We had a lovely Sunday morning for riding. It was the sort of day that invites one to take advantage of it, knowing intuitively that damp grey winter is almost upon us. K came with me, and our horses were energetic. The two beasts seem to get on well, and compete just enough for some nice fast canters.
The going is good now after a measure of rain, but not unduly wet or slippery. The deciduous trees are lovely, not quite at their peak of autumnal colour, but attractive nonetheless. The harvested fields lie roan, for ploughing has brought chalk and flints to the surface. It's a good time to be out.
After riding I headed twenty miles north to wait by the military airfield at Brize Norton. It's not often that I have much to do with aeroplanes, though I did train as an aircraft engineer three decades ago. Anyway, this weekend saw the final national tour by the only surviving airworthy Vulcan bomber, XH558. On holiday in Scotland as a child in the late 1970s I saw these machines flying at low altitude on training missions, and very impressive they were. The Vulcan had been in service since 1956, and was thoroughly obsolete by the time that I encountered it, based as it was upon captured German wartime research data. And yet a couple of the final Vulcans in service bombed Port Stanley airfield in 1982, shortly before final withdrawal of the dwindling fleet in 1984.
I parked on the highway verge by the end of Brize Norton's long runway. The final view of XH558 airborne was rather anticlimactic. The big delta-winged beast simply flew by, trailing a thin plume of smoke from its four engines, quieter than I had expected. And then it was gone. The Vulcan is a fantastic piece of engineering, however I drove away feeling a peculiar emotion. I was an aviation enthusiast years ago, and history continues to fascinate me. However the paraphernalia of war no longer exerts much of a draw. The Cold War was a time of fear and bloody peripheral wars, and there is little to be nostalgic about. The free world is endangered again, and there is no glory in this. Courage, there is aplenty, but conflict is a poor breeding ground for virtue. Meanwhile our leaders stumble from one war to another, in their hubristic steps making the world more dangerous. Fascination with the hardware of killing just helps one to sleepwalk into acquiescence with the blind men and women in charge. I'm fascinated no longer.