Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy holiday brought back to earth by an airborne tragedy

Tributes today poured in for Bob Jones, right, pictured with Councillor John Morgan at Welshpool Airport

Will wonders never cease? I’m happy to report that my recent absence from your teatime routine had nothing to do with my usual medical quagmire and everything to do with sunning myself under African skies – two weeks in The Gorgeous Gambia and I’m refreshed, full of zest and raring to get ranting writes Emma Suddaby.

Seriously though, with my hitherto unbroken record of holiday health disasters, the fact that I managed to get through fourteen, whole days and nights without accident or illness is something to be celebrated.

And isn’t that just the wonder of being alive? The World’s unerring capacity to throw a curved ball into the mix, just to remind us that things can change on a sixpence. Against nearly all advice, I went ahead with the holiday, despite understanding very well the many good reasons why I should cancel and stay at home safe and secure in my well-worn rut. Life is simply a lottery. Some we win, some we lose. Mostly I lose but this time I was lucky.

The Gambia is a fascinating country steeped in tribal history, stunningly tropical and full of friendly faces. It is the most genuine holiday destination I’ve visited in years, no huge, barricaded resorts locked into five-star luxury compounds but instead a jump off the deep end into the culture, lifestyle and baffling monetary system of a developing country.

If it’s full English breakfasts, hassle-free shopping and alcohol soaked karaoke nights you’re after, Africa maybe isn’t for you. If you don’t want anything too foreign, turn back now! The streets are a colourful, loud assault on our delicate European sensitivities. But scratch the surface of this sandy paradise and discover a nation of poor, proud, smiling Gambians eager to show you their world.

This time I was lucky but a tragic reminder that luck doesn’t last forever is the shocking death of Bob Jones, farmer/pilot and one of the founders of Welshpool Airport, tragically killed along with another man when their seven-seater Piper Navajo aircraft crashed on Long Mountain, near Welshpool last week. It is not yet known what caused the crash but as highly trained and experienced pilots, both men understood the potential risks of aviation – did it anyway and loved every minute.

Life is all about risks and some risks are worth taking. And as a pilot myself, I’m pretty sure the late Mr Jones &Co went out in exactly the way they would have chosen, enjoying the hobby they loved. My condolences go out to his family and the many flying folk who knew and loved him – a man after my own heart, he believed in grabbing his ticket in the lottery of life with both hands, come what may.

Anyone can exist, but you have to be in it to win it.

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