My visit to South Africa

It was Saturday 1st of October that I arrived in South Africa, having experienced an hour's train delay that nearly caused us to miss the11 hour flight from Gatwick, a two hour internal flight from Johannesburg to George Airport and a further 2 hour wait in George for our luggage that was sent on the following plane! Many thanks to Nationwide airlines though who did everything to minimise the suffering with some lovely 3 course meals and great cabin crew.

The first thing to strike you about South Africa is its sheer size, it is vast, and whenever you get in the car it is a drive of at least an hour or 100Kms. South Africa is almost 1600 Kms from the East to West coasts and we drove a total of 6000 Kms in the 3 weeks we stayed there.

We stayed in the townhouse guest house in a small town called Uniondale. The town is surrounded by forts that were once used by the British Army as lookout posts during the Boer wars. Uniondale is on the Garden route and runs alongside the Indian Ocean from Witsand in the East to Plettenberg Bay in the West..

Week one saw us visit Port Elizabeth some 300Kms away on the East coast of Africa where we took in a visit to the Oceanarium which is well worth the visit, as it has a Dolphin show as well as the most enormous indoor seawater tank containing hundreds of local fish including some quite large sharks.

Week two included a trip to Hermanus Bay where we stayed in the Windsor hotel which overlooks the bay, right on the cliff front, where we watched whales glide past the rocks on our arrival. The very next morning while sat in the dining room having breakfast, a Southern Right Whale leapt from the water no more than 100 yards from where we were eating, so Camera and tripod in hand I raced across the road and managed to get some good photos of these lovely creatures in the bay where they come each year to mate.

The Southern Right Whale differs from most other whales in the following three ways: It has no Dorsal fin on its back: when it exhales there is a v shaped cloud above the water : and the presence of callosities on its head. They spend December through to May in the cold Polar regions of the Southern Hemisphere where food is present in quantity. June through to November is spent around the shallow coastal waters of Southern Africa, South America and Australia. The shallow sandy-bottomed and sheltered bays are perfect for mating, calving, nursing their young and resting.

We drove on towards Cape town and passed Cape Agulhas, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean, the southern most point of the continent of Africa and the final resting ground of many small and large ships run aground on the rocks below the lighthouse by a treacherous sea.

We approached Cape town via Somerset West and as we got closer we saw the brightly painted township of Khayelitsha where over 1 million black people live in near poverty conditions, the township straddles the road for almost 10 Kms. On our arrival at Cape town the one huge sight is Table Mountain ,which towers completely over the city from every point.

At Table Mountain a super fast cable car ride takes you up over 1000 metres high in 3 minutes and some of the most spectacular views that one can see on this Earth. The vast sprawling city of Cape Town below and the huge Table Bay beyond to one side, Camps Bay on another and finally False Bay and the huge mountains leading the eye away into the distance.

After leaving Cape town we drove back through Mossel Bay on the way to Sedgefield to spend the night. Knysna is a beautiful place to visit and shop, we bought some souvenirs from the travelling Zambian people who live and work close to the lake. We had lunch at Knysna head before travelling up through the Knysna pass into the Mountains and on towards Uniondale, I think 40Km per hour is the fastest we went on the bumpy surface.

The three weeks went really quickly with so much to see and visit, my only regret was not getting to see Victoria falls but it is so far North that it would have meant yet another plane journey.

Red Arrows at Torquay Regatta

Sunday 20th August at 6pm and a huge crowd awaited the arrival over Torbay of the Red Arrows , It had been an agonising wait all day to see if the display would go ahead due to the low cloud cover during the day.

The display was reduced in time to 17 minutes because of the conditions and some of the high level manoeuvres had to be cut including the famous ' heart' , the caterpilar and the vixen loop, however the display was an awesome spectacle to view from Corbyn head beach rocks with the planes repeatedly flying low over our heads.

We witnessed the diamond 9 arrival, the swan bend , their apollo roll and their famous champagne split before they split up and arrived from different directions.

The ' barrel rolls' where two hawks fly straight at each other from opposite sides of the bay, one streaming blue and the other red smoke behind them, and roll away from each other at the last possible moment was fantastic and was repeated a further two times.

It is indeed unusual to have the Red Arrows display team appear on a Sunday in Torquay for Regatta week, but judging by the crowds it proved very popular.

The Pilots

Since mid 1990 ‘s there have been nine Red Arrows display pilots each year, including the Team Leader. All Red Arrows pilots are volunteers, so to be eligible to apply for the Team,

all pilots must have completed at least one operational tour on a front line fast jet such as the Tornado, Harrier and Jaguar, and have a minimum of 1,500 flying hours. The Pilots must also have been assessed in their annual reports as being above average in their operational role, which means that the volunteers are usually Flight Lieutenants in their late twenties or early thirties.

Each display pilot stays with the Red Arrows team for a three-year tour of duty. The reason for this is that by changing three pilots each year the experience level within the Team is optimised.

Each year, usually around thirty pilots apply for the Team, from which a short list of nine spend a week with The Red Arrows, and are put though a rigorous programme of interviews, flying tests and assessments of their personal qualities and motivation. It is also important that all The Red Arrows’ display pilots not only trust each other’s skills but get on well together. The current pilots make their final choices at a closed meeting chaired by the Commandant of the Central Flying School.

If one of the pilots goes sick during the display season, or for any other reason such as a crash and is not able to fly, the Team is able to fly an 8-ship formation. There are no reserve pilots for safety reasons; one spare pilot could not possibly learn all nine positions to the standard required, so all pilots always fly in the same position within the formation and it takes an intensive six-month training programme for each pilot to become thoroughly proficient at flying in his position.

The Full team this year are as follows :-

  • Red one :- Wing Commander Dicky Patounas
  • Red two :- Flight leuitenant Greg Perilleux
  • Red Three :-Flight leuitenant Damian Ellacott
  • Red four :-Squadron leader Greg Morley
  • Red five :-Flight leuitenant Paul O' Grady
  • Red six :-Flight leuitenant Simon Stevens
  • Red seven :-Flight leuitenant Jim Turner
  • Red Eight :-Flight leuitenant David Slow
  • Red Nine :-Squadron leader Martin Higgins
  • Red ten :-Flight leuitenant Andy Robins

Mambo appeals with fashion show

Wednesday June 7th 2006

Cafe bar Mambo on the harbour side Torquay were the latest company to help with the Bobby Wright Cancer appeal by hosting a fundraising evening on their premises on Tuesday evening.

Close to 100 people packed the top bar for a fashion show presenting clothes modelled by the staff of the 'Animal' fashion shop in Torquay and Burtons Menswear. During the interval they were also treated to a demonstration on how they do hair extensions at VFM Valentinos hairdressing.

I have been asked to contribute a prize for the draw at tonights Fashion Show and I have contributed a free studio session to the winner of the draw and will be taking promotional photos for the press this evening.

Bobby Wright a four-year-old from Kenn near Exeter has received treatment in this country for a rare children's cancer called neuroblastoma, but his parents are aiming to raise £200,000 to send him to America for pioneering antibody therapy in a bid to stop the cancer returning.

A prize draw was made after the show by Mambo manager Emily Hancox from over 19 donations made to the appeal by local businesses. These included a studio photo session by LA Images , a free meal for two at cafe Mambo,an evening at the comedy club, days out at Woodlands and Crealy park, chocolates by Thornton's and 2 bottles of champagne courtesy of Royal Bank of Scotland.

Extra money was raised by a collection on the night as well as advanced ticket sales, the total amount raised by the evening is expected to top £500.

Anyone wishing to make a private donation can do so by bank transfer or text , details of which can be found on their website

World Cup Tournament at the Beckham Academy London Friday June 9th

24 teams paying £5000 each lined up at the David Beckham Academy, London last Friday to mark the start of the FIFA World Cup finals in Germany. This event was for 5 a side teams who were paying to play against former professional players such as Clive Allen of Spurs, Kerry Dixon of Chelsea, Frank McAvennie of West Ham and Nigel Winterburn of Arsenal.

There were 8 groups containing 4 teams each, one of which was a legends team, the legends were not allowed to progress to the second round stage. This meant every team had a match of 15 minutes against their former heroes and the top 2 teams went forward to the last 16.

The final was a great match between QBE Insurance playing as England and Amlin Insurance playing as France, with the trophy finally going to QBE.

After the match the players got to mix with the Legends while enjoying the hospitality of a meal and a free bar while watching the opening matches from the World Cup finals on a large screen.

The whole event was run by www.playdreamteams.com with many thanks to Joel and Helen for their months of preparation and hard work on the day.

Torbay half marathon Sunday 26th June

It was a glorious sunny start to the Torbay Half Marathon Sponsored by The Herald Express , when the runners got underway at 10 am. The course was around Paignton green twice before starting out along the seafront towards Torquay, through Livermead Bay past the Grand Hotel and the promenade and then to Torquay Harbour and back to Paignton green for the first loop and then another loop.

Many of the marshalls along the course giving traffic directions were members of Torquay Athletic club who had given up their Sunday morning to make sure all ran smoothly, the winners were back to the finish line in just over an hour , but for most people running for charities the race would be around the 2 to 3 hour mark.