AIRYMOUSE

I LOVE THIS book, but I'll be the first to admit that it isn't one for everybody. Harald Penrose had a flowery style of writing, heavily redolent of an earlier era, and a tendency to philosophise, which many might find off putting. Those who persevere will discover a man who not only loved flying but also loved nature in all its forms and had a feeling for the distant history of the land he flew over.

I LOVE THIS book, but I'll be the first to admit that it isn't one for everybody. Harald Penrose had a flowery style of writing, heavily redolent of an earlier era, and a tendency to philosophise, which many might find off putting. Those who persevere will discover a man who not only loved flying but also loved nature in all its forms and had a feeling for the distant history of the land he flew over.

From a very early age Harald Penrose fell in love with aeroplanes. Some of his earliest recollections featured in this book include seeing a Maurice Farman Shorthorn being landed in a field so that its plugs could be cleaned, and his delight on discovering a Martinsyde Elephant and a Sopwith Pup at the airfield near his home. This love of aeroplanes developed into a career in flying, culminating in test flying at Westland's.

Approaching retirement, and no longer in a flying job, he purchased the eponymous aircraft, a Currie Wot biplane with a two cylinder JAP engine which he used to explore the area near his home and also to indulge in his love of the countryside and birds.

The book is a series of reminiscences, each suggested by an occurrence or sighting during one of his flights in Airymouse. They cover a wide range of subjects from his discovery of a sixteenth century heronry to memories of two deadstick landings in Westland Wyverns not a good advert for Rolls Royce or Armstrong Siddeley aero engines! Some of his anecdotes about birdwatching from the aircraft seem to suggest that he was either possessed of exceptionally good eyesight, or else he regularly flew very low! Certainly in one chapter he talks of his propwash ruffling the feathers of an owl on a fence post definitely a case of Don't Try This At Home. Of course the era he is referring to is the 1960s when there was a slightly more relaxed attitude to flying in this country, especially in the rural areas to which he refers.

Talking of these rural areas leads me to admit to a couple of interests here which explain my love of the book. Firstly I am based at an airstrip some seven miles from where Harald based Airymouse, so I regularly fly over his local patch. Secondly I met up with this very aircraft in the mid eighties when it was owned by my good friend, the late Robin Bowes and am still in touch with its subsequent owner, Jeff Salter. He has recently sold the plane and it now lives less than five miles from where it was built. I hope to see it in the air over Hampshire again soon. Ernie Hoblyn.

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