Auntie Em, Twentyman and Ettie with Billy and Jack. There is a knock at the door. It is a man in his mid thirties, Uncle Billy.
“I’ve got these two tickets for the flying extravaganza at Carlisle Race Course.” He says. “I thought I’d take the boys.”
“What about me?” Asked Ettie.
“You heard what your Uncle said.” Twentyman said. “It’s a treat for the boys.”
“I’m the one who knows everything about flying.” Said Ettie. “I’m the one with the model plane.”
Billy and Jack catch the train with their Uncle Billy. Ettie is left standing there looking heart broken.
Twentyman comes to the door. Ettie answers. Twentyman is dressed in his chauffeur uniform.
“I’ll be out all day with JG.” Twntyman said. “You be good and keep your Auntie Em company.”
(Richard nearly does for Percy by getting him to sort out the crusher without taking appropriate safety measures – his arm is amputated)
Ettie irons one last collar then leaves.
“I’m going out.”
“Where are you going ?”
“Don’t be like that. They all mean well. You couldn’t all go. What was your Uncle supposed to do?”
It’s as if we’re invisible. Even to family. They don’t think about our interests, do they?
“Richard says he must to go.” Miss Ethne says. “We’re of to Stocksfield to
catch the train. Your father’s taking us. I shouldn’t think ….”
Ettie is already shaking her head.
“My father is set against me going. He has no idea. What interests me. My uncle is taking Billy and Jack.”
The girls say it together.
“It’s not fair!”
“If it wasn’t for me … so many people … who have taken an interest in this Flying Exhibition.”
Ettie steps away as Twentyman comes up the drive. Her father is the same with taking the car out as he is with the horses – it takes him an hour to get ready. He checks everything twice. Hebuffs the bonnet. Ettie cans see that he is bored by it. That ten minutes is all he requires. Ettie watches as the car sets off with Richard and Miss Ethne.
Fed up with things Ettie heads off to the only place she feels content – down to Shotley Bridge to sulk by the river. Just a few moments looking into the poools of swirling water, watching the river bump and pour its way down to the North Sea and she has an idea and sets off. She’ll not miss this flying exhibition; she’s been waiting for it all her life.
Ettie unlocks the door to the stable block, takes a key from a hook and crank starts Miss Ethne’s car. She pulls on a a hat and shawl of Miss Ethne’s that creates a disguise, takes the car out, closes the doors behind her and sets off.
Ettie drives west along the Military Road to Carlisle. She notes how people stop to let her by, how many doff their cap.
Ever mindful of who she might bump into Ettie makes her way to the gate. She finds an innocuous corner to park Miss Ethne’s car.
She gets a programme. It has a picture of Gustav Hamel, in his twenties, in flying gear. He is described as ‘The World-Renowned Aviator.’
“Enter the flying enclosure!” Calls a small boy with a loud voice. “See the aeroplanes at close quarters. Meet the aeronauts. Six pence. This way.”
Ettie looks in her pockets. She has six pence in pennies – that is all. Ettie has enters the enclosure. She is overwhelmed by the sight of the flying machines close up. Her eyes glued to the machine she is barely aware of the young woman who comes up to her side. The young woman takes an interest in this strange young woman, who looks so overcome to see up so close a plane that take people into the air.
“It’s a Bleriot Monoplane fitted with a 50hp Gnome Engine.” Ettie announces to the person who is at her side. “It can reach 65 miles per hour.”
A smile appears on the young woman’s face. Anna, smartly dressed in the latest fashion picks up where Ettie left off.
“He’s crossed the Channel eleven times.” Says Anna. “He’s been all over the place. He’s even flown in front of the King at Windsor.’
Ettie is delighted to have someone withwhom she can share her enthusiams. She turns to Anna. She glances straight into her eyes.
“He has the world record for flying to a height of 11,500 feet doesn’t he?
“Not any more.”
“How do you know that?”
“He’s my brother.”
Richard Murray spots Jack and Billy; they do no see him. Far from being interested in the flying show Richard’s demeanour changes. He wants these two dealt with.
“Welcome to the British Empire’s greatest hero,” calls the voice over the tannoy. “Captain Armstrong-Jones of His Majesty’s Royal Artillery.”
A military wagon carrying the Captain drives down the front of the Race Course.
Jack and Billy spot Ettie in the flying enclosure. They aren’t surprised that she is here but can’t get close enough to get her attention. They try to push in but they have to wait their turn, even if they have the money to pay.
Anna sees Ettie’s dilemma. Something in the way these two look at each other shows they are going to be friends. Anna takes Etties’s hand and leads her under the planes on display into a private tent. Gustav has an argument with a young woman friend.
“You’re saying you brought me all this way from London so that you could take up in that thing! I won’t do it.”
“For me. The crowd expect it. I meant to tell you. One of the most beautiful woman in London, in an aerolpane! Think of it.
“Had you told me I would have said ‘no!’ Nothing in the world would get me up in the air. Not for you, not with you, not for anyone. If God had meant me to fly he would have given me wings!”
The young woman pulls off a hat that is held in place by several silk scarves. She storms off.
There are three planes, ‘kites’ flimsy things that have to be roped down against the increasing wind. It doesn’t look good – a Colonel, the Captain and a couple
of mechanics are concerned.
“I will now put on a show for the crowd,” says the Colonel, “at the risk of one
of my men. Better to show prudence than send you up only to kill yourself in front of the crowd.”
“Some have come from Berwick for this … from Glasgow.” Says the Captain.
“And we are seven planes short. Seven planes that wouldn’t risk, couldn’t risk flying in from other parts of the Northern Counties.”
“As they talk a wing of one of their flimsy looking planes becomes untethered, tips the plane on its side – a strut breaks, a cycle wheel breaks off … what more do they need to see.
Gustav looks across the race course with a pair of binoculars at a wind sock. An Official comes over to him.
“Blowing 50 miles per hour.” Calls an official. “Strengthening. Lieutenant Andrews won’t go up. Flight Sergeant Blackett is touch and go.”
“We’ve got to give them a show.” Says Gustav pulling his flying jacket on in preparation for going up.
Anna and Ettie laugh as Jack, Billy and Uncle Billy scout around for Ettie without success.
“I thought you were German?” Asks Ettie.
“My mother’s English. My father’s German. He came over to England to train as a surgeon before we were born. He’s well in with the Royal Family. And as you can see – we’re as English as they are.”
“I had a big brother his age. Ridley. He died in a fall of stone.”
Gustav sees his sister. He picks up the hat and scarves and comes over. Anna is having nothing of it. Ettie doesn’t understand what is going on.
“You’ll never get me up there again.” Anna says. “Not after the last time.”
Ettie feels she would do it.
“Your friend? Would she like a circuit of the race course?”
“Whatever he asks,” Anna advices Ettie, “say ‘no.’”
“You can wear this lovely hat.”
Ettie couldn’t really give a fig for the hat.
“Yes.” She says, running over to Gustav. “I’ll do it.”
“That’s good. Most of your friends are butterflies Anna, but I see this one has guts.”
“What do I have to do?” Ettie asks.
“First we drive around the Racecourse in my car – wave to the crowd. Then we go up in the plane and do the same.”
“Yes to the second bit. Not the first.”
Anna steps forward.
“I’ll help out there. I’ll go around in the car. But you’ll never get me up in the air – not in this wind.”
At 2 O’clock Gustav gets into his car – it is a red chain-driven Mercedes. It is a two seater.
Ethne and Anna squeeze in the one seat. They then drive out of the back of the racecourse and around to the front. At 2.15 they drive in. Ethne and Anna waved at the crowd.
Gustav takes the plane up on his own for the first flight and nearly crashes the thing – whether on purpose or because he lost control he wouldn’t say
At three thirty he asks Anna and Ethne which of us ‘ladies’ would care to join him. Ethne had changed her mind by then so it was me.
Ettie puts on a sheepskin coat that went down to my ankles, pulled on sheep-skin boots too. Gustav wrapped a great long scarf around my neck. He also gave me a
lovely hat to wear.
“You should hold it on your head through-out the flight,” advises Gustav, “and when I came down over the crowd you should wave it like so – the second time we fly over you should accidentally let go of it. They might think you have fallen out of the plane – that is the effect I want.”
The plane banks, does ascending and descending circles, then skews and vol-planes … and most dramatic of all, a pan-cake descent.