It's now November and after a few very busy months I've finally managed to sit down and write a bit about what turned out to be probably the best week of 2015 so far. However, the week of this years' Culdrose Air Day did not look good at first.
We arranged for our family holiday to start on the previous Saturday and travelled down to Cornwall with a rather dull weather forecast for the whole week.
On the Sunday we had booked in to the Kneehigh Theatre's Asylum to watch 946, a play based on the book Adolphus Tips by Michael Morprurgo. The play was, as expected of the fantastic Kneehigh, superb. Inventive, funny, informative and beautifully staged in their tent at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
From the moment the show began I was an emotional wreck, the story is about a little girl who lost her cat when she and her family was moved from their home near Slapton Sands during the 2nd World War. Her loss pulls you into the tragic story of Operation Tiger during which 946 US and British servicemen lost their lives, many from their own guns. During the performance the weather made itself known by throwing an enormous squally shower down on to the tent, adding to the magic.
At the end of the show we realised that Michael Morpurgo himself was in the audience and at the end we met him. Having read many of his books, including Adolphus Tips to my kids, it really was an honour and he was kind and friendly and shook both my children's hands. Despite the downpours the day was a very memorable one.
I watched the weather forecasts incessantly and felt that it was not going to clear up for Air Day. The Thursday weather was still looking very dodgy, rain and low cloud. On the Monday I went into Culdrose to make a presentation to the Captain, Commander Sea King and the Commanding Officer of 771 Search and Rescue Squadron, of my Air Day 2015 poster and my Special Edition Farewell Flight Poster. I had a look around the SAR Sea Kings and the Control Tower and Base Commander, Captain Orchard OBE presented me with a Challenge Coin for my good work, which was a very nice surprise and something I will treasure. The sun came out briefly and Captain Orchard, my dad and myself were photographed for the inevitable press release.
Tuesday I received a text from my neighbour with a photo of a bus stop in a very dull Padstow with the Air Day poster on the side. whoopie! fame at last. I felt like a million dollars. We had a game in the car on our travels to spot the posters about the place and saw one on a rather smart bus stop in Hayle which I wanted to go back and photograph for my records. By the time we went back on the Wednesday, it had been replaced by one for Paradise Park or some such local attraction - the hard world of prime spot poster sites.
I was still worried that the weather wouldn't live up to my poster on the Thursday and, for some bizarre reason felt that people would blame the poster for misleading them as it certainly wasn't going to be 'like the picture'. On the day however, it was sunny but there was a lot of cloud about and as we sat in the traffic I kept everything crossed for the cloud to clear.
When we arrived at Culdrose I noticed how many people were carrying the souvenir brochures. I had placed an advert in the brochure for my Special Air Day Edition Farewell Flight Poster with an access code only available through the advert (as you'll see). My helicopter pilot cousin appeared from Wales and we marvelled at the crazy Pitts Special display and the brilliant Breitling Wingwalkers.
As the morning went on and the early air displays followed each other, the cloud started to disperse and by early afternoon the sky was a beautiful blue with just a few woolly white clouds here and there.
The icing on the cake for me was the late afternoon flying sequence. The Mig 29 had done its bit, setting off the car alarms; the Chinook had mesmerised me, as always and sporting a very good paint job. The balbo had passed majestically with the 771 Sea Kings leading and the Hawks flying high. Then it was the turn of the individual 771 rescue helicopter showing why it is so well respected - number 27 on the front - the same as the poster! The awesome Swiss F/A-18 display followed with not a cloud in the sky. I spent so long when designing the poster to try and get this aircraft right and there it was, dancing in front of me in a perfect sky. I'm still not sure it was ever perfect and I'd left out the number on the nose which I think would have added significantly to the likeness. Then the Seafire took off and filled the air with that fantastic Rolls Royce Merlin engine sound. The three main protagonists in my poster had followed each other in the sun. To me it couldn't have been a more perfect show.
Poster sales began in earnest that evening and through the next couple of days orders came flooding in. Another fantastic result of this most excellent day.
On the following Monday I went in to Culdrose again and spent some time with Commander Air in the control tower and it seemed that the day had been a great success. Later, various air show reviewers rated it as one of the best shows of the year. All good for maybe a bit more of the air show poster work in future. (all enquiries welcome!)
My return to Bristol meant a lot of work in fulfilling the Farewell Flight orders and I was still getting them well into September. There are still some of these available and the non-Air Day edition is available here.
The week of 30th July 2015 has to be one of the best weeks ever for me. If you read the I've been hooked by the Royal Navy article, you'll realise that this has been a very happy and welcome departure from my usual work and one that has surprised and delighted me as it has continued. With the date announced for the next Culdrose Air Day - Thursday 28th July 2016 I hope that just may be I'll be called again.