Later, as we prepared to leave the flat proper, he sat down with most of his body in the lower bit of the wall, and his front paws on an upper bit. It was a very funny pose. You'll have to take my word for it though eh.
Also I'm very excited that Adobe Spark Page has added this extra layout option where I can flow text to the side of images and that, in landscape mode. Seriously, it has made me unreasonably happy and I am likely to heavily overuse the feature throughout the rest of this story, I predict. Presumably you won't notice if you're on a phone.
Purley Way is a horrible main road. Noisy and loud and busy even on a Sunday with nice weather.
Our bus arrives to take us to the airport, which is also on the Purley Way. It really is one big busy main road, and it's an unpleasant stop-start traffic-jam of a journey, with only "Kevin News" and this Wing Yip supermarket to entertain us.
Inside, we're staggeringly embarrassed to discover that between us we only have £2 to put in the "you should really donate £4" box. Initially declining to join a guided tour we're told that if we don't we'll see pretty much fuck all, so OK then, we'll go stand with the guide named Neil and 4 other members of the public out front.
He starts off telling us with a nerdy giggle that the plane in front of the building is a replica of the last plane to ever take off from here, when it closed in 1959, and was in fact CAPTAINED BY A MAN WITH THE SURNAME "LAST". I mean, you couldn't make it up.
He tells us how it initially started operations in around 1915, if you include the site about half a mile away. The building is important for being pretty much the first purpose built passenger terminal in the world, where some actual thought went into the process of getting people checked in, fed, watered, immigrated, customised, and onto a plane – rather than the previous haphazard "go stand in a hut and we'll figure shit out" nature of early airports.
The "you should join a tour" bloke was obviously right, because back inside (and scooting around the other, much larger, tour groups) we were led into the visitor centre proper, behind closed doors and up in the old air traffic control tower.
It's two floors of small rooms, but really quite interesting. A lot of it is given over to Amy Johnson's exploits – she flew from here numerous times, not just that Oz trip – but there's also loads of excellent paraphernalia of early passenger flight. Like this seat.
Yep. On the first flights – travelling at "only" 140mph, mind – you sat in wicker chairs with no cushions, no belts, and they weren't even attached to the floor. Holy shit!
It was very busy. I guess that's what you get when you open only once a month. Really interesting though. Lots of bits of old planes lying around too – propellers and wheels etc – as well as models of stuff.
Back on the ground floor for a quick scoot around the models and posters: "better to face the bullets than to be killed at home by a bomb" isn't really selling war to me, I must say.
Yeah, that's it. Shirley windmill innit. Sat between some fairly well-to-do housing at the end of a little cul-de-sac, it's instantly better than Wimbledon Windmill because you can actually fucking see the whole thing. It actually looks really impressive.
You can only go inside if you're on a guided tour, and as with the airport we've timed things absolutely perfectly: there's a tour starting literally 10 seconds after we arrive. First, we're shown some models and given some spiel about how it was a post mill that burnt down before the current structure was thrown up. Slowly we're shown around the outside. It's ace this.
The metal is cast iron – good because you don't have to grease it, which would create mud with all the flour and dust and stuff – and the wheel it meshes with has teeth of wood, for ease of maintenance and replacement.
The fan tail is how windmills of this sort automatically move to face the wind. If the wind is blowing sideways on to the main sails, they do nothing but the fan tail catches it instead, powering a mechanism that moves the entire top section around, slowing down as the angle changes enough such that the sails are now getting powered again. Much better than the previous style of mill which required the miller to actively move the whole thing around whenever the weather changed.
Beneath the dust floor is the bin floor, where all the wheat and stuff is put in giant bins ready to feed down a level. Basically the main storage room of the raw materials for whatever the miller was currently producing – flour, animal feed, whatever. There are a series of vertically aligned trap doors on each floor through which runs a sack hoist.
Down another level is the stone floor, where the real work happens. These big fuck off stones are what actually grind stuff up. This mill has two stones but some had as many as six. We were told about how people would "dress the stones" for a couple of weeks, basically repairing any damage from the normal course of work. Doing so was a labour intensive episode of basically smacking it with metal, bits of which would fly off and embed themselves in the labourer's hand. This is the origin of the phrase "test your mettle". Or something. I haven't looked it up so maybe I've got that wrong.
Down to the spout floor and that's where the stoneground flour would come out into sacks... only to then be loaded onto someone's back and taken back upstairs, to be fed once again through another piece of kit that's basically a giant sieve. Also here is a "governor", for regulating the distance between the two stones to ensure things remain fine even during gusty weather. Gusts of wind would cause the stones to come further apart thanks to centrifugal whatsits.