Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Moffat Book Events

Here is the group pic taken by David Borthwick at the children's story-telling session of our Moffat Book Event on Oct 15. Among those pictured are: (standing) Katherine Clemmens, Tina Fox, Lindsay Clark, (seated) Carolyn Yates, Alis Ballance, Elizabeth Roberts, Julia Eccleshare, Marilyn Elliott and a recumbent Angus Sinclair; under the rug is hidden The Moffalump. We are meeting today to discuss our spring event, themed on gardening, plant hunting and land art - a sense of place.

Belief in one of my foundation myths was shaken today, courtesy of the online Writer's Almanac: the item claims that the aircraft named The Spruce Goose was made of birch, not spruce (the sort I grow in south Lanarkshire). Technically known as the H-4 Hercules, today is the anniversary of its maiden -- and only -- flight on this date in 1947. It was dreamed up by shipping magnate Henry Kaiser, and designed by Howard Hughes, it remains the largest airplane ever built, by far: It's five stories tall, it boasts a wingspan of 320 feet, its cargo area is large enough to hold two railroad boxcars, and it has eight engines with 17-foot propellers. It was made of wood because metal was at a premium during the war, and Kaiser wanted to see if aircraft could be built using other materials. He and Hughes landed a government contract to build three prototypes. Hughes micromanaged every aspect of the design and production process, and the project fell way behind schedule. Kaiser eventually walked away from the whole thing. The plane hadn't even been assembled yet by the time the war ended, and the government began to feel as if it had been swindled. Finally, Hughes completed the plane and, as was his practice, took it out for its maiden flight himself. He reached an altitude of about 70 feet, went over a mile in under a minute, and never flew it again. Some people thought it was because the plane was unsafe, but most likely there was no reason to fly it anymore. He'd proven he could do it, and besides, the war was over, and there was no more demand for behemoth seaplanes. On second thoughts, this is a silly, poorly thought out piece of research, because all the early planes such as the Spirit of St Louis and many WWII planes, eg the Spitfire, were made of wood - spruce, as it happens. And canvas.

The protagonist of William Boyd's Any Human Heart is now nearly 70, living in France, and I am 87% through the book. My first experience with Kindle is a fantastic success. The featherlight device means that I never need worry about having to kill time eg in the dentist's waiting room, or on a train. Mind you, one of the most interesting experiments I ever did was not to read for a day or was it a week. It was one of a series of exercises in a book called (I think) The Artist's Way - my sister read it on recommendation and she passed it on to me. It's that sort of book.

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