C’ESTLAFOLIE

A flight of fancy and a pro­posal at al­ti­tude have me walk­ing on air

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Country - Michael Wright

As I gaze out at the per­fect blue morn­ing, I feel like a small boy stand­ing on the high div­ing-board at the swim­ming pool. For to­day, I am go­ing to ask some­one I have known since I was a child to marry me. And she, poor dar­ling, has no idea.

“Let’s go fly­ing to­day,” I an­nounce over break­fast, reach­ing into my pocket to touch the square rose­wood box that I have al­ready se­cretly opened 16 times to­day.

At the aero­drome an hour later, I do my best to look me­thod­i­cal as — with adren­a­line drum­ming in my fin­ger­tips — I chock the Lus­combe’s main wheels. I lean down to check the eight brake clips held in place by eight tiny studs, each the size of the small bril­liant-cut di­a­mond that is burn­ing a hole in my pocket. Let’s hope none of them fails to­day.

“Are you all right?” asks Alice, her voice crack­ling over the in­ter­com as we sit side-by-side in the Lus­combe’s leather-lined cock­pit. “Yes, why?” “You seem ner­vous...” she says. “Well, it’s al­ways touch-and-go whether the wings will fall off, isn’t it?”

And then we’re off, up, up, over the fields of France, and very soon I re­alise that this isn’t right at all. No, what looked like a per­fectly clear sky, when we were stand­ing down there look­ing up, sud­denly seems as opaque as onion soup now that we’re up here, peer­ing down. I pic­tured my­self ask­ing Alice to marry me in the lim­it­less ex­panse of a pol­ished crys­tal sky. In­stead, we ap­pear to be trapped inside a small pearl light bulb. Yes, we are fairly and squarely in the murk: with this clag, I thee wed.

“I think I’ll just climb a lit­tle higher,” I tell her. “See if we can get above this in­ver­sion.” Round and round we fly, carv­ing a he­lix in the haze. I tell my­self that the sit­u­a­tion can only get bet­ter, just be­fore it gets a whole lot worse. “I need to pee,” says Alice. “Are you se­ri­ous?” “I’m re­ally sorry. Do you mind if we start head­ing back?”

The only sound that will come out of my mouth is a shrill gig­gle. “Why is that funny?” she asks. “It’s just... I brought you up here be­cause there’s some­thing I want to ask you.”

We’re not look­ing at each other; she’s watch­ing the al­time­ter, and I’m star­ing into the bril­liant murk all around us, search­ing for mil­i­tary jets and the right words. “Ac­tu­ally, I’ve got some­thing for you. It’s in the glove-box.”

“Is this it?” she asks, pulling out a waxed air­sick­ness bag. “No,” I gulp. “There’s a wooden box...” Fi­nally the rose­wood box is in her hands. And with a deep breath, I take a run­ning jump off the div­ing-board.

“What I wanted to ask you...” Alice is open­ing the box. I pull the Lus­combe round in a steep turn. As I do so, we fi­nally edge clear of the clag, and pure, un­fil­tered sun­light comes stream­ing into the cock­pit... “is whether you would be will­ing to be my wife.”

There is a howl like feed­back in my head­set, and for a nasty mo­ment I think the ra­dio’s ex­ploded.

“Oh­h­h­hh­myyyyy­god­dddddd!” she shrieks. And then again: “OHHHHHMYYYYYGODDDDD!!!” I’m not sure, but I think this is a good sign.

“Oh my God,” she re­peats, qui­etly. And then: “Is this re­ally for me?”

“Yes, of course. I’m ask­ing you to marry me.” “Oh my God.” “Is that a yes, then?” “I don’t be­lieve it,” she says, shak­ing her head. “Dar­ling, you have to say yes or no.” “Yes, oh yes,” she laughs, “of course it’s yes. But I’m just so shocked. Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” I laugh. “You’d bet­ter see if the ring fits.”

“It’s per­fect,” she says, slid­ing it onto her fin­ger. “And I love it.”

“Thank good­ness. Now...” jit­tery with ela­tion, I peer back down through the clag “...we’d bet­ter see if we can still find the air­field and land this thing.”

This is eas­ier said than done. For the emo­tion I might be feel­ing at this point is not an as­pect of the flight I had con­sid­ered dur­ing the pre-take-off checks. What a shame it would be, I think to my­self, if all that was left of us at the end of this flight, were a small di­a­mond found in the charred wreck­age of a vin­tage air­craft.

And then I think: tant pis. For this may be a whole new be­gin­ning, but al­ready it feels like the hap­pi­est of end­ings, too.

C’est La Folie by Michael Wright is avail­able for just £11.99, plus £1.25 p&p, from Tele­graph Books (0870 155 7222).

la.folie@tis­cali.fr

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