Divine Wind

A major storm has broken over Dawdle Hall! Attempts to harness some amazing stuff called ‘electric wind’ have caused a real flap.

Despite sounding like something you get from eating too many samosas and drinking too much cider at Glastonbury, it’s pretty smart stuff.

Boffins reckon ‘ionic wind’ will lead to silent passenger planes. They have already built and successfully flown a model aircraft with no moving parts!

When it comes to transporting people, the brains behind these simple test flights are certain it is just a case of making everything much larger.

Having degrees in thinking big and outside the box I, Lord Dawdle, am eminently qualified to take this sort of stuff to the next level and beyond.

It should have been a breeze. The first thing was to get a handle on how it all works. Basically we are talking about electricity making air move. 

If you dangle a positively charged wire over the front of a negatively charged aircraft wing, wind is created as the positive charge zaps towards the negative, taking air with it.

What could be simpler? All that was needed was a big enough battery, a voltage booster, a wing or two and a prayer. My head buzzing with ideas, I made a bee line for the garage.

Gazing around the cavernous space for inspiration my eyes immediately lit upon an old red Toyota Prius lying in a crumpled heap at the back. It had been abandoned after losing an argument with a tree.

As I rummaged through the wreckage I felt sure the member of the family, who shall remain nameless, at the wheel at the time would not begrudge me a few spare parts. They were, after all, now driving a Tesla!

The Prius has an electrical box of tricks that pumps up the voltage from around 200 to about 500. Before long I had the Boost Converter safely in hand and was ready to move to stage two of operation Flying Spark.

Wiring was next on the list and once again the defunct car was most obliging, giving up yards of the stuff. It also provided the all important power supply in the shape of the smaller of its two chunky batteries.

With the technical stuff under my belt all that remained was to knock up a lightweight, but sturdy plane. Two old wind surfer sails furled in a corner seemed to beckon – along with Lady Winifred’s basket bedecked bicycle.

Round the back of the garage I found the ubiquitous pile of aluminium scaffolding we all know and love, lying under a forest of thorns waiting for that all important ‘other building job’ that never quite materialises.

Half an hour of frantic machete wielding later I emerged triumphant with an armful of lightweight poles and a bucket full of clamps looking for all the world like I had just done 10 rounds with a tiger. Cutting edge stuff indeed!

On the gravel in front of the garage my dream machine began to take shape. With the surfboard sails bolted firmly together and the bicycle secured underneath by a sturdy framework of scaffolding, it was time for the hi-tec.

Into the big wicker shopping basket dangling from the handlebars went the battery and voltage booster. Out of the garage and onto the drive came the jumble of multi-coloured wiring ‘liberated’ from the cannibalised car.

Standing back to admire the work in progress I was joined by another insatiably curious soul – Whimsy the dog. Cocking his head to one side he seemed content to reserve judgement on the whole eco-extravanganza.

Next on the list were two stabilisers to hold up the middle of the main wings. From the garage rafters I extracted two wooden curtain poles and from a box of sports equipment that time had forgotten, a pair of ice skates.

Using one of the finest inventions known to handy man – cable ties – these leftovers were quickly turned into ‘power props.’ Not only would they keep the plane upright but also support the key ‘electric wind’ paraphenalia.

For the all important ‘mini-wings’ I returned to the jungle behind the garage armed, once again, with the machete. Another half hour of thrashing around revealed some abandoned old greenhouse guttering. Ideal!

Two sections were cable tied, upside down to create lift, between each stabiliser and the front scaffolding pole struts supporting the bike. At this point Whimsy was beginning to show more interest. An early warning sign.

All that remained was to straighten out some spare wire coat hangers purloined from the laundry room and bend them at intervals round the windsurf sail masts so the hooks hung just in front of the guttering.

The idea was the voltage from the battery in the basket would get a boost from the converter, travel by wire to the hanger hooks and create a cloud of positive energy which would be drawn back to the negative ‘mini-wings.’

Air caught up in the process would speed over the guttering and, hey presto, the whole contraption would move forward. As it gained speed the wind would get under the windsurf sails and Flying Spark would take off.

Pedalling the bike would add momentum and the dynamo that normally powers the lights would help boost the battery. All clever stuff! However, things began to unravel when I started wrestling with the heap of wiring.

Whimsy thought this was a great idea and quickly joined in the fray. As soon as I had shaken one strand free from the pile he would grip the other firmly in his teeth, yank it from my grasp and disappear off into the bushes.

Pretty soon long plastic coated strands of red, yellow and blue were causing consternation all over the estate. A sizeable crowd bearing wayward wires loomed large on the horizon, bringing a temporary halt to proceedings.

It proved to be a blessing in disguise. I was able to persuade one of the curious onlookers, now mesmerised by the sight of the winged wonder, to take hold of Whimsy while I put the finishing touches to the electrics.

Donning leather flying helmet, goggles, gauntlets, boots and sheepskin lined bomber jacket I made ready for my maiden flight. Once safely in the saddle I gave a crowd pleasing tinkle on the bicycle bell and started pedalling.

There was a scrunching noise as the heavily laden tyres and ice skates bit into the gravel. Like an ungainly albatross ‘Sparky’ wallowed from side to side as she struggled to get off the ground. It was downhill all the way.

I felt a surge of pride as the sails above me began to billow in the breeze and the bike began to rise up into the air. This was quickly followed by a paroxysm of fear as Whimsy, barking furiously broke free and charged!

By now I was three feet off the ground and climbing. With one bound my faithful hound landed flash, bang in the middle of the basket, legs flailing. The battery and booster quickly vanished overboard in a shower of sparks.

Briefly I saw one of the estate farm’s wheat fields below me before my vision was obscured by a wet, furry pink blob. Whimsy, now settled in his new ‘cockpit,’ had his paws on the handlebars and was licking my face.

Rudderless, ‘Sparky’ yawed sharply to the left and began a descent of doom. Picking up speed the guttering mini-wings were the first casualties. They, flapped wildly and blew away along with the curtain poles and ice skates.

As Whimsy jumped clear the unbalanced craft lurched to the right, caught a wing tip on the ground and cartwheeled dramatically into a big stack of straw bales. During one of the spins the bike, with me on it, broke free.

Like a scene from the film ET I found myself, still pedalling furiously, flying through the air. Soaring over the haystack and the handlebars I was catapulted into an enormous pile of fresh manure, waiting to be spread.

While I struggled to regain my feet and some measure of dignity I was joined in the mire by Whimsy. At least I would save a little face on the long odorous walk of shame back to the house – he had licked it clean again!

Judging by the looks people gave us and the wrinkling of noses as we approached it was more a case of ‘ironic wind.’ The other dark cloud ahead was Lady Dawdle’s reaction to another flying dog and her mangled bicycle.

Did I get the hairdryer treatment? It was more like an electric hurricane!