r e t o u r

990224.0824 number 18 bus , hayle , cornwall

i’m on my way to the heliport in penzance , having said goodbye to my sister anna and her husband adam .

the bus is bizarrely fitted with fruity pink flourescent tubes down its left hand side . not many passengers . three or four schoolchildren , a couple of smartly-dressed ladies whom one might presume bound for work .

we’re passing st erth’s fine old parish church . closely-dressed granite blocks , squat grey tower . after london i always find these cornish buses wonderfully incongruous . the same vehicles , but bumping and swaying through single-track country lanes .

i’ve never travelled by helicopter before so in a sad laddish way i’m quite looking forward to the trip . there aren’t too many routes on which they’re regularly used . until this year i’d always crossed to the islands by sea . it was cheaper and seemed more appropriate . but the ferry ( scillonian iii ) is laid up over the winter in plymouth for a refit so it’s fixed wing from land’s end or the chopper from penzance .

ah , mount’s bay comes into view . the sea flat and still . st michael’s mount rising fantastically above it , a steep tree-swathed island topped by a fairy-tale castle . soon we’ll be at the heliport .

.0923 departure lounge , penzance heliport
the pre-fight safety video is running for the second time . < there will be some noise and warm air from the engines . this is perfectly normal > . i used my last few minutes of mobile time to phone st mary’s to arrange a place in the mail boat over to st agnes . i’ll just have time for lunch before this afternoon’s bookings to help a couple of islanders with their computers . back into the swing .

.1058 innisidgen guest house , hugh town , st mary’s
i’ve ducked in here for a coffee and to get out of the rain . the flight was largely cloudbound . helicopters are cool . the company which operates the islands’ service is based in aberdeen from where it services the north sea oil fields . the same sikorsky helicopters too . it was less cramped than i expected . 28 seats in quite a roomy cabin . almost all aircraft interiors seem to be fitted out in the wall-to-wall beige plastic cladding introduced by boeing in the fifties . it’s refreshing to see one with even a marginally different aesthetic . goddam ruskies .

radio two has just announced a new government scheme to help the long-term unemployed . from now on funds will be provided to pay for the removal of tattoos . futuristic stuff .

: cH

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