Now I am not especially enthused by planes, but the events celebrating the events of 1940 have been touching. The dwindling remnants of people who took part in those flights, as air crew, ground crew or manufacture of the planes, are to be saluted. They evoke if not direct memories then at least the sense of history in what has gone before.
Watching the clip it was not the visual evocation of heroism that came to mind, however, but the sound of prop engines that conjured a sense of my childhood. Living in rural Sussex in the 1950s/60s there always seemed to be planes. The noise of propeller engines droning across clear blue skies seemed to represent warm summer afternoons out in the corn fields or even cold autumn mornings walking the river meadows.
Those planes appeared to take forever to pass overhead, their steady hum starting low, drowned out by bird song, growing gradually louder and then receding once more. Because we were some miles from an airport they were never low enough to be loud, but their thrumming became as much a part of my memories as the dusty scents of the summer harvest fields, or the smell of the freshly plucked horse mushrooms in autumn.
The noise evokes a huge nostalgia. I am not a war time child with specific memories of planes as such, nor is it necessarily a reminder of an imaginary idyllic pastoral childhood. Now as then those engines arouse a sense of melancholy, one which is not unpleasant, far from it, yet still one that remains vaguely unsettling. I can stand and listen for several moments after that noise has gone and on occasion feel quite saddened by it, though I have never been able to understand why this should be.
I suspect some musician or sound specialist will tell me it has a link with harmonics or resonances or some other such technical source. I will just be content to know that the sound or prop engines in the skies will whisk me back to the woods and fields of Sussex.
More memories of Sussex are fictionalised in Sussex Tales – available Here