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A Trip to the Light Fantastic

by Jeremy Cox 1. September 2007 00:00
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An intensely personal reflection that attempts to bring fun and gaiety against a period of emotion and sorrow.

First, please allow me to beg your forgiveness for not having an article for you last month. Very sadly my dad lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and slipped away during the early hours of Wednesday July 25th. Deb and I of course flew over to England to help mum and my brother Justin, and to also see dad off in the most fitting way possible at the crematorium in Salisbury. For those that are inclined to, you may with thanks to webmaster Jeff at Globalair, read my tribute to my dad by clicking the following link. Think of it as my final farewell to a great person.

Anyway all of this sadness and emotion has made me reflect upon the mortality of we, human beings. And as a way of lifting my spirits and possibly yours too, I felt that it necessary to pay tribute by remembrance, of several of the 'greats' from Aviation that has long since passed from this earth. I like many, revel in the concept of holding a fine dinner party where I could invite anyone from history and they would of course attend if asked. My only limitations are my personal tastes, historical memories, and in this case the fact that each guest must have an aviation background, however controversial or significant.

First before I can do this, I must pick the perfect venue. Should it be the intriguingly decadent Doge's Palace in Venice (nah too many people there), the magnificent Château Royale in Versailles (probably too ostentatious), maybe it should be held amongst the three Pyramids in Giza (nope, too hot and too many fly's!) Maybe I should consider holding the dinner underneath the Wright Flyer and Spirit of St. Louis at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington (nowhere to land if any of my guests choose to pilot themselves, so no.) Okay I pick the seventeenth century splendour of the Duke of Bedford's Woburn Abbey. Some of you may say that I am being a tad snooty with this choice; however it does boast a wide expanse of grass where the likes of Sir Geoffrey DeHavilland, Sir Douglas Bader and so on, may easily alight into the Woburn grounds in their chosen aircraft, and taxi right up to the front door. The brothers Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier however, will most likely depart from the grounds, as opposed to arriving in them in their Balloon. It would be nice to see Leonardo Da Vinci drop in either under his parachute or hang glider. Next I have to decide on a menu… No, I won't bore you with this portion of my imagination. Let's instead just say that it will consist of at least eight courses prepared from only the finest ingredients, and it will be catered by Fortnum and Mason's from London. Enough of that! now to the guest list.

Well even though Greek Mythology my not be your thing (it's my party and I'll cry if I want to… remember) I will most likely invite Icarus and his son Daedalus, two Hellenistic guests who are probably the doyens of the party. Language is not going to be a factor as I will borrow from Mr. Douglas Adam's fabulous book, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and employ the use of some Babel Fish, the purpose and definition of which, thanks to Mr. Adams is as follows: The Babel fish is small, yellow and leechlike, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.

Since we are in England it would be nice to have the 6th Baronet, Sir George Cayley come to dinner. He would be a lively conversationalist especially amongst the likes of Leonardo and Otto Lilienthal on the topic of gliders. Oh I almost forgot! Sir Isaac Newton might be a gas amongst my guests, and I may as well keep him company by having Galileo Galilei and Wernher von Braun there. Oh Jules Verne must also be amongst this physicist group because he can listen to their fascinating doting and make their words into fabulous literary speeches. Okay we have the world of aviation science pretty well represented; maybe it is time to start thinking about some of the star guests. Orville and Wilbur may like to arrive in their Flyer before cocktails are served, while Samuel Cody may follow them in loose formation to landing, in his iteration of their design built for the British Army. With Cody and the Wrights safely parked, I am certain that good old Louis Blériot would have once again conquered the English Channel in the reverse direction, all the way from Paris to Buckinghamshire. At the same time we may as well have the illustrious and colourful Lord Rothermere as a guest, as he can make a splendid show again by formally congratulating Louis over the well deserved £1,000 prize award from Rothermere's Daily Mail newspaper. We will have to keep an eye on Rothermere when he finally realizes that Count Ferdinand Adolf August Heinrich Graf von Zeppelin is clicking his cavalry boot heels together in greeting as more famous guests pour into the Sculpture Gallery before seating for Dinner is heralded by the striking of the gong. Through the blur of black ties, leather jackets and cigarette smoke an extremely tall figure enters the Abbey from the grounds dressed in a flying suit, after parking his Ryan Monoplane out on the rapidly growing flight-line. It's Slim, or should I say Charles Augustus Lindbergh. He would probably have been here sooner if it wasn't for having been waylaid by Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown who while chocking their Vickers Vimy, saw slim striding by the nose of their Vimy. After much back slapping this unlikely trio had finally made their entry during the cocktail hour. Of course Rothermere was quick to have greeted both the Vimy crew and Slim since all were winning recipients of prize money; Alcock and Brown won £10,000 from Rothermere's The Daily Mail for the first Transatlantic flight, while Lindbergh won $25,000 from the French-American hotelier in New York, Mr. Raymond Orteig for making the first solo transatlantic flight. While Glenn Miller is sliding out the first bars of Moonlight Serenade on his trombone, one-eyed Wiley Hardeman Post noisily strides in with Howard Robert Hughes, Jr. after each pilot, one in Winnie Mae and the other in the H-1 Racer had vied for number one on a sweeping final in front of the Duke of Bedford's family seat. Also at this moment Sir Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland passed through the door after taxi-ing his private and fifth and least known copy of his sleek and graceful DH88 Comet racing aircraft, 'Sling-Shot.' As the trombone tremellowed out, smoke bloomed upward and the laughter and chatter found its baritone hum, spontaneous applause erupted as Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Stuart Bader poled himself a swath through the crowd on his crutches after being helped out of the cockpit of his modified Spitfire Mk. V (a.) The time is now drawing very close for the dinner gong to be rung, and we are not quite complete in party. Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richtofen is still in the air, playing amongst the evenings waning cumulous in his Fokker Dr. 1 Triplane; I believe that Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch 'Tommy' Sopwith and Alberto Santos-Dumont are enjoying themselves enormously by trying to keep tight on Manfred's tail. We are also missing Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (I think that he is coming by taxi;) Virgil Ivan 'Gus' Grissom (he's accompanying Juan Trippe as guest passengers in Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky's private S-76B helicopter, Igor is at the controls.) Ah now we are all here, even Sir Frederick Alfred 'Freddie' Laker has managed to inveigle his way in as a very welcome party-gate crasher. On with the speeches and nourriture fine, finally ending in Monte Cristos and Rémy Martin. What an evening and what a night! I am almost breathless thinking about the words and views that would flow in such an environment and amongst such great people. Of course there would also be some very elegant hostesses amongst us, which would keep our eyes sparkling, while the wine and music flowed well into the wee hours. I am trembling, so I must stop.

Now it's your turn: where, when, how, who, and what would your fantasy dinner party be like? Please share your inspired thoughts here. Any input that you care to make will be of great interest to all of the readers here at Globalair.com. So please don't be bashful and go ahead and write your comments and suggestions here. Please don't forget that whatever you write here, can be seen publicly by everyone that visits this page, so please be funny, be inspired, but most importantly of all, please be nice. Hopefully we shall visit again together next month. Adieu my friends, and please say hello if you are going to the NBAA in Atlanta this month.

Raymond Anthony Cox, Jeremy Cox father, has recently passed away. please visit the following link for a short obituary.

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Jeremy Cox


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