This little diamond of plastic was a recreational experience waiting to happen
Saturday 08 November 1997
The transverse struts were slotted into the appropriate retaining pockets. The vertical transverse strut was then bent into a convex contour to facilitate its removal from the retaining pocket because it hadn't first been threaded through the kite tail. (see Fig 1a).
The transverse struts were relocated in the appropriate pockets, and the retaining clips for the two string attachments were presented to the junction points. (A and B).
Reference was then made to the enlarged detail (Fig 2a) indicating the mechanism of the retaining clips. Construction was briefly interrupted by the query of a prospective kite-flier: "Have you done it yet, Dad?"
After the self-evident nature of the reply had been demonstrated, renewed reference was made to the enlarged detail (Fig 2a), which illustrated the method of attaching the clips by means of arrows. Incomprehensible, squiggly arrows.
Attention was transferred to the larger illustration (Fig 2), indicating the method of attaching the kite handles to the - as yet unsecured - string loops on the main body of the kite by means of two other... clip things... located... located...
At this point, Query A - "Have you done it yet, Dad?" - was repeated. Eventually, as I say, after not much more than half an hour's effort, the kite was made ready.
"You're a genius, Dad! Daddy's done it!" I wasn't sure what the element of surprise in this exclamation said about my general level of practical ability. But I let it pass as a mood of gathering anticipation took hold.
With its cheeky, watch-me-fly Mickey Mouse face and long red ribbon tail, this little diamond of plastic was a recreational experience just waiting to happen.
A curious thing occurred in the course of the subsequent test flight. As I dragged the gaudy gift around the field Mickey's face took on another, less pleasant expression - one of derision; perhaps even scorn.
The little mouse seemed to grow ever more delighted as he tantalised with little skyward dashes before plunging repeatedly into the springy turf.
Unwisely, I had read the pocket guide beforehand, taking in the instructions for more spectacular manoeuvres. "Figure eights: pull on left line to loop left, then pull on right line to loop right..."
No more than a soaring fantasy. I was, however, successful in one respect. "When stunting, your lines will become crossed," the pocket guide had promised. I managed to achieve this even before take-off.
The double strings had in fact intertwined with such complexity that they would have prevented the kite from rising in the - admittedly unlikely - event of any sustained flight.
As I bent towards the tangle I was momentarily impressed by my efforts. Now there was something that wouldn't come undone in a hurry, I thought. Better than any of the reef knots or sheet bends which had I had practised so diligently - and so pointlessly - as a Scout.
Perhaps, I wondered, I could patent this as a new knot. The only problem was I didn't know how I had made it.
It took no more than quarter of an hour to untangle the kite. Twenty minutes, perhaps. By the time the twin lines were straight, my children's faces were beginning to take on a distinctly Mickey-like appearance.
But I could feel hope rising, rising with the wind that was now beginning to stir the huge poplar at the edge of the field into fresh life.
There are good times to release a kite. My guide book had helpfully summarised the procedure in a little scale. And I had the feeling that we were at least in a stage two situation - "Wind 4-7 mph. Wind felt on face. Leaves rustle" - and perhaps even at stage three: "Wind 8-12mph. Leaves and twigs move and light flags extended."
Now was the moment. Now was the opportunity. Hurling the plastic high into the air, I raced backwards and felt the string handles tugging. Up, Mickey, up! He rose; he smiled. He nosedived.
"The kite doesn't work," my five-year-old announced with finality. "I'm going to play on the swings."
From hero to zero in 45 sweaty minutes. The genius had been found out.
I am looking now at the blithe words of the instructions: "Practise aerobatics gently, high up in the sky." If I ever get there, I promise, I swear, my aerobatics will be gentle as lambs.
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