Virtual St Mary's Institute for Historical Research

Where St. Mary's Staff and Historians live virtually.

Virtual St Mary's Institute for Historical Research

Where St. Mary's Staff and Historians live virtually.

My report of the St. Mary’s ‘Flying Machines from History race

by Bruce Pavier
 

Everyone has an ‘off’ day. A day that you hope will pass without life kicking you in the shins. 
So a St Mary’s ‘Flying Machines from History race’ was just asking life to wear hobnailed boots.
I AM just reporting what I saw and some of the events that led up to it. None of this was made up and I refuse whole heartedly to take any blame for what happened!!!!!
Dr. Bairstow had perused all the presented ideas before they became reality, which, in the case of Messers Markham and Evans was a wise decision. Mr Markhams idea of emulating Eilmer of Malmesbury and jumping off of the clock tower wearing a very dodgy set of wings would not so much emulate flight but rather that other aeronautical phenomenon known as Plummet. Dr. Bairstow not only saved himself a lot of paper work but also sick bay a lot of bandages.
As we all know the day dawned fine and our intrepid bird men and women mustered with their various contraptions on the Main Lawn ready for the off.
It is rather difficult to describe what happened when the word “GO!” was spoken. Everything happened at once.
R&D had taken a leaf out of Leonardo da Vinci’s book and built his ‘Aerial Screw’ which was the fore runner of the helicopter. The Aerial Screw started turning and immediately dug itself 8 feet into Mr Strong’s best manicured lawn as the plans for the Aerial Screw had been, unfortunately and unnoticed, upsidedown when the Screw was built.
The History Department, being the History Department opted for the Human Kite as described by Marco Polo when he saw these contraptions whilst in China. Who in their right minds would volunteer to be attached to such a dangerous item. Miss Sykes, dressed in a rather fetching one piece flying overall, stood proud and ‘Kite ish’ as the wind took hold and lifted her off of the ground.
This would have been a very spectacular sight had someone been holding the other end of the string. Miss Sykes started to go up where we will leave her for a moment. (What she was saying at this juncture is best left to the imagination).
Messer’s Markham and Evans, fresh from their successful West End stage play ‘How to be a reindeer’ had decided that they would try out Tito Livio Burattini’s Dragon Volant. Mr Markham had, on this occasion decided to be the ‘front’ man with Mr Evans bringing up the rear so to speak.
Encased in the Dragon’s body and flapping the wings they both ran down the lawn to get up enough air speed to ascend into the unsuspecting air. Now, nobody is putting their hand up for this but … someone had left a rake on the lawn. Mr Markham, whose field of vision was somewhat impaired, was hit fair and square in the face with this errant agricultural device with sufficient force to make him lose his balance. Markham, Evans and Dragon now slalomed at great speed towards the lake which received them in its damp embrace and helped them on their way towards the swans that were now massing in the distance and getting ready to repel boarders. Things got a bit more complicated as Miss Sykes, now a few feet above the lake, decided that it was the time to let go and return earthward. A very surprised Mr Markham, Mr Evans and dragon received an even more surprised Miss Sykes as their jockey.
The Technical people had decided to make a slightly smaller version of the Montgolfier brother’s hot air balloon. This majestic sight was sitting minding its own business when one of the wings of Mr Markham’s now destabilised dragon clipped and severed the stay holding the balloon to the ground. The balloon obeyed the laws of gravity and rose into the air. It was last seen heading, unmanned or unwomanned, with some speed and unerring accuracy, towards the newly refurbished church spire of the adjoining village.
The Wardrobe department had joined up with the kitchen staff who, fortunately, had amongst their retinue a few carpenters, and built a copy of Bleriot’s XI aircraft using rather tasteful fabrics from the various and vast boxes that littered the wardrobe area to cover the wooden struts of the aircraft.
The finished aircraft looked more like a surreal painting by Salvador Dali rather than a functional flying machine.
And functional flying machine it was! Powered by 365 yards of Wardrobe department knicker elastic that gave the propeller some serious revolutions it powered down the lawn at a height of some 10 feet. Ah! Now then! Brakes! …. Kitchens and Aeronautics do not mix especially if the brake part of the plan of the plane (try saying that with false teeth!) is obscured by a dollop of Strawberry Jam as in this case it was. 
The aircraft came to rest some two feet into Mr Strong’s prize Rose bushes. The propeller continued to revolve cutting up rose heads and leaves and scattering them to the four winds. (Maybe this was how the idea of the parachute evolved).
All days, even ‘off’ days have to end (it’s in its contract) and so this one did.
You might be interested to know that First Prize was awarded, bizarrely, to Mr Strong, the gardener, who, upon seeing the hole in his lawn and the chaos that were once his prize roses and, rather outside the envelope of the Flying machines from History race, went ballistic!!!!!!!!!!