I grew up on a steady diet of World War II books and movies. The war had been over just 12 years when I was born, and my Dad had lived through it. I devoured his stories, books, went with him to movies. I still can’t remember the title of one movie he took me to, where a pilot flew his B-17 without the 9-man crew, to look for the enemy fleet. The hero flew until he no longer had the fuel to return, but accomplished his mission. Never forgot that.
The first airplane model I ever built was a Spitfire. Santa paired a Spit and an Me-109 for that year, 1/72 scale. I can still see the models clearly in my mind, the desperate battles I flew in fiercely contested airspace in my bedroom.
I had never seen a Spitfire up close. I saw one, about 2 million kilometres away, over the Ginkel Heath drop zone during an air show commemorating Operation Market-Garden.
So when Anna, my friend in New Zealand, took me to the Auckland War Museum last March, I reacted badly.
I cut through the line, pushed past everyone. I tried to climb over the rope cordon. I shed tears. Anna ushered her daughter away and considered calling for professional help. “Calli, remember what I told you, don’t follow him, he is a little strange, even if he’s my friend… .”
There was a Merlin engine next to the airplane. You could press a button and fill the room with the symphonic performance of a Merlin engine starting up. They finally dragged me away after I had pressed it about 162 times.
I was fed lunch and taken on a long drive to calm me down. Then Anna and Neil finally decided they could safely take me to MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology.
I went berserk.
They had a Lancaster! A De Havilland Mosquito! A De Havilland Vampire! A DC-3, a Lockheed 10 Electra, a Tiger Moth!
It was all too much. These are the best airplanes from the movies with my Dad! The Dam Busters. Mosquito Squadron, and 633 Squadron. Amelia Earhart, and the exquisite flying scene with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. And my most loved books. Frederick Forsythe’s The Shepherd. Fate is the Hunter. All in the same place! Oooh. Oooh.
It was all too much. I had to sit down.
There was another button, you could start a radial engine. Again and again, and again. They had a briefing tent for a bombing mission over Germany. There were exhibits on Bomber Command; the Battle of Britain’s Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, KBE, MC, DFC, who was Kiwi; aircraft carrier models; dioramas of dogfights. There were leather helmets and flying jackets you could wear.
You try grinning for an entire day. My face hurt for days, long after I got back to Singapore.
Thank you Anna, Neil and Calli
Posted from Positano, Italy
May 29, 2014