A very special FlightThere they were, standing outside

A very special Flight

There they were, standing outside Heron House, March, Cambs., waving their table cloths enthusiastically. It worked! We had found them! My husband, the other dementia patients and the staff had something different, something special to take their thoughts away from their sad situation. I was in a small plane being flown by a very generous pilot who flew to the home and tipped the plane’s wings to them. It was a special day.  

It all started when I wrote the story of my husband and I as he slowly declined into dementia . The book is a novel: “John, Dementia and Me” . I wrote it to bring the plight of dementia sufferers and their carers to the everyone’s attention.  As I sort publicity, I was invited to speak on Radio Cambridgeshire.

In the Sue Dougan Show, Terry Holloway, Deputy Chairman of Marshall’s in Cambridge was with me. He very kindly took an interest in the book, bought a copy and emailed me to say how he had enjoyed reading it. I replied, thanking him and, using my Aussie cheek, dared to say that ‘I had forgotten to ask for a free flight! ‘ I was expecting a reply that informed me that they did not ‘do’ free frights but what they did do was … To my surprise and delight Terry agreed.

So, on Monday 8th July, on a warm and sunny day, I arrived at Marshall’s Airport and was soon shepherded by Terry towards a little Cessna plane. We climbed in and within a few moments he lifted the plane effortlessly into the air. It was magical flying over Cambridge looking down at the lush green fields , the dinky little houses and even the tractor and the lorry holding up the traffic on the A10. The River Cam wound its way through the countryside and at one stage we could see the spires of the Cambridge Colleges.

I spoke to Terry through a microphone attached to headphones, making me really feel the part. We listened to the control tower giving out information and instructions throughout the journey. The voices had a special ease of delivery that exuded confidence and assurance much needed by me. I willed myself not to be afraid but my hands gripped the seat beneath very tightly. I made sure I did not grab the shelf next to me that might have been an arm rest in a car. In the Cessna it opened the door.

In front of us were no end of controls, dials and switches that Terry obviously had no difficulty in managing. We were flying over 100 miles and hour and over 1,000 feet. He flew us over Waterbeach and Ely. He had to be careful not to fly in the American Airforce space so we skirted Ely Cathedral . I know Ely Cathedral from ground level quite well, however from the skies above, she looked magnificent but not as an awe-inspiring towering edifice to look up to, but as a testament to man’s inspiration and building ingenuity. The Ship of the Fens looked as if she were in appropriate proportion and perfectly placed on the centre of the sunny Isle of Ely. 

We flew over my home in Witchford and I was able to note that the trouble I had gone to to have the trees trimmed made the garden look much better than when I had seen it on Google.

Terry explained how he would follow the railway line from Ely to March where my husband’s care home is. He told me how pilots always keep to the left when following a line so that if another pilot is coming from the opposite direction using the same line, they might not meet each other. 

We followed the railway line and Terry asked me where my husband’s care home was. I could probably have given directions in a car – but from above in a plane? I remembered that we always pass Wendreda Church when we go to see my husband and that along a bit and leftish from there we should come across Heron House. Terry spotted the home first. The staff waving at us gave the game away. We were sure we had the right place. Terry, a twinkle in his eye, let the plane dip and swerve grinning saying that perhaps we should stop before someone took our number. I smiled weakly, still holding very firmly onto the seat – I did not like to admit I was feeling sick. However, all was well and we must have flown over the home a number of times – long enough, I believe, for my husband to realize something special was happening in his honour. We turned for home and met the fluffy clouds that had hovered in front of us and below. I willed the navigation instruments to work when we flew directly into a cloud, unable to see anything except the whiteness that blanketed us. We broke free and within what seemed an amazingly short space of time we were soon back above Marshall’s and I could see the white central lines of the runway straight ahead. We landed very smoothly in spite of Terry warning me there was a cross wind which might have things a bit bumpy.

This was one very special time for me, my husband and the staff and patients at Heron House. I will never forget this exhilarating experience and little I can do will ever fully express the gratitude I feel to Terry Holloway and Marshall’s. I will now watch with keen interest to see where their planned flights will take us in future.  Paris, Amsterdam and Milan, I think Terry said, are destinations on the cards from September. Watch this space! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun’.)

Thank you Terry; thank you Marshall’s!Image


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