Plane sailing

VC10

I changed secondary schools in 1972.
As well as studying different syllabuses, I was introduced to different hobbies.
At my new school my new friends had two hobbies: discussing what girls were really like? And plane- spotting. (If the latter hobby continued into your thirties, you’d never find the answer to the former!)
Plane-spotting involved journeying to Heathrow Airport (pre-Piccadilly line extension and Heathrow Express). We took a train from Balham to Clapham Junction, another train to Feltham, a bus to the airport (where was Sherpa Tensing when you wanted him?) and finally onto the observation tower within the main terminal, where we stayed for what seemed like the length of time it’d take for a return journey to Brisbane.
My interest in planes had been soured in the summer of 1968 by having to drag my nervous (and very drunk – too much Campari) mother across the tarmac at Luton Airport to board a plane to fly to Majorca (she wasn’t content having gastro-enteritis at home!).
My previous experiences of transport-spotting were ticking off 88, 155 and 181 buses (and the occasional Green Line to make my hobby seem exotic to my new school buddies) as they trundled down Balham High Road.
I ticked these buses off on the back of a Basildon Bond envelope stolen from my Nan’s secret stationery store; plane-spotting meant having a pad the size of an Encyclopaedia Britannica.
I lasted two trips, the journey tired me out – I assumed this was jet lag?
However, to ingratiate myself with my new schoolmates, I invited them to the top of my block of flats, so they could spot their planes there.
And from that time on I’ve always been able to tell my Qantas from my El Al.

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