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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Making Life an Adventure

I recall that, as a small child, I was given tours around his iron and steel works by my maternal grandfather. He was responsible for the building of the world's very first 12,000 lb high explosive bomb called the blockbuster, and was later decorated by King George VI for his efforts. Grandpa Brooks kept a scrap book of early aviation feats during the first World War and later paid for my education at Bromsgrove School.

The 12,000 lb blockbuster built by my grandfather
My first job after leaving school was in a bank - a mundane job that I soon became bored with. I moved on to Imperial Metal Industries at their Summerfield Research Station where, on being shown around on my first day, my boss threw me a vial containing a colorless liquid. "Here, catch!" he called. I did. "What is it?" I asked him. "Oh, nitroglycerine." was the reply. I later found out that the liquid was indeed nitroglycerine, but that it was stabilized with NDPA (nitro diphenylamine). I worked in a laboratory preparing insulation materials and nozzles for solid fuel rocket motors. I believe that a number of military missiles were also manufactured there.

Outside of work I spent much of my time helping out at my dad's hotel - mostly serving behind one of the five bars. I was a member of a group of friends (the crowd) who used to frequently meet at country pubs to consume draught bitter. I also spent time either hitch hiking in France and Germany, or on a couple of occasions touring in a hired vehicle. But I was still not content, and so after much consideration, I applied to join the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy.

HMS Eagle at speed
My years in the Navy were full of adventure and thrills. I got to fly at 200 feet and below over the Omani desert, over the Malaysian jungle and the Scottish Highlands and, most of all over the sea. The flying was not without its moments. I recall flying over the sea low level when "ba-ba-ba-ba", four live thousand pound bombs fell from the aircraft before time and a quick thinking pilot pulled much g to become vertical and avoid any possible blast. I recall being involved in a mid-air collision between two Hawker Hunter jet fighters as well as a controlled crash landing of a third after engine failure at 24,000 feet.

The Hawker Hunter in which I crashed - and survived
On leaving the Navy in 1972, I decided to further my adventures by emigrating to Rhodesia. By the time I arrived there I had already visited some 24 countries - now it is up to 37! I will never regret my decision to move to Africa, although in hindsight I may have fared better on a different continent.
During my time in southern Africa, I got to add a few more countries to my tally and even managed a few free trips to Europe in the back of a sanctions-breaking DC8 full of Rhodesian beef. I became involved in repertory theatre, and spent many hours treading the boards. It was during this time that I had numerous trysts with some very beautiful ladies, got married and fathered a beautiful daughter. I visited numerous burned out farmsteads with an armored police escort, saw a few dead terrorists, but after the Mugabe take over I left the country and went back to the UK.

A burned out Rhodesian farmhouse
I had been appointed Senior Air Traffic Controller at Biggin Hill, Britain's busiest general aviation airfield. However government red-tape refused to recognise my Rhodesian ATC license, and so after six months - back to Africa and the Johannesburg's Jan Smuts International Airport. A spell there and at Abu Dhabi before I decided to quit ATC. Anyway I have to confess that I was getting a little long in the tooth for active controlling. I developed a keen interest in the then infant Internet, and secured a position at a large private school running their computer networks and administration computers. It was here that I got to meet Nelson Mandela. At about this time I met my second wife, Liz from North Carolina, on the Internet, and soon after she arrived in South Africa to visit me my then wife handed me divorce papers. Divorce had been on the cards for a long time and we had been separated for several years.

Martindale Farm
Liz and I got married, I retired and we purchased a small farm in Martindale, close to Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. It was there that I started writing, and when I last counted I had well over 6,000 articles published on the Internet. This was also when I started writing my memoirs, The Graceful Retirement of an English Gentleman which is now well on the way to completion, and of which this narrative could, I suppose, be called a precis.

Myself and Liz on the Dinner Train
Liz returned to America in 2012 when her passport was about to expire - we didn't want to risk getting a new one in South Africa. I stayed behind to sell the farm and eventually followed her 2 years later. We have now been married for 12 years without a single fight or argument. I am now well aware that I have entered the winter period of my life. I have certainly made it an adventure - one that is ongoing and hopefully will go on for a few more years.