My kite and I managed to hold up Royalty, honest!
by Ken Lyon
Back in my student days, which seems so long ago... I was down in London, England that is. I'm told there are a few others!
The college I was going to at the time was in Kensington Gore. More famous for the Albert Hall of Prom Concerts phenomenon. It runs along the side of Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens. Any way.
Flying At Hyde Park
For my sins, I used to fly my kites just over the road in Hyde Park, at the round pond. Google it, it's got a long history of kite flying associated with it. Lovely set of old timers, all dedicated to their own creations, mostly Bird kites of one sort or another.
This was back in the late 70's I'm talking here. My skills didn't stretch at the time to anything as fancy as a bird kite. But I had mastered the use of a sewing machine (god bless my old mum) and was working my way through the plans in The Penguin Book of Kites by David Pelham, a real classic! High tech. stuff for me. Rip stop / alloy spars, that sort of thing.
Kiting's good for you for all sorts of reasons, as you all well know. Gets you out in the fresh air, good for raising your spirits. Even exercise when one gets away from you!
Well this particular day I was struggling a bit with my work at college. Things were getting me down. I know, I thought, go fly a Kite! Never fails to bring me out of myself. Also very good for inspiration. I seem to get a lot of good ideas while hanging on to the end of a piece of string that's pointing skyward.
This was a particularly cold day in Feb. Freezing in fact, but sunny. So I wrapped up warm. Grabbed my latest creation. A lovely bright red Roller, in rip stop and alloy, beautiful! Still have it some where. Lovely gentle breeze, perfect for my Roller I thought. It's got a sprung bridle which means it'll fly in most conditions bar a hurricane. It went skyward like a rocket. Very exciting. So much so, I over enthused and let her go up way too high. If you took your eye off her you'd lose her, despite being bright red against a pure, bright almost white sky. I mean seriously high!
I mentioned hurricanes there, not in Hyde Park London. But mid Feb. in England, we do get some pretty good snow storms. The sky suddenly was just a complete white out. What to do? Well for my sins, and the mood I was in I thought, sod it...
Tucked my reel under my arm, under my coat, and headed over to one of the little roofed shelters they have in the park, to wait it out for a while. Seemed like a good idea at the time. What else was I going to do with my day. Was kind of fun being in the park in a snow storm. There wasn't another soul to be seen in the park just me and a length string (obviously not just string, give me some credit).
The Police Arrive
Then I saw some local bobbies, sorry police men, wandering about looking for something. Eventually one headed over to me. Remember at this point I'm under a shelter and the reel's hidden under my coat. I'm thinking, someone's been mugged and he's going to ask have I seen anybody around.
'Excuse me sir'. They're always very polite even when they're about to arrest you! Not that that's ever happened to me. Are you flying a kite? Gulp! 'Yes officer'. Please can you bring it down, we have a helicopter trying to land at Kensington Palace. And your kite is preventing it!
Now I reckon a few minutes to make radio contact and connect with the local police station. A good few minutes more to get some bodies out into the park and I watched the poor guys scanning the horizons in the park for at least another 10. So all in all I must have held up the chopper for over a half an hour.
A Royal Helicopter?!
I'm pretty sure it's only Royalty that would be using that sort of transport to get in to Kensington Palace. I'm also, pretty sure The Duke of York and Fergie were in residence there at the time. So he may well have been at the controls. I know he used to do that, him being a helicopter pilot at the time.
No prosecution, I'm glad to say. Though I'm sure they could have. I must have been well above the legal flying heights permitted. The police man just watched while I wound in the kite, you can imagine how long that took! And the embarrassment. When I'd done, he just walked away. He was probably laughing like a drain inside. Took me a while before I saw the funny side, I can tell you.
Well that's my story, absolutely true I promise! You can contact Kensington Palace, or the Duke of York. I'll bet he remembers.
A quick P.S.
Just in case you have any members in Japan. While at college there, I had a friend in the same department by the name of Kiechi Kawahara, I think that's how you spell it. We used to fly kites together around the pond. We've lost touch since those days. He returned home after college, I heard, and is some thing big in the design world now. But you never know he may be a returning flyer, now we're both of a retiring age. He was born in Nagasaki, so had a long tradition of kite flying. His wife came over once and brought me a Nagasaki Hata. Beautiful hand made fighting kite. White with a large slashing bright red cross angled across it's face. Long since lost it, unfortunately. It would be lovely to get in touch again. Any body out there know of him?
But I'm back to it now. And have a really good flying site very close, at Blyth Hill, here in South London. Not too well frequented except for a couple of Jamaican guys who fly their own home made traditional kites with lovely home made winders as well. Really good to see and really friendly, aren't all us flyers though?
Have a hankering to make a really big bird kite. I've got it all worked out in my head. All I've got to do is make it!
Ken Lyon. If any one wants to get in touch, I have a Hotmail account, name is 'kenthemodel'.
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A previously published page explaining the name and some background on this historical kite design. Plus a photo of a modern Double French Military...