‘Flying lessons’

I am giving flying lessons. Not flying lessons in any kind of aircraft, but the kind of flying people do using their arms and wind currents. It occurs to me straight off that it’s a bit odd that I am giving this lesson to someone who appears not to be present with me. That is to say, I am the only one who is doing the flying. However, this problem doesn’t engage me for very long because there is flying to do and if I worry about those other things too much I am going to lose elevation. It seems right to remark early on that people new to flying find it difficult to control the flight path, but a little practice is all that is needed and the early difficulties usually disappear quickly. Now that I appear to have established a smooth gliding pattern, I remark that subtle adjustments can be made by the position of the feet, using them as rudders. Under normal conditions the toes should remain pointed. Yaw and pitch are controlled with various parts of the body—feet, ankles, hands, and wrists—being adjusted carefully. At this moment—I still have not achieved much altitude and I am flying across a broad and shallow river—I am suddenly swept up in a terrifying turbulence and there is very nearly a disaster. I look up to see that a large, passenger aircraft, taking off from a nearby airport, has very nearly sucked me into its enormous engines as it crossed my path. This dramatic incident reminds me that there is, as yet, no agreed system for controlling the flight paths of low-flying passenger planes and humans. I have gained some altitude now. I can see suburbs, parks and football fields below me. I feel a little tired and know that I will have to land soon. As I make my descent onto the football field I become entangled with a flock of birds. Some of the birds are attacking me. When I come down to the ground, with a thud, there is a great weight on my head, and I cannot see whatever it is that seems to be pressing my head down. I try to get it off, using my arms and hands without any effect. I’m not successful and have to wait for one of the footballers to come over and remove the thing from my head. I look up to see what caused my crash. “It’s an enormous duck!” I say. “He said it’s a duck. That’s funny!” the footballer shouts, as he tries to catch the flapping bird. He grabs it and encloses it in his arms as he runs off, followed by several other players. I imagine they are going to pluck it and try to figure out how to cook it.

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