It was one of those consequential moments, so perfectly orchestrated in order to encounter a marvel!
Our only goal was to enjoy the picturesque scenery in Devon while nonchalantly driving around on this warm and sunny afternoon during a hot summer in 1995. Just above the small seaside town, crowds were gathering on a hill whilst eagerly looking at the bay ahead.
An added stroke of luck was the parking space surprisingly available by the granite wall. Stepping out and easily slipping into an ideal gap in the crowd we found ourselves gazing at the horizon with all the other spectators. I saw a number of varying sized boats anchored quietly in the cove; it must be a boat show I thought.
As though out of nowhere six red planes darted in front of us – so vividly close that the sheer brilliance of movement took me aback. The soft blue sky provided a flawless stage for a performance that was to enthrall and impress the crowds for an entire hour. One of life’s rare and unexpected gifts was tossed upon me in that moment in time as the planes dashed and danced around the sky; colors were streaming from the engines painting the sky with red and blue streaks. I could only gaze in awe at the acrobats and pirouettes performed by these machines. The pilots seemed primed with exactness and exuberance, allowing their souls to soar with their machines while at the same time maintaining focus and precision. I could feel the pilots’ exhilaration in this display of brilliance.
Scott had been a Naval Officer in San Diego California, Miramar where the movie Top Gun was filmed and where the authentic Top Gun headquarters were located; he had on many occasions seen the American fighter pilots in practice. I’d seen the Blue Angels perform while living in Alaska. In spite of the stirring impressions of our earlier experience, this presentation by the Red Arrows was utterly breathtaking.
Neither lengthy plans nor financial exchanges had lead to this occasion, it was an encounter born of freedom and the elements of surprise. Driving away from this little town we were stunned to see that masses of people had gathered at the seafront; crowds that seemed like thousands of ants milling around the holiday resort of Dawlish.
Whenever life seems tough, brutal and even bleak, I shall try to remember that it can be inspirational and dazzling. I never cease to be amazed at mankind’s ability to reach far beyond the physical world in an effort to convey the heights of our soaring spirit. I believe those pilots expressed an inner freedom in the magnificence of their performance.
I don’t believe that humans can truly imitate or copy nature but in this instance I compared the acrobatic dance of these machines to the intrinsic beauty of a flock of birds in lively flight where both expressed a ballet of synchronized movement. But then the pilots were not trying to imitate, they were merely being themselves.
A chance encounter – not to be missed!

Copyright Charmiene Maxwell-Batten© 2010. All Rights Reserved
I placed a photo in this book by Marjorie Wallace who is on RedBubble MARJORIE WALLACE PHOTOGRAPHY

This chapter is part of a book I wrote about England


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Artist's Description

This is a narrative about my experience of watching The Red Arrows perform in Dawlish in 1995. It was exciting and inspirational! A special moment in time that sparked off some thoughts and reflections on life.


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