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Jud At 33

Flying With The Snowman  

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Colin At 33

        Flying With The Snowman    

We're walking in the air
We're floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly

I'm holding very tight
I'm riding in the midnight blue
I'm finding I can fly so high above with you

Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills, the forests and the streams
Children gaze open mouthed
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes

We're surfing in the air
We're swimming in the frozen sky
We're drifting over icy mountains floating by

Suddenly swooping low
On an ocean deep
Rousing up a mighty monster from his sleep

And walking in the air
We're dancing in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly
We're walking in the air
We're walking in the air

Listen to the Snowman Theme Music

The title comes from an animated cartoon, which is shown on TV every Christmas day in Britain and has become something of a tradition in the manner of the Queen's Christmas Day Speech to the Nation. Maybe the cartoon has been shown in the USA - I don't know? It's about a little redheaded boy who builds a snowman on his front lawn. Like most young children he's very reluctant to leave the snowman when his mother calls him in after dark. At midnight on Christmas Eve he peeps from his window and finds that the snowman he built that day has magically come to life. He then runs downstairs and dances with the snowman. The Snowman takes him on his back on a magical journey, flying across many countries to the North Pole where every Christmas Eve there's a convention of snow people from all lands. to the North Pole where they meet Father Christmas. There's much dancing and jollity. Eventually the tired out little boy flies back home to England on the snowman's back and goes back to bed. The snowman resumes his position in the garden.

Upon awakening next morning, the little boy rushes to his bedroom window to see his friend. Alas, you've already guessed the sight that met his eyes. The sun has melted the snowman all away. All that remains is his hat and carrot nose. I always cry at this point, no doubt with millions of others. The soundtrack music is hauntingly beautiful.
Raymond Briggs' picture book is irresistibly brought to life in this wordless, animated tale. Probably best known for the soundtrack (which features "Walking in the Air" sung by Aled Jones) this charming film avoids the over-sentimentality which could have spoilt it and touches the heart in a delightful way. The music perfectly complements the animation, especially during the flying scenes where the landscape unfolds in rolling images like waves. This is animation for all ages and nationalities, not only because it has no dialogue, but also because it carries an underlying message about life and love - and it also features a great old-fashioned Father Christmas.

The content of the film is poignant and has a bittersweet ending which could be upsetting to some young children. In this capacity it is more of an adult film than children's animation, as adults have the ability to look back and understand what the film is saying and what is lost. But for children it will simply be a magical tale of excitement and friendship. In a day and age where most children's entertainment seems to revolve around violence, this is a truly charming and heartwarming short film.

                                                     What Actually Happens

We buy  the Dehavilland Comet  2 jet  659 . It's in the late seventies. My partner and I purchase the aircraft from the RAF. Colin and I are driven down to an airbase in St. Ives, Buckinghamshire, in the south of England, to take possession.

The deal is that the RAF will fly the plane and us to any UK airport that we designate. We choose Manchester Ringway Airport. The only proviso that the Ministry of Defence builds into the deal is that we won't scrap it for the expensive titanium and other precious alloys - but instead preserve it for posterity.

After a riotous night in the Officers' Mess, we all sway out on a drunken foray onto the floodlit tarmac. The huge white aircraft is standing like some poor old awaiting the horse slaughterer in his knacker's cart. It's a warm summer night and the smell of fuel oil and recently cut grass is a sweet cocktail in our nostrils. One by one the Royal Air Force guys bid a tearful farewell to their faithful old girl. They rub their hands on the shiny underbelly and kiss the cool metal. One man is crying and his tears run down his cheeks to disappear into the whiskers of his handlebar moustache. Airmen get just as attached to their aircraft as mariners do to their boats as you may know. Eventually we creep to our cots to await the dawn.

After breakfast and a briefing straight out of the pages of The , we're kitted out like Biggles and take off for Manchester. The Comet's loaded with 2000 gallons of high-octane aviation fuel. It's simply because it was part of the package when we signed the documents and it's our 'property'. The captain radios ahead to Ringway and they ask him how much fuel we're carrying and how much we will burn off before our ETA. Manchester control refuse permission to land because we would exceed the amount of onboard fuel allowed by government aircraft regulations for landing at a civilian airport.

The captain lowers his face-mike and turns to Colin and me -

'What do you want to do gentlemen?' he says. 'We can either discharge the fuel over the North Sea, or we can swan around for an hour or two and burn it up?'

Colin and I look at each other with wide open shining eyes - we don't need to speak, there's no need to shout or confer above the roar of the four Rolls Royce Avon engines! What a fantastic moment in our lives - there we are, at God knows how many thousand feet - two kids from the slums - he a cockney sparrow and me a Liverpool scruff who had gone to school in his mother's shoes with the heels knocked off, in our own jet aircraft for Gods-sake - and the guy says 'Shall we go for a spin around Scandinavia!'

We don't care that the Lord Mayor of Manchester and The Lord Mayor of Stretford are waiting for us at the champagne reception that we have organised. We don't give a damn how many vol au vents go stale on silver platters. We haven't a care if eventually the Comet nose-dives into the pewter waters of the North Sea. This is THE golden moment of our lives, where time is frozen. Like when Carter removed the last brick and spied the golden sarcophagus of the great Tutankhamun captured in the light of his guttering candle. Like when the little band of conquistadors stood on a peak in Darken! and saw the Pacific spread out before them like a silver sheet. Like when Allina Zinovievna stood with her back to that tree in that Russian park at and the clock disappeared behind time's black cloak

With the licence and freedom extended to the most respected airforce in the world, we swoop and swan over the rippled greyness. Banking steeply to our right the Jutland peninsula slides beneath our silvery wings. With a trail of glowing ice-particles dancing in our wake we waft onward to the fretted coastline of Olin's lair. We fly down the Skagerrak, we zoom down the Kattegat, up to the harbour and over the Quay, and there she is waiting for me, with a welcome so warm and so wide!

Over the flatlands of Denmark, over the tiny village of Angeln - broodbasket of the Angles who became the English nation, over the sullen castle of Hälsingör where Olivier whispered his soliloquy and dangled his legs above the roaring waves. Onward we fly our youthful dreams cocooned in a thin riveted carapace of lightweight metal sheets.

We boom over the snowclad summits of Norwegian mountains and speed at low altitude above the still waters of secluded fjords. They must have got permission to play over Norse airspace by radio. It was like being the little red-headed boy with theSnowman, but instead of being borne up on the broad, white, cloudy back of a man of ice, we are aloft in a prototype Nimrod submarine detection aircraft - a Comet with a specially elongated fuselage. An elegant aerodynamic sausage, with a rubberoid pod of tricks in its belly. A giant airborne silver kingfisher.

These are the moments of our ecstasy.

Alas! Fortune's egg timer is already spitting out the last spiteful grains. Slanting shafts of gold merge into the darkling cerulean blue of a northern sunset. Alas the time comes when the helmeted snowman's sad eyes turn towards home and the dancing ice-fairies fade slowly from our view.

The nose of the great craft swings towards the blue shores of Britain. The dream is over. Our reverie is rudely awakened by the staccato sounds of radio traffic, rustling paper, and internal crew communication. We start our approach glide as the shores of England's East Coast come into view. With gentle bumps and rises we cross the Pennine divide and sink gently down into the hill folds of my beloved Lancashire. An accelerating rush of houses and buildings - then cars and matchstick manikins. The dream is over.

We're home! 'Uncork the champers! Sorry we're late, M'lords!

"But you're late! - Where have you been?"

We've been flying with the Snowman - Careful - you're on TV! - Care for a vol au vent?'