Anne’s crisp voice came through loud and clear on my headset as the English coast retreated behind us.
“Does anyone want a biscuit?”
Cliff responded for the both of us. “Not now, Mum. It’s only a short flight.” He shook the map at her, as if she could see it from the rear seat.
I flew straight across the Channel, above the tiny boats motionless on frozen white crests of waves. We’d only been in the air for half an hour when I held up my hand for quiet as I requested clearance to enter restricted airspace. I was told to proceed to the Casquets.
“Or some cheese? I have cheese too.”
Born in 1924, Anne doesn’t suffer from the traditional war-child malaise of worrying where her next meal might come from. She carries it in her handbag.
I gave her a vague wave. I didn’t have time for nibbling. I needed to find the Casquets. My sigh of relief was audible in the cockpit when the three towers perched upon straggly rocks came into view. I slowed right down and wished for my camera.
Just as we were enjoying the birds’ eye perspective of the lighthouse clinging to the sandstone reef, the next call came in: report Guernsey in sight.
I panicked. We were still 15 miles away from the coast. There was a haze of grey land in front of me but did they really believe I could see the runway from this distance?
“I’ve got a bit of chocolate as well,” Anne continued. “As we didn’t have time for breakfast.”
The runway is 1500 metres long, how hard could it be to find? I rubbed my eyes and stared at the rapidly approaching island, then down at the map and back at the island. I couldn’t see it.
The radio hissed into life.
“November Echo X-ray, do you have it in sight?”
“I have the island in sight but not the runway.” I look down, as if to confirm.
As I did, I realise, cheeks aglow, that he had meant the island from the start, not the runway. There was a pause before he responded, politely refraining from laughing while the microphone was on.
“November Echo Xray, we are at your two o’clock. Report airfield in sight.”
I looked to my right, convinced that I was about to run out of island and head straight into France, when I saw it: a beautiful long strip of grey perfectly positioned for me to do a gentle turn towards it and land.
We had arrived. My passengers seemed a lot less surprised by this than I was.