Flights of Imagination

At Old Sarum, in Hangar 1 just along from the airfield cafe, is a door to a world of legend and history. Entry is £8.50 for adults (sorry, I can’t remember what the childrens entry fee is) and as you walk down the corridor from the shop and reception desk, it’s all very unassuming. You walk into the hangar and find faded and ancient museum exhibits – a dented wing tip of a WW2 plane, a mannekin in a glass case sporting a WW2 flying suit, old photos but as you politely stop to look, and the children are wondering what on earth they are doing here and about to ask if they can go back to the shop to ‘get a plane’, the smell of oil, of grease hits you and you turn to see the hulking bodies of planes, all sorts of planes, fat, thin, young, old; all lovingly restored (or in the process of being so) and ready for young eyes and old hearts to touch, explore and witness for themselves the glory days of aviation. If you’re really lucky one of the founder members of the collection will be there to share their considerable knowledge and expertise and guide you through and answer questions, whilst over the radio the cackle of the live broadcast from the airfields control tower offers an authentic backdrop.

We took my nine yr old, my cousin and her son who is five, and spent a happy hour climbing in and out of the pilot seats, reading the warning signs, admiring the designs and capabilities of each exhibit. Our five yr old guest was taught a valuable life-skill (how to get down a small ladder ie. backwards) and when our guide fished out a shiny pilots helmet with visors and microphone his young eyes gleamed and he beamed from ear to ear, Mr. B. was quite envious but managed to sneak a go himself whilst sat in a Hawk a bit later on! Most horrifying were the missiles (without the evil bits) most wondrous was the rebuilt bi-plane, the first to be flown with it’s beautiful wooden propellor – I’d say the museum is a boys dream but my daughter, my cousin and I all enjoyed it too. The collection consists of test planes preserved at nearby Boscombe Down and covers a wide range of aviation history. As we left, a micro-lite landed ahead of us and an older plane was wheeled out from it’s hangar to be made ready for flying. We went to the airfield cafe and enjoyed tea and biscuits outside so we could watch modern day planes landing and taking off in the autumn grey. It was frankly wonderful.



Lovely parade this year as Salisbury Carnival avoided the rain, as local community groups supported by local businesses entertained the crowds

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Paris à pied, la troisième partie


Day Three:


The most fantastic breakfast in the Hotel, with my own elegant, large teapot for a nice cup or two, or three of earl grey tea plus charcuterie, pastries, delicious tarts – a Sunday ‘petit dejeunner’ that would  set you up ‘til tea-time and possibly beyond.


 We trekked through the Forum past St Eustache, along the Rue Montmartre, across Poisonierre past old men in doorways, police men and women sheltering from the rain or busy sorting out Sunday traffic, past delicatessans and cafes redolent with baking yeast and heaving with patissiere, transporting me to some kind of food heaven .


Montmatre is worth a section in its own right but I’m keeping it to myself, except to say providing your legs will take it, walk that hill, climb those steps. It’s worth it. There’s a reason so many fine artists were drawn to it and fair weather or foul there is a vibrancy to this hill that makes it worth the effort. We were trapped in Sacre Coeur for a while, feeling a very real sense of English shock as such a beautiful service, with a choir and a padre who sang like angels was overshadowed by tourists yet again taking pictures, talking and being herded around the outside of the body of the congregation, under giant video screens like some weird art-house film written by Ionesco.


At one point there was a bit of a lock-in whilst the ‘clergy’ exited the service into the vestry, although everyone was pointedly invited to join them for coffee which was a generous gesture considering how outrageous and disrespectful the plebian tourists had behaved – that was some hardcore outreach by the Catholic Church and I’m not sure I could have borne it. Suffice to say we slipped out to nose around the food and wine stalls lining the streets outside, bought some donkey sausage (that’s how traumatised we were) before seek ing solace in La Maison Rose1 just downhill from Le Chat Noir. Apparently La Maison Rose has some terrible reports but all I can say was, again we were welcomed and served the best omelette I’ve had in many years and the lightest, most delightful crepes since I used to hang out near Hampstead Hill –  and the fact Mr B. went for crepe a Nutella will make me smile for years to come.


Paris I love you, your streets, your food, your charm – when I return I couldn’t expect better but I will return.



©JBrain, Artsmonkey 2012




dans les rues de Paris II

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The streets and alleys of Paris are full of intreague, interest. Buildings heaving with architectural details, grand eloquence and quirky humour.  Cafes saying come in, eat, drink, talk a while, wide tree-lined boulevards and lofty arches drawing your eye further on, as if to say – keep going, there’s more around the corner. An old woman, bent double, wrapped in coats and layers of clothes begging along the Seine, booksellers huddled under their metal box stalls, a parade of street cleaners, a cavalcade of police vans. Elegant doorways, sandy floored squares, statuary, stairways leading you guiding you on.