Brushes with Hope:

Brushes with Hope

Hope is a funny thing, and really means different things to different people. I, in my time, have had many brushes with this thing as I am sure many other people have. I remember when I was a voice-over artist, doing voices for radio and TV ads. This one day I was called to a Christian radio station, Highway FM which was in Pinetown, to do some work. When I reached the station, I walked through the door into a sanctum of religious artifacts, Biblical scenes on the walls and a large crucifix on the wall behind the receptionist.

“Hello,” the receptionist said, fixing me with a beaming smile, “have you come here for Hope?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “I have come here to do some radio ads.”

“No, No,” she blustered, “Hope is the studio producer.”

 Needless to say, I was never asked to go back there again.

The Flying Scotsman

In England, when I was released from my school for a week’s holiday, probably for good behaviour, I used to go down on a Saturday morning to our local cinema, The Grenada, clutching my Florin pocket money to go to the Six Penny Terribles.  They consisted of old film shorts, mainly in black and white, showing some truly terrible films from the thirties and forties. This one Saturday, they showed something which I was convinced would change my life forever. It consisted of a film, in colour, of a monstrous green snorting fire-breathing beast, spewing out steam and smoke with a man standing behind a massive steel juggernaut pulling brass leavers as this gargantuan contraption thundered down the tracks, through the green fields of England.

It was The Flying Scotsman, the fastest steam train in the world. At that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I wanted to drive The Flying Scotsman. I could see myself flinging coal into the furnace, pulling the brass lever to speed up and the chain which sounded the hooter as we rushed through village stations on our way to Scotland; steam and smoke billowing out from under us as we sped underneath bridges and trees, breaking more records on the way.

Brushes with Hope and disappointment

My mind was made up, and I scampered home to tell my father my momentous decision. When I made the announcement, he didn’t bother to look up from his desk in his study and said: “Sorry my boy, but British Rail (that terrible institution which was never on time and sold its customers cardboard sandwiches) have switched from steam to electric or diesel trains now.” I was shocked and my hopes completely dashed, and went up to my bedroom to play with my train set.

Brushes with Hope: Driving the Flying Scotsman


My next brush with hope came at Farnborough, that famous airshow which highlighted the latest in aircraft production throughout the world. I watched as many aircraft performed fly-byes and looked in amazement at the static displays on show, Hawker Hunters, English Electric Lightnings and Vulcan Bombers. They were all there.

Then suddenly, there came a snarling roar. It was a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, once heard, never forgotten. A tiny spot appeared on the horizon, rapidly gaining in size and speed as it rocketed across the airfield, its propeller cutting a shining arc in the sunshine, with the flash of duck-egg blue underside and green and brown camouflage top sides, and it’s elliptical wings slicing through the air.

I want to fly a Spitfire for the RAF

It was a Spitfire, the very same kind that a couple of decades earlier had risen to knock down the German Luftwaffe when Mr Hitler had decided to rearrange London during the Battle of Britain. I was transfixed, and again, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I turned and said to my father, as the Spitfire continued to beat up the airfield at zero height, then doing a barrel roll up into the heavens to the applause of the crowd: “I want to join the Royal Air Force and fly a Spitfire.” Again, my father turned and said to me: “Sorry, but the RAF doesn’t fly Spitfires anymore. The have changed to jet fighters.” Another extreme disappointment for a young lad in England, my hopes dashed again.

Brushes with Hope: Flying a Spitfire

And that is what hope is for me, or so it seemed at the time. Hope is always there, hope to do something different, hope to make a change, hope to make a difference. I still want to drive The Flying Scotsman, and fly a Spitfire but priorities change and so do the times we live in. I took flying lessons a while back but it was in a Piper Tomahawk, and it just wasn’t the same as a Merlin powered Spitfire, and on the dash board was a large sign saying Do Not Spin; I wonder if the Spitfire had that sign. I haven’t got my hands on a steam train yet, but watch this space, I could yet make the papers. I live in hope.

Brushes with hope: Flying Lessons

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