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Sunday and it’s time for my two-yearly ‘General Flight Test’ (GFT), with Clive, the instructor who taught me to fly in the first place. These days, one has to revalidate every two years or risk having to sit all the exams again if one lapses, a fate worse than death and expensive too. Flying is increasingly wrapped in red-tape and keeping abreast of the regulations isn’t always that easy. Falling foul of them is even worse.

Full credit to Clive for showing great courage in sitting in an aircraft with me again and we spent a happy sixty minutes between the North coast of Kent and Dover, manoeuvring in cloud practising my instrument skills or at least, what’s left of them.

As my aircraft’s ancient intercom isn’t working properly, Clive had to resort to a mixture of shouting and writing instructions on my knee pad while I felt my way between the banks of cloud.

In fact, bachelor Clive has just returned from flying his own aircraft down to Corsica for a week’s holiday. I’m jealous, being single obviously has its rewards when you happen to own an aircraft.

Calais airport is, I hear, open and not closing down, as people seem to think. Apparently, it has a stay of execution until at least 2006, which is good, because it’s a convenient little airport and much less busy than Le Touquet. The restaurant there isn’t bad for a quick flying visit either.

I see the local paper has headlined a couple of low flying incidents involving Manston airport next door to me here. The first involved an aircraft vortex removing the tiles from a roof in Ramsgate and the second, which a number of fellow pilots noticed, was an Air Atlanta (Cargo) 747, badly miscalculating the eastern approach to Manston’s runway 10 and skimming the rooftops at Minster. This was at least a thousand feet lower than it should have been and off centre to the approach. A number of people needed changes of underwear by all reports.

My small daughter, Charlotte, beat me at chess twice this weekend, even with my Queen removed as a handicap. Nobody was more surprised than I, as this was the first time I have played her and I used to play competitively, even obsessively, when I was young. As she’s only eight, it’s a very proud moment for both of us.

I was lucky enough to have had dinner with Gary Kasparov two years ago, and he told me how he was trying to promote chess as part of the global curriculum as a proven means of building mental development among children. I'm sure he's right but I doubt we’ll see it built into the test-stressed school curriculum in this country. The education ministry can’t see beyond SATS as a means of testing our children’s intelligence.


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