!

But enough of that, back to this evening’s salad. Here’s what it looked like before I sat down outside in the early evening sunshine and devoured it.

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Sometimes I enjoy a glass of white or rose wine with my salad but this evening I decided on a delicious cold glass of Cidre Doux, sweet French cider which only has a 2% alcohol content and goes down a treat. Often I like to have chopped garlic sausage especially or cheese on top of the salad but this evening I chose two chopped small frankfurter sausages instead.

And it was lovely and Toddie also enjoyed his share of the frankfurters 😉

Now after a fairly scorchingly hot day, it looks and feels as though we might have a thunderstorm, so I’ll bid you adieu and good night.

August 11, 2012

My table and chairs

Before I left England, I gave away lots of things because I just didn’t have the space in the truck to bring them. When my 7 tonne truck was weighed, as they are, on the way over at Dover, it was almost a tonne overweight and if I’d tried to pack any more in, I might have added the last straw that broke the camel’s back! One of the casualties in this was my old garden set, comprising a large four-legged oval plastic table (seen in lots of my MYRO repair pictures actually), its accompanying six plastic chairs with separate cushions in a tasteful shade of pink and the large pink sun umbrella that capped it all off.

I gave all of this away to a neighbour, along with my gas-fired barbecue and cylinder, but although I was sad to see it go, and it would all have been very handy to have down here, believe me, I don’t regret it for a minute. She loved getting it as much as I enjoyed giving it to her and she showed her appreciation by giving me a bottle of French wine before I left, which gave me a lot of pleasure.

Sitting outside my house down here wasn’t very much of a priority when I first arrived but as the weather has improved and it’s become hotter, I soon realised why it is that sellers of French houses around here often list an ‘outdoor’ or ‘summer’ kitchen in the list of attractions that their property has to offer. The reason is that at this time of year they spend an awful lot of time outside, sitting, eating and generally enjoying each other’s company. From time to time I must confess that I’ve felt quite envious when Jean-Claude has been entertaining guests next door with his family and the conversation, laughter and whoops of pleasure have carried across into my garden.

Well, I don’t have such a group around me yet to enjoy the space with me around my house, but it doesn’t mean that in due course I won’t have. And in any case, I want to be able to sit outside in the cooler evening air, under my lime tree, enjoying a cold glass of beer, cider or rose wine! So after I’d managed to get the grass cut and under some sort of control, I decided that I needed a set of table and chairs to allow me to do just that.

But where to look? Now I’ll be perfectly honest here. Prices of some items in France are truly horrendous compared to what I’ve been used to in the UK. I find this extraordinary because like me, French citizens can purchase things from wherever they want, so why pay 150€ for a clapped out, second-hand motor lawn mower when you can get yourself onto Ebay and buy a brand new one for less from Germany? That’s what I did, and I also did the same with my powered brush cutter for the same reason, but for some reason the French seem not to. I ask you, who did the seller really think would come along and buy a rotary mower, without engine and blade, of unknown brand and hand over the princely sum of 50€ 🙂 To be honest, in the UK it would have been a ‘down to the tip’ job, but not here apparently.

There is a serious side to this, of course. I’m not in any way a fan of unbridled ‘consumption for consumption’s sake’, but if you expect to hang onto clapped out old stuff ‘for ever’ and never send it off for recycling, how do you expect new stuff to be manufactured and enter the marketplace? When that process slows down or stops, that’s why factories close and jobs are lost, which is one of the reasons why the closure of a large Peugeot factory outside Paris has just been announced. Old 1994 cars are NOT worth 2000€ as sellers here would have you believe – in most cases they are only fit for the scrap-heap and recycling, allowing people to be employed building new ones so the process can start all over again.

But getting back to my table and chairs, my first port of call was therefore Ebay and what did I find? Just what I was looking for – a set of slatted wooden garden furniture comprising a folding table and four folding chairs, with arms because I just think they are important. The German seller clearly had a lot of these available so I decided what my bid limit would be and began to stalk my quarry. Time after time the French bidders (I’m pretty sure they were, because this was on Ebay France) appeared to lose their nerve and in the last few moments, the bidding went stratospheric. But eventually on a lot that finished at a weird time on a weekend, it happened and I acquired the set that I’d been waiting for. All that I had to do was wait now for delivery – and wait you have to, because for some reason over here, there’s no sense of urgency involved in getting stuff to its destination. A parcel that I’d arranged to be picked up in England on a 3-4 day delivery eventually got to me after 13 days and I had the frustration of tracking its arrival in France from England, seeing it somehow being sent to the wrong regional depot, then to the correct one and then being ‘out for delivery’ for day after day. Luckily what was inside wasn’t perishable 🙂

Eventually I got the usual call on my mobile from the delivery driver asking where my house is, and the two parcels were delivered. I cut them open with eager anticipation only to find that one of the rather attractive wooden chairs had a chunk sliced off one of the back uprights, which set me back a bit. Then came the assembly of the table. All went well until I came to attach the last of the three slats that run underneath the length of the table between the legs and, despite taking lots of care, when I inserted the securing screws at each end, first one end split and then the other.

My initial reaction was that I’d have only the slimmest chance of getting these problems sorted out with me contacting a German supplier in French, but it turned out that my fears were totally groundless. I took several pictures and after a few emails back and forth, during which I said that no, I didn’t want to return everything for a refund because despite the problems I liked the stuff a lot, it went quiet. Then a couple of days ago a parcel arrived containing a new, replacement chair. The driver said that he wasn’t expecting a pick up to return the damaged one but that he didn’t have a replacement wooden table slat, which I was therefore resigned to attempting a repair on myself. I needn’t have worried. The next day, back came the same driver with another package, this time containing replacements for all three table slats, two longer ones and one short one.

So what a fabulous supplier Deuba in Germany turned out to be! I already had enjoyed several evenings sitting out at my table and chairs, in the evening, sipping a cold drink until the darkness fell (or until the sneaky little biting insects became too much to bear 😐 ). Now that I’ve fixed the wood on my table my pleasure is even greater and when I’ve carried out a little fibreglass filler repair on the damaged chair back, so I’ll have five chairs around my table rather than four and can look forward with anticipation to having them filled in the not too far distant future with family and friends, my pleasure will be even greater.

I find that now that I have more time, the smaller, simpler things of life can and do give me great pleasure. Maybe it’s because now I allow them too, whereas before I didn’t, I don’t know.

To finish off, here’s a pic of me that was taken an hour or so ago, before I typed this post. And there’s Toddie too, enjoying the shade under the lime tree with me.

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August 11, 2012

So now what?

Well, first and foremost, it’s time to get My Trike back on track. A lot has been happening over recent weeks to do with things, people, my house and my new life here and I haven’t posted about any of it.

First, one small but rather sad event. Readers may recall that I mentioned the little brown mouse that chose to come and live with me and Toddie and made his home under my freezer. Unfortunately the little critter overstayed his welcome when he decided to come out to play every night in search of food, even though after I found he’d had the cheek to nibble at a nectarine I’d left out and the seal of a tin of chocolate biscuits (it’s a long story, my son bought them for my mother for Christmas and they ended up down here with me…), everything he might be interested in was safely packed away in plastic containers. Trouble was while he was out searching, he was leaving little calling cards everywhere – yes everywhere – that his search was taking him too, meaning that I was spending the first part of every morning cleaning up after him. And the agile little devil was so clever too – I still can’t work out how he managed to climb onto a table with shiny legs and an overhanging top, but Tarzan-like, he did.

So regrettably the time came to deal with him. From the number and volume of calling cards he was leaving, he must have been getting food from somewhere, so the only conclusion I could come to was that he was going out during the day and sneaking back in when my back was turned. This was more or less confirmed one day when I was sitting at the computer in the kitchen and saw him bold as you like strolling across the kitchen floor! So I jumped up and grabbed the broom in a Mrs Mop kind of way and the mouse, seeing this tore and hid round behind the mop bucket. I bashed the bucket with the broom in a gladiatorial kind of way and the mouse then shot out sideways under the sink where the two gas cylinders stand. I was ready for him. As he tried to race out from behind the left hand one in a desperate attempt to make for the freezer, I expertly parried with the broom and blocked his passage. He then spun round and dashed back behind the mop bucket, so I gave it another thwack with the broom and out he shot again for a repeat performance.

This happened a couple more times but when it comes to mouse speed and agility, man with broom is ultimately no match and on his final attempt he managed to do a crafty flip and twist that left me standing and allowed him to reach the freezer. But in doing so, he only increased my resolve as in the final event, man will not be beaten in the mouse stakes. And so it was that I ordered a couple of humane traps off Ebay but with three more killer-snappers as back up just in case my adversary didn’t get the message.

Things didn’t start off well when on their arrival, I found that one of the humane jobbies was missing its end cap, rendering it useless in the mouse capture and containment stakes. Nevertheless, I tried making and sticking a cardboard replacement for the missing part, stuck a lump of choice Camembert in it (of which more some other time…. YUMMM!) and plonked it down next to the freezer. Well dang me, I was in another room when I heard a sound and returned to see that the trap door (no, not the trapdoor…) had fallen, presumably trapping the little wretch inside. Success!

Er, no. When I checked, the little rodent had expertly removed the Camembert and escaped with it and was now enjoying a fine meal at my expense. Not deterred by this, which I concluded had to have been a total fluke, I did the same with the other humane trap and put it the other side of the freezer. In the morning I checked it and once again, the trap door had fallen and once again the little thief had nicked the cheese and taken it off. So I’m afraid that there was nothing else for it but to bring the big guns into action. It was a sad decision to have to make because I confess that I don’t like killing anything for no real reason. After all, what difference does one less mouse make in the whole scheme of things, so why not try to catch him and free him down the road, next to someone else’s house so he doesn’t come back to mine 🙂

But now I had no choice. Later that evening I set one of the snapper-traps with a large lump of smelly cheese from the Auvergne (at least I thought he’d go out in a bit of style) and within less than half an hour, there was a loud snap that made me jump. And when I got up to check, there was little mousey. I think he had a quick death but I can’t say that I feel any sense of triumph about it. I would have been happier to have caught and released him, but it wasn’t to be and sadly, things couldn’t go on as they were.

It’s lovely getting up to a clean kitchen and food area, but on balance I don’t think the world is a better place for having one less little brown mouse in it 😐

August 10, 2012

What happened next?

This posting has been very difficult for me. Some events mentioned in it were the source of great sadness to me, while the parts referring to Bob Thompson, who shows himself to be an ever more awful person as time goes on (see below), I have found extremely distasteful to write about.

The sequence of events I’ve described in my previous post meant that I was faced with something of a dilemma. All of my original plans had included the assumption that MYRO would be based at Mr Thompson’s airfield at La Vergne, just to the north-east of Rouffignac where I’d landed when I’d flown down from England at Easter. However, in my mind there was now no chance of this being even a remote possibilty in the light of the latter’s recent attitude and behaviour towards me and it was clear to me that I would have to find an alternative location as soon as possible. But apparently it was not so obvious to Mr Thompson who, in an ensuing series of emails that were in his wife’s name, although it was my impression that it was actually Mr Thompson using his wife’s email address, still tried to suggest that I should stay put despite his bringing our previously cordial relationship to an end by his actions. This indicated to me just how out of touch with reality he actually was but I’d forgotten, of course, that as he’d mentioned previously, the rent for the airfield was just about to become due and his main consideration was therefore obviously merely a monetary one.

The problem I then faced was finding a new location for MYRO having only just arrived in the country and having limited local contacts who could assist me in doing so. But I needn’t have worried. Regis had recently sold his aircraft that had been based at Galinat, an airfield to the south-east of my house and only about 15 or 20 minutes away by car, and had purchased a damaged Zenair as a repair project that would take him several months to finish. I rang him some days later when this thought occurred to me and he immediately assured me that I could take his place in the meantime. This was, of course, an enormous relief to me as it meant that I could relocate MYRO as soon as it was possible to do so, thus terminating any reliance that I might have on Mr Thompson.

Not unsurprisingly, I was not inclined to discuss my plans with Mr Thompson while I was facing such uncertainty and this culminated in a curt message from him on 30th May (bearing in mind that I’d only arrived in France on the 17th) demanding that I remove MYRO from his airfield before the end of the month. He has published an edited version of our subsequent exchanges on his web site with words subsequently added that suggest that he ‘kindly’ gave me the option of continuing there for longer on payment of an amount for rent. This did not happen – it was in fact I who said as shown in the exchange that as MYRO could not be relocated in the reasonably foreseeable future (due to weather and other factors) when I was able to move it, I would be prepared to pay rent for the whole of the time it was there. Despite the weasel words that he has inserted into his published version of our exchange of messages, I was told afterwards by Regis that Mr Thompson had said that if MYRO was not removed soon he would find a way of securing it and making it unmoveable, something which I told friends and family about at the time before Mr Thompson published his doctored version. I wonder why Mr Thompson should have omitted to mention this aspect and found it necessary to edit what he’s published to give a quite different, and more favourable (to him) impression of what he actually stated at the time?

The poor weather continued into June and whenever there was a small window, I was unable to do the flight because of other commitments. Moving to a new country involves a lot of work and I was deeply involved in making all sorts of arrangements to do with my house, the services and personal matters, some of which continue even now, but eventually an opportunity arose on Wednesday 14th June. Regis wanted to accompany me as he suggested that he coud then show me the best way into Galinat which seemed like a good idea, so we left his car there and drove over to Rouffignac/La Vergne to ready MYRO for the short flight.

As to what happened next, Bob Thompson, being the distasteful person that he is, has chosen to make up and post a totally fictitious account of events on his web site in an obvious attempt to discredit me. I’ll try to keep things as brief as I can, but while doing so, I’ll now give as full an account as possible of the events that actually transpired.

We untied MYRO and pushed it backwards from its parking place out onto the runway. There had been a lot of rain in recent days, including a very large thunderstorm the day before, but although the grass was quite thick and lush, I didn’t think that it was too long to take off on. We would not be that heavy either, which would help, because although two of us would be on board, there were less than 20 litres of fuel in the tank following my last leg of the flight down from Wanafaly, and as I intended to do several taxi and power checks, there would probably be only 15 litres or less remaining when we took off. This would still be ample, though, for our flight to Galinat which would only take 10 or 15 minutes at most.

The runway sloped downwards over the whole of its length (about 200 yards) which meant that landings always had to be up-hill and take-offs down. We taxied up and down the top half of the runway and I put in a few brief take-off power checks on the up-hill stages. These could only be brief because of the limited runway length available for them but at the end, all signs were good. We could only use the top half of the runway because then I could turn round at the parking area half way down, whereas if I’d gone further down towards the end, I’d have been unable to turn round without getting out and physically man-handling the aircraft.

We finally got into position at the top of the runway and I checked the windsock to see what the wind was doing. For take off, there was a light, somewhat variable, breeze from the right rear quarter but the tailwind component was small enough to be almost negligible. This meant though, that there wouldn’t be any nose wind either to help the take off, but my experience of doing maximum weight take offs on the short winter runway at Linton together with my (very) limited experience of down-hill take offs ie my single take off from the sheep field at Ken’s after MYRO’s repair, led me to believe that the conditions were acceptable to go ahead. So I moved the throttle to full power, held MYRO on the brakes to allow the power to build up and commenced the take off roll.

Acceleration from the standing start was very brisk as expected and although I’d hoped to be airborne by about half way down the runway, we were not, but had attained an airspeed of 40 mph. The take off speed is 45 mph and as acceleration had been good up to this point, I elected to continue as I thought it reasonable to expect that on the down-slope, we would attain that speed well before the end of the runway. You can imagine my shock and surprise therefore, when MYRO then stopped accelerating and failed to accelerate hardly any further, despite there being no drop in engine revs. In a situation like this, things then happen very quickly on a short downhill runway at 40 mph. My decision point, which had assumed as it usually does, that there would be some kind of identifiable problem in the early stages of the take off run with either the take off itself, or the aircraft, was by now behind us and there remained the big decision – What To Do?

It’s very easy for observers with hindsight, most of whom have never found themselves in such a position, and probably never will, to comment about what I should or should not have done in this situation, and several already have done so. To them I will simply say the following. Life is a series of judgement calls, some of which we get right and others we either get not so right, or maybe get just plain wrong. If we’re lucky, we scrape through the latter and after expressing how lucky we were at the time to get away with it, then learn from our experience and move on. Alternatively, if we are not so lucky, we get bitten, which some might suggest was what happened on this occasion.

There was long grass on either side of the runway but I had no idea or experience of what our chances would have been to turn into it and be brought to a halt in the distance that remained. There was also long grass after the end of the runway but the ground then fell away very steeply into a thick wood, and I had visions of trying to stop and still hurtling down the slope straight into the trees at who knows what speed and with who knows what consequences. So I decided to take the weight off the nose wheel, gain as much more speed as I could in the distance available and continue with the take off. I knew from MYRO’s test flight in January that the clean stall speed at maximum weight was about 35 mph and although conditions were now quite a lot different, I thought that as we only had to climb 10-20 feet to clear the trees, we’d be able to get away with it so long as when we cleared them, I could then push the nose down to build up airspeed and eventually climb away. And as the wood was on the down-side of a fairly steep hill, I thought that this was a reasonable expectation.

MYRO’s tyre marks showed that we left the ground at the very end of the runway when we had achieved an airspeed of only around 42 or 43 mph, compared to the usual take off speed of 45 mph. The usual procedure then is to hold the nose down to achieve an airspeed of 50 mph before climbing away. However, there was no chance of doing that as I had to keep the nose slightly raised in order to clear the tree line. We succeeded in that, by which time the airspeed had dropped back to 40mph, and if I had then been able to lower MYRO’s nose in order to gain more airspeed as I’d hoped, we still might have got away with it. However, on reaching the tree line, I was dismayed to see that despite the ground then falling away quite rapidly, the trees beyond were all at, or above, the height of the ones we had just cleared. This was not something that I had expected and I had no choice therefore but to continue holding MYRO above the tree level at full throttle with the hope that sufficient airspeed would build up. MYRO has a clean stall speed at maximum weight of around 35 mph but at around 39 mph or so, the right wing dropped and we were headed for disaster. A few moments later MYRO descended in the stall into the tree canopy where we came to rest, something like 10 metres above the ground.

Thankfully at that height above the ground, MYRO was wedged in the branches and neither Regis nor I had suffered a scratch. There are many stories of aircraft crashing into trees and the occupants not walking away afterwards but apart from the fact that we were uncomfortably tilted over to the right, it was a simple matter for me to switch the mags and master switch off and turn the fuel cock off. It then left us with the problem of vacating the aircraft as quickly and safely as possible, which was not an easy feat being as we were 10 metres above the ground, and at that point there was more of a danger that we’d be injured doing that than from the events of the previous few minutes. We were still both tightly strapped in and Regis had to open his door, which was on the lower side, before getting out onto the wing struts and finding a way down. Then I had to go out after him and do the same.

Regis found a way across the struts and within a few minutes was out and perched on one of the two trees that was supporting the right wing. I had to reluctantly leave my headsets and GPS behind in the aircraft and follow him and a few minutes later I was also perched on the other tree. We were both very relieved, of course, because we didn’t know how firmly MYRO was wedged in the trees and if it had tumbled while either of us was transitioning along the wing struts, a fall from that height could have had serious consequences. But fortunately, there we were safely hanging onto our respective trees with nothing left for us to make the descent down to ground level. I succeeded first because my tree was almost vertical with very few side shoots and branches but the tree Regis had chosen was leaning more and had more forks for him to contend with. But within a few minutes we were both safely down, sadly leaving MYRO suspended above us in the tree-top.

We made our way back to my parked car and naturally discussed what had happened. Strangely enough, neither of us was particularly shaken by our experience and there was no immediate explanation for it. MYRO had left clear tyre marks that showed it had used the absolute full length of the runway and there was no obvious reason why it had stopped accelerating while still rolling downhill, for the last half of it. Weight was not a problem and I also do not think that the wind was a major factor or that there was a fault with the engine, as the maximum take off revs were achieved at the start of the take off roll and although my eyes were then more on the ASI, I noticed no significant reduction in them. I think that there was a clue to a possible cause when we made our way out of the wood. The ground under our feet was very wet in marked contrast to what we had seen on the runway above. This indicated to me that after the very heavy recent rains, the water in the ground was probably draining down from the top of the slope towards the bottom. I had only visually checked the top half of the runway and despite all of the recent rain, it was firm and dry enough with the grass not too long. However, the ground in this area is rocky and non-absorbent and I believe that the water may have been draining downwards from the top of the runway towards the bottom making the lower half of it softer than the top. This I believe could possibly have created a lot of drag on MYRO’s main wheels, which are very small (and which were increased in diameter as a result when the AX3 was developed to become the AX2000), explaining why MYRO after achieving a speed of 40 mph in the top half, then failed to accelerate further. It also explains why MYRO should have left such distinct tyre marks on the lower half of the runway which it hadn’t on the upper.

It is easy to say after an event such as this that you should have done such-and-such a thing differently, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. A very experienced pilot friend suggested that I might have considered doing a couple of solo take offs before doing so with a passenger, and of course he was right. I also spoke to Rosie, my old instructor about what happened, and she reminded me of something which she had repeatedly told me on many occasions. When you intend to take off on a runway that you are not familiar with, you must walk the whole length of the runway before doing so. We are all human, are not perfect and make mistakes from time to time. On this occasion, it appears that this simple oversight on my part may have had disastrous consequences, but I can only be thankful that we lived to walk away from it and tell the tale.

So what happened next? Well, just to be spiteful and in an attempt to cause as much inconvenience and harm to me as he could, Thompson took and published pictures of the aftermath of the accident without my permission on one of the microlight forums of which we are both members, as an ‘entry’ unbelievably in a photographic competition! He claimed that they were taken in a ‘public’ place, which of course they were not, where anyone could have done the same and that ‘many residents of the village had been up to view the accident’. This, of course, was typical Thompson nonsense and rhetoric. His airfield is not called a ‘Piste Privee’ for nothing. It’s private, on private land that the general public have no access to, but he has no qualms about ‘bending’ the truth in order to justify his actions. He was made to remove them of course, but not before, as he had intended, they were seen by several people, which I would have preferred to have avoided until the many issues involved in the accident had been resolved in an orderly way. They now have been, of which more on another occasion.

Subsequently Terry Viner, a member of the BMAA Council and a man who evidently has brains in his boots, to my amazement took it upon himself to reproduce them and stir things up even more on the BMAA forum and once again after several members had expressed their disgust that in their experience, no accident involving an aircraft had ever been treated in such a way before, they and the thread that they were in were also removed from there by John Moore.

Because of the, in my view, prurient and intrusive actions of Thompson and Viner I will not now be reproducing any photographs of my own of either the aftermath of the accident or MYRO itself as these deluded people will only see this as somehow validating and even excusing their own activities.

It has been a while now since the accident, but amazingly Thompson still persists in his deluded attempts to cause me harm. He is evidently so motivated by bitterness and spite that he even recently went to the lengths of trying to smear me on a flight simulator forum of which I have been a long-standing member over many years, but he was given short shrift and kicked off there by the members who are mainly of mature years and can spot a trouble-maker like Bob Thompson from a mile off.

I am actually saddened by the way the Bob Thompson side of things turned out as he and his, in my opinion, long-suffering wife were of considerable assistance when I was originally deliberating about making a move to France. However, he is the only unsightly blot on an otherwise beautiful landscape and I am not sorry to have made the move here. And I will also not allow this setback to stop me achieving my dream of flying here in the Dordogne in my retirement – I just regard it as having been put back a little bit.

That concludes the story of what were for me the saddest series of events and as far as I am concerned it also now concludes the Bob Thompson saga. Under the circumstances, however, I feel that it had to be told but I do not feel that either I or My Trike have been enhanced in the doing. I intend never to mention his name again in any future posts and hope that I will not have to, as he has caused more than enough upset and disruption which has led in part to my not posting for far too many weeks. I now fully intend to get back to talking about my new life and my new friends here and the joys of microlighting in the Dordogne in my retirement.

By way of a final comment, some time ago while I was still thinking about making the move to France, the subject of ‘what Bob Thompson does with his time’ came up in conversation. ‘I help people’ was the reply which I have to confess I found a bit stomach-turning at the time. If how he has helped me is anything to go by, trust me, this man is no Mother Teresa. Bob Thompson helps people the way that Sweeney Todd cuts hair.