Ray's World Adventures 2000
Ray is Presented With a Very Special Surprise Gift
Brighton Kite Festival - July 9th, 2000
The Plot :: The Pictures :: The Conspirators
Terrific! -- Despite a blustery and rain-spotted day, and not flying any of my kites, that was GOOD FUN -- Ray Bethell (Big Daddy) was in cracking form after we lubricated him with a drop (well - more than a drop) of decent malt whiskey. He flew two of his famous routines -- three kites to "You are the wind beneath my wings" and a pair linked by a single tail to "The Hawaiian Wedding Song".
Then it was time for the "Gotcha" -- I managed to grab the radio mike and explained what was going on (thanks to Simon Hennessy for interpreting to Ray). This gift was mainly from Harry Douglas and myself -- for Harry it was his way of saying "I'm so glad to be alive" -- after the doctors gave him just a few months to live in March '99.
For myself it was the only tangible way I could think to express my feelings -- not only heartfelt thanks for Harry's continuing good health, but also for the pure joy that "Big Daddy" spreads so freely, whenever we see him. I also spread the word among our friends in the world of kiting, and invited them to "join in the fun" by sending a cloth patch of their club logo, to be mounted in the carrying case.
Last year at Brighton was the first time I ground-crewed for Ray, and I recall how it moved me to tears, standing under those big, beautiful kites as they swirled and soared to that great music. This year it was the rib-crunching bear hugs that made my eyes water!!!
How The World-Wide Plot Began...
The idea for the present was born when I first saw an item on rec.kites newsgroup, from Ellen. She announced there was an artist and kite-maker called Shannon, who was making miniature kite replicas, correct in every detail and mounted in a 3D picture frame.
When I saw the example on her website, the idea was born on the instant -- but I thought I'd better check to see if he had made anything for the big man already -- it seemed such an obvious idea! AMAZING -- I was the first to think of it! I called Harry, who loved the idea, and an order was placed immediately.
Then I had second thoughts... Ray flies three kites... what about mounting THREE kites in one frame? Ray flies to the tune of "You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings"... can we have those words too? The answers came back right away (God bless E-mail) -- Yes and Yes!!!
Then came the question of how to get it safely from Springfield, Virginia back to UK... Serendipity... I just love it... Sometimes the answer just falls into your hands...
My better half ("Significant Other" in American) sprang a surprise on me! Can you guess? "Darling, I've booked that holiday for us." -- "Uh, um, er - what holiday?" "The one I told you about - two weeks in California." -- "Huh? What? (and other unintelligible noises) - You BOOKED it?" "Yes, we leave on May 23rd" -- ...(stunned silence).
Time passes and slowly (very slowly) the details sink in and and Hey-Presto - there is the answer to my little problem!
If I can just get the package sent to somebody (preferably a kite flier) near where we would be in California, then I could meet up with them, collect the package and maybe even fly a kite or two with them... Hmmm -- I like that!
Time passes... E-mails (lots of them) fly back and forth across "the pond"... The fine detail is ironed out, job completed, pictures sent and approved, money sent (cash in a Jiffy bag, the cheapest way) and package shipped to Tom Macalister at Highline Kites, Berkeley CA. There is a nice little joke in choosing Tom - he organizes the Berkeley Kite Festival, where Big daddy is due to fly two weeks after Brighton.
And so we flew out to San francisco -- had a fine time, rode the cable cars, did Chinatown, ate lobster on Pier 39, got sun burned, and while my wife and daughter "did shopping", I took a little trip... Has anyone else been on "the BART"? San Francisco's answer to the "London Underground" train system... Just a little scary... Lotsa "boys in the hood" and me on my own, not knowing where the Heck I was going... and I was carrying this black briefcase...
Got there alive (after what felt like a century) and found a cab... OK -- next time I'll look for one without knife slashes all over the back seat, but with A/C and a driver who can at least understand proper English... then by some miracle I still cannot grasp, we found the address. Well, chugged right by it really, with a huge van parked outside, marked KITES -- (a bit of a giveaway, I know).
Tom Macalister is a really nice guy -- busy as can be, running Highline Kites almost single-handed and somehow finding time to organize a major kite festival -- hats off to Tom! I just had time for a cold drink, then grab the package -- load the contents into my little briefcase (now you know why I brought it) and a quick drive back to the BART station (with Tom, thankfully) before he had to rush off to a kite workshop -- like I said, one busy man!
The rest of the holiday passed in a blur -- trying to get a photo of the Golden Gate bridge, when its 90% hidden by mist -- a close encounter with King Kong & Jaws at Universal Studio -- meeting Shamu and his very splashy little dolphin cousins at Sea World, San Diego -- a day trip to Ensenada in Mexico -- more lobster in a sea-side restaurant at Monterey. Memorial Day solemnity at Rosecrans -- flying at Sea Village San Diego (hallowed ground, where the Rev training video was shot) -- then suddenly it's time to go home.
It took nearly a week to shake off the mental fog of jet-lag, then with fresh ideas a-plenty... We had engineered a meeting between Ray and a super bloke in Australia, called Graeme Poole who had sent us one of his famous Dragonfly kites, purely on the strength of the fact that we were in Poole (like his name -- get it?) and he has an Uncle Harry (like our Old Harry D.) -- so we scrounged a patch off him...
Having started the ball rolling, we just passed the message on to all UK kite folk who we thought would like to join the fun, and add to the collection of patches inside the briefcase. The response was very good, as you can see if you check out the pictures.
I think it went down well with Big Daddy -- he had to rush off and catch a plane, and we were glad to drive sedately home, enjoying every second of the memory of that great day. Sincere and never-ending thanks to those excellent people who worked so hard to put on a top-class kite festival in appalling conditions. Brighton Kite Fliers -- top people!
We got an E-mail from Big Daddy a few days later... Just a short note to say many thanks for the awesome present it will look great in my trophy and computer room. At Heathrow the customs asked me what was in the case and to open it for inspection, the customs inspector said "Man that's brilliant" and took it to show all the other inspectors.
The Plot :: The Pictures :: The Conspirators
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