On the Shoulders of Giants
We would race past a Saxon church, its western hindquarters sunk into the hillside, a kindly beast emerging from its lair. We would teeter in slow motion beside the dark timbers of a medieval bridge. And by the time we dismounted to wheel our bicycles across the main road beneath the glass escarpment of a public school’s immense chapel, we would be looking seawards to the windsock of the airfield and skywards for the light aircraft – Tiger Moths, Chipmunks, Dragon Rapides – which were the objects of our plane-spotting pilgrimage. I am reminded of those sunlit days, and of the ‘whooshpering’ sound of the canvas wings as the aircraft swept in above us, whenever I take down my copy of T. H. White’s England Have My Bones (1936). It is a book for browsing, for it takes the form of a journal which White kept through four seasons in 1934–5, the year he took flying lessons at a small airfield in the middle of England.