Dad! Where are you? The first rule of a day trip is try not to lose your kid
Sunday 17 July 2005
I am 13 years old. I am wedged between a rough-hewn wooden fence, keeping a huge crowd back from a runway, and the stomach of an extremely overweight and smelly man. He looks down at me and smiles. I shriek. I shout, to his alarm. This is not my father. Where is my father? But my cries are drowned by the shoe-shaking sound of a Harrier jumpjet.
It is not easy to find your dad when you are lost among 300,000 people at the largest American airbase in the country. When the policemen you might ask for help have mirror shades and guns. When every punter in the place is wearing a simulated leather flight jacket, beige slacks and a baseball cap decorated with the gaudy squadron regalia of the Screamin' Eagles (just purchased, but which his wife will never let him wear out of the house). I am terrified. But I am not surprised. This always happens. Every time my dad takes me to an air display, which he seems to do every other week during this period of my life, I get lost. More precisely, I stay where I am and he wanders off, to photograph a Fiesler Storch or stroke the propeller of a Sea Fury.
There are thrills here, including the chance to sit in cockpits and wear flight helmets, and the elegant manoeuvres of the Red Arrows. I've seen a Starfighter go into the ground with a crump and a Mitchell Marauder disappear into the valley beyond the perimeter of an airfield. The ashes and smoky debris fell on us like sooty rain. To a witless pre-pubescent these tragedies were finer entertainment than even an Atari or a Chopper could provide. So I have been frightened to tears before at air displays and loved it. But not today.
I am tired, alone and scared. I will never forget this moment. Not even when Dad bumbles out of the sea of strangers carrying the most enormous burgers ever. They drip with weird sauces which we don't see in Walthamstow but they are no compensation. When he asks me to come with him again I will say no and a chapter of our lives - one that includes the precious memory of sleeping in the Austin Maxi in a layby together - will be over. I am sad about that all the way home.
And it will come back to me 20 years later, when he and I are among the crowds on the seafront close to my home watching an air display and he turns to tell my son that the Red Arrows are coming, only to look back at me with alarm and say, "Have you seen Jake?"
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
- 5 Bryan Cranston speaks candidly about wealth
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...
£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...
COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...