my kind of porn

Dave TV is running old episodes of helicopter rescue programmes. I switch on straight into footage of the 2004 Boscastle flood. Machines from different services edge nervously round each other in the sky, trying not to run into one another, or into any wires or hills. Boscastle has aged suddenly, taking on the visual status of a ruin falling back into the coastline, a deserted mining village in a brown & white photograph. “It’s mayhem down there,” someone’s dispatcher remarks, looking at the floating cars banging off buildings and bridges on their way down to the sea. Then he adds thoughtfully, “You’ve still got those powerlines off to your left.” Normally, one of the helicopters would fly up to 5,000 feet and from there co-ordinate the operations of the others. But the continuing storm prevents that. So they land gingerly on the local football field and negotiate. There’s so much custom for them in Boscastle you get the feeling they’re embarrassed. In programmes like these there are always plenty of numbers. In 2004, for instance, 76 cars were swept through Boscastle and ended up in the sea. I’m not here for the statistics. I’m here for the helicopter porn. A red and white Coast Guard Sea King is fastened above the greyish-brown turbulence; only the water and the rotor blades are moving; the machine has a body-language of intense attentiveness, as if it is fishing. Adolescent holidaymakers are the more usual subjects of rescue. They become separated from their bodyboards, or fall off a cliff drunk or go too far on a rubber dinghy. “There’s no let up for Whiskey Bravo,” the voiceover tells us. The crew of Whiskey Bravo wouldn’t want one. They want to work. I deeply admire their calm concentration & their quiet, especially practical argot, the rhythms and stresses of which return language to something worthwhile (from what I know it as, anyway, something you can never trust even–indeed especially–when you made it yourself). “The downwash is right underneath us. Steady. In contact. Steady, steady. Just over the surf line, two feet on the main gear on the right.”

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “my kind of porn

  1. Martin M

    Glad you’ve steered clear of the more dubious stuff.

    http://glasgow.gumtree.com/glasgow/87/51372887.html

  2. Andy McDuffie

    My kind of helipcopter porn is pretty specific: I’m a Hughes 500D sort of a guy, really. I’ve tried other types but they just don’t do it for me like the Hughes…..

    That’s probably because I’m actually a vintage synthesizer porn guy.

    Wow…
    http://www.amazona.de/media/articles/article_images/article_1734/1_ps3200.jpg

  3. MikeM

    Sorry, it’s the nerd in me: just one statistic, it was 2004, not 2007. Time flies, but not like helicopters do, unfortunately.

  4. Mike A

    Is helicopter porn what you get when you google “big choppers”?

    Actually, if you google “helicopter porn” you’ll find the rather worrying story of struck-off pilot David Martz.

  5. uzwi

    Thanks, MikeM. I’ve fixed that.

  6. Know what you mean, Mike, about language being returned to something worthwhile. Given that I get a lump in my throat when I even hear a siren, or notice the approaching smear of fluorescent yellow, I should not have been surprised by an impulse that came upon me recently to jack in not just the writing, but also the lecturing job (which of course pays ten times more than the writing, especially since I took it up and could no longer free up the time or energy to earn money by writing any more), and retrain as a paramedic. Do something worthwhile for a change. The only really worthwhile thing I do is give blood. Just made my twenty-fifth donation. Got the badge and everything. You can’t call telling MA students how to punctuate a sentence worthwhile. Not when you’re doing it for the fourth year running.

  7. benspencert

    I had a thrilling firsthand experience of calling in a Sea King after my climbing partner broke both legs falling off a sea cliff on the Lleyn Peninsula. I ran for miles along the clifftop to a remote farmhouse that had no phone and continued into Aberdaron to the local hotel to call the coastguard. The helicopter appeared as I was running breathless back to the accident site where my friend was balanced on a ledge above the rising tide and watched them lower a man into a narrow zawn and watched a little enviously as Paul was cut from the belay, given gas & air then winched skyward to shoot off North to Bangor leaving me lonely and traumatised on the top of the cliff. The old couple from the farmhouse appeared with a flask of tea and a length of blue washing line to assist with the rescue.

    Another one etched into memory is the sight of an enormous Chinook, like an roaring articulated lorry suddenly appearing over the top of Dinas Mot as I was picking my way gingerly up the slab of Supra-Direct. ‘Fucking Hell!’ shouts Martin from the belay as I just pulled my neck into my shoulders and tried not shrivel up in fright.

  8. You see, I even filled up reading benspencert’s account there, especially the bit about the old couple from the farmhouse turning up with a flask of tea. Lovely story, beautifully told.

  9. uzwi

    Hi Ben. I don’t envy you your Lleyn Peninsula experience–I hope your climbing partner recovered well–though I felt as if I wanted to hug the old couple. But I envy you the Chinook like a heavy lorry, suddenly appearing over Dinas Mot. I believe I would have shit a bus. Amazing how calm you can force yourself to be in circumstances like that. (If there are any circumstances “like that” which aren’t that.)

    Nick: the ambush of futility. Lies in wait for us all. Or at least, I think, for anyone who’s run up against the truth of writing, ie that it’s just bloody writing. I walked into the Huddersfield Recruiting Office sometime in the early 80s & told the sergeant how far I could run, the heavy packs I had carried & the holes I had fallen down while carrying them, the routes I’d been on. He stared bemusedly at me for a bit & then said, “Well you really sound quite fit, but we don’t take anyone under 34.” I stood in the street wondering which was worse, having been turned down or having gone in there in the first place. I was completely anti-army. Maybe that was why. I wanted to do something 100% opposite to what I already did, who I’d always been: writing will get you like that, just revolt you. You want to put your hand in a door & bang it closed repeatedly until you understand the difference between writing it & being it. I do, anyway. I feel in need of the constant reminder of that.