alancasterToday is the Queen’s official birthday, and all sorts of festivities are going on. As I write this, we have just had a surreal experience. Our hotel is just off Trafalgar Square, behind Whitehall. From our window we can see the Union Jacks flying. Our TV-starved son turned on the box to watch a military parade, the soldiers clad in their tall bearskins. I asked him to turn down the sound but… could still hear the sound. In fact, the music was carrying loud and clear over Whitehall and the rooftops from Horseguards, so we watched what we couldn’t see but listened to the real thing! Afterwards, we heard the 21-gun salute from the Park and then, being almost directly in line with the Mall and Buckingham Palace, watched the flypast. It began with a Lancaster bomber, flanked by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, and I immediately had a lump in my throat; a reaction I cannot describe in any rational way. But it does give me the chance to tell a story about a similar and equally irrational reaction. It was 1968 and, as an eleven year-old boy, I was on a nature field trip with my teacher and class. We were walking down a country lane when we saw a Heinkel He-111 flying low towards us, straight along the road. To a boy and girl, we leapt off the road and into the ditches, followed a few moments later by our teacher – so strong were the images and expectations of the Second World War still in us, a war we had never known and only lived through films and books. Of course, we later discovered that they were making a film, The Battle of Britain, but we hadn’t known at that moment. Did we think the plane had flown through a portkey?