Years ago, while writing Sorrel in Scarlet, I joked to Janet that if I ever got published, I should get an author photo taken with a triplane.
As the book progressed, I bought myself a Revell plastic kit of a Sopwith Triplane, and a Poser CGI triplane which was also a Sopwith. These two fixed the image in my mind that Sorrel's aeroplane was of that form.
So, as I prepared to release the book upon an unsuspecting world, I decided to get myself a photo with a Sopwith Tripe. A few moments with Google confirmed that the Shuttleworth Collection, less than an hour's drive away, owned a beautiful example (a replica, but still a perfect specimen). And so, this morning, we had the first free day for us to have a family trip to Shuttleworth.
To my surprise, as we neared the aerodrome, it became clear that today was an Air Day, and that the aeroplanes would be flying. I hadn't looked at the Shuttleworth webpage carefully, and hadn't expected this. Worse still, as we arrived, I saw the Triplane itself being wheeled away into the distance.
I eventually found that it had been parked at the far end of the aerodrome, well away from anywhere that mere mortals could get to. My chances of getting photographed with it had just become approximately nil.
All right, so the compensation was to see the aeroplane flying, but that wasn't the objective.
On the other hand, the aeroplane in the book is simply a triplane. Not expressly a Sopwith one, notwithstanding my mental image. And the Shuttleworth Collection has two triplanes.
The second is an Avro Triplane, originally built in 1911 - again, Shuttleworth's version is a replica, built for the film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. It was still in its hangar, almost in solitary state as the other 'planes were being wheeled out - we jumped at the opportunity, and gained a photograph of yours truly.
As we waited for the airshow, Janet spotted a young woman in modern green coveralls... with a badge describing her as a pilot. I managed to snatch a few words with her. She was Clare Tector, and she confirmed she would be flying the Shuttleworth DH60 Moth, in full period pilot garb. The chance of a photograph of a female pilot so attired was too good to miss - she generously agreed to pose for a photo after she had flown.
Her flying was impressive, the aeroplane handling magnificently.The Moth is the predecessor to the Tiger Moth, a two seat trainer still commonly flying and in use - Clare confirmed that the Moth, despite being an older airframe, actually flies better than its descendant.
Afterwards, she kindly let us photograph her, even holding a copy of my book. I think she was rather shocked that the novel begins with an aeroplane crash - she said she was glad she hadn't known that before she flew. I hope I haven't traumatised her, and I am extremely grateful to her for her generosity and willingness to be photographed.
Expect to see more about Shuttleworth, triplanes and pilots in future posts.