Sunday, September 03, 2006

Open The Taps ...

The French Air Force, like any modern defence force, likes to be up there with the best. So far, the service have managed to survive without investing in foreign built aircraft as, for years, all their flying machines have been designed and built at home by Dassault. Naturally, they like to show them off and the tax payer should be pleased to see them. The 'l'Armee de l'Air' fly, as does any country that has been invaded twice, wherever they want - they call it countrywide protection. The ability to scramble and intercept 'unfriendlies' is an exercise which has been well rehearsed. No take-offs from a distant aerodrome and up into the wild blue yonder for these characters, oh no. It's low-level stuff over fields and villages with the juice well and truly 'on'.

We come down to the country house is to relax, eat well and sleep. Taking life easy is nigh-on impossible in a city which, itself, can't stop buzzing for five minutes. Having the use of a retreat is a luxury - and don't we know it. Wide open fields, thick dark forests and lazy quiet roads. A gentle drive to the nearest town, stock up on supplies for a week and that's it ... nothing but good, home-cooked food, the odd game of tennis, long walks along farms tracks or, with my latest investment, half an hour of afternoon shut-eye in a hammock under a tree.

Now, enter the boys in G-suits who smell of jet fuel ...

Nine times out of ten you don't hear these buggers coming. The calm is pierced by a short high-pitched 2-second whistle followed by a great thunderous roar. They come down so low that you can clearly make out the insignia on the fuselage. Mostly, they're Mirage 2000s, single-seater, front line machines - quite ugly in fact. Not the graceful lines of a Tornado or an F-16 but great delta-wing fuel burners.

Shortly before lunch, my beloved and I were out in the garden (her 5-yr old still away on her 'pony week'), when we heard the whistle. To the skies we looked and a pair of Mirages came over the trees. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as the wingman was flipping and turning to keep up with the leader. As they passed overhead, next door's dog, whom we look after him during the day, suddenly made for the fields at an alarming rate. A stocky black Labrador, a mass of flailing tail, ears and paws in a highly excited state. It took us a second to figure out what he was up to but as the two aerial cowboys made for the horizon, we soon discovered what he was on about.

A little way up the farm track is 'le Riche Bois', The Rich Wood, where a multitude of wildlife spend their daylight hours. A large powerful stag had been spooked by the jets and had made a panic dash across the field beside the house. He was moving at an impressive speed and was clearly in no mood to stop and chat. It was a toss-up as what to watch; the jets or the stag. It is not common to see this animal out in the open at that time of day but it took us a second to realise that the dog was in hot persuit. Clearly, the stag was winning and as my beloved called the dog back, the Lab soon realised that it was futile to continue the chase. Far away the jets dipped over the trees and the stag bounced out of sight into the lower field. If dogs could smile, then the Lab came back in hysterics ...



Anonymous Les said...

Ok, Mr Peace-And-Quiet, here's a reminder for you.....Saif Sareea II...a Canberra at 400kts and 45ft AGL.....but of course, there's no stags in Oman, are there? :p

Sunday, September 03, 2006 5:39:00 pm  
Blogger Joker said...

And what may I ask is wrong with that?

Ok, there is one thing wrong, it isn't a mighty Tornado!

Saturday, September 09, 2006 2:32:00 am  

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