Having docked the Jenny Wren at Porto Carlo Riva, Rapallo, I was a mix of emotions, moving once again inland, away from the sea, yet thrilled to be driving to Genoa, and then the virus-free flight back to the United States, stopping over in London, for the birth of our second grandchild inside three months.
The European lifestyle is one I’m familiar with, its cultures, and landscapes and characteristics, such as that of the French and their coffee, Germans who live to drink, dreamy Hungarians, incessantly reading newspapers, but today we are driving from Rapallo, Italy, having watched the winks and listened to the cat calls for Jenny’s passing by the young gigolos, on our way to Airporto De Genoa, where we will board G-OLEN to Heathrow, and refuel.
The Italians have an appreciation for the arts seldom found anywhere else in Europe, for romance, life, art and music, young men, shockingly outrageous, sensuous, in their way, like walking organ notes, chords of young romantic derision; to the young Italian stud, there is nothing cannot be made beautiful.
“London Approach, this is Golf-Oscar Lima, established at outer marker.”
“Golf Oscar Lima continue. Contact tower on 122.8 at the inner marker. Wind at four, visibility 25 miles. Good day, sir.”
“Confirm with tower inner marker. Good day.”
Flick up one decimal point on the radio. The flight had been uneventful.
“Heathrow tower, Golf Oscar Lima at the inner marker. Speed two sixty knots, on the centre line, on the glide path.”
“Heathrow Tower, Golf Oscar Lima, second in line behind an Airbus, cleared to land 2.8 right.”
“Golf Oscar Lima bring speed back to 220 knots, sir.”
Jenny’s knuckle’s whitened. The cockpit is not her favorite place in which to travel — but interest overcomes fear for this short leg before we meet up with Frank, my co-pilot, for the longer stretch.
“Two-twenty knots, copy.” I ease the throttles back an inch. The engine hum changes slightly.
This is a Harry Jenny rarely sees, somehow acting professional after coming to know him through a series of faults and buffoonery. Nevertheless, she is not feeling as nervous as she might.
The Learjet comes down soft through the light cloud, In the distance, the River Thames and the great city.
“Golf Oscar Lima on the glide slope, on the centre line, eleven miles to run.”
“Golf Oscar Lima, you are cleared to land runway 2.8 right.”
“Cleared to land. 2.8 right.”
There is a hum and a vibration. Jenny stirs nervously.
“Just the undercarriage, honey.” She nods and smiles calmly.
Another hum changes the degree of flap as the little aircraft flies gently down to land where rubber meets tarmac.
“Golf Oscar Lima, down at 20.22. Expedite first right. Follow on the greens to the light aircraft terminal. Contact ground on 121.9.”
“On the greens, contact ground 121.9.”
I once thought I’d never learn about flying, bound mentally to that ancient art of keeping one foot on the ground. Yes, it was a boy’s dream, sure enough, accompanied by a fear of dying. But then dying is only that other ancient art, one of putting flowers into the ground.
We booked into the Heathrow Hotel. I got up early, it was still dark. From the window, visible, the twinkling lights of airplanes moving on the ground before departure. I head down to the business center, log in, meet up with Frank, and file a flight plan. Wheels up at 14.30. Refuel in Reykjavik. Once filed, I consider sitting for a while, maybe writing something, anything. It’s a grand desk for a business center, yet absolutely nothing happens in my head. I start opening and shutting the drawers, none of which contain anything. I move the blotting pad from one side to the other, switching the computer on and off, waiting for some magical thing to happen for me. I receive a text.
“Where are you, honey?”
The times in which I eat, the times in which I sleep, the times at which I may reach for a whisky are regulated by love’s intrusion. Different to the times when anyone touching me was damned to burning.
“I brought you some breakfast, are you hungry?”
We had tea and croissants with jam. I showered and picked out a shirt.
“Why don’t you wear your pilot’s shirt, you look so sexy,” Jenny smiles.
I don’t know which makes me hornier, croissants with jam or compliments.
We passed over the Isle of Mull at 22,000 ft., heading for our cruising altitude with little to do but watch the instruments. Anyone who knows the cockpit, be it an airplane or a yacht, understands there is often time to dream. I’m very aware of the writer that resides in my heart — without ever being afraid of him — and sometimes will follow him into strange, complicated adventures. It happens at various times, sometimes when I feel dull and insignificant, other times, such as this one, when I understand privilege. The writer in these moments attacks my softness, spending hours, or days, shaming me for believing in love, and then gets mad at me if I cry. I cannot improve him, cannot understand him, but I have never found a way to harness what I know is his talent. He lives in his dark heaven, dizzy with fear, sinking into a horrible blackness. I made a vow that I would never leave him. I’m all of him. What would he do? He doesn’t know another soul the way I know him.
“Reykjavik Approach, Golf Oscar Lima.”
We spend fifty-five minutes on the ground. I have no fondness for Icelandic people, stemming from years of cultural obscenity. Fifty-five minutes is too long. We are soon heavy and airborne. The sky is gray beneath us. Flying the polar route will mean descending 10,0000 ft. to keep the fuel from freezing. Flying is first about using common sense, allowing the airplane to do what it is designed to do, and no more. A competent yachtsman, wishing to avoid hurricanes in the Caribbean, will follow a prudent avoidance strategy: Get below 12º south latitude and stay there until November.
I am detached from earthly things, high above chapels, farms, mountain peaks, trails, political exuberance, cable television and American Express, every child, mother, or husband looking for improvement, being an arrow heading for mid-America and a new grandchild. I want to fly my grandchild’s dreams right up to the stars, hoping to see a brighter future for everyone.
I flick the dial to 132.125. “St. Louis approach, Golf Oscar Lima, 2000 ft. on ILS approach for three zero left.”
“Rojer, Golf Oscar Lima. Contact tower, 118.5”
“118.5. Good Day, sir.”
It is anticipated we will be in Missouri for a month. That’s a hell of a long way from the ocean, but a foot from my new grandchild.
For such a reason, I’m good at postponing pain.