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Pyestock Diaries

Pyestock Diaries

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I further delayed our arrival at Pyestock by detouring to the Farnborough Museum (FAST). Iíd discovered the imminent publication of Ian MacKenzie's book and wanted to pick up one of the first copies and the museum seemed to be the only outlet initially offering it for sale. So pushed for time, we tore into the car park, and quickly dived into the museum. I donít think we were the genteel patrons they usually expected, being dressed in rough clothes and asking questions about Pyestock.

One of the staff was quite interested in our inquiries. "We donít get many people interested in Pyestock," he said, "mostly because they don't know about it. It was rather secretive. I suspect itís all been demolished now." We pointed out that it was still all intact and we planned to spend the afternoon there. "Really?" he said, surprised and pleased, "I used to work there."

He was employed as a medic and one of his first tasks on the site was to crawl into every accessible knock-and-cranny to plan how a potentially injured employee could be retrieved. He led us over to a huge aerial photograph of the site and pointed out the experimental ejector seat mechanism rig which was used to test ejector seats. It was a vital piece of work as the early ejector seats unfortunately killed any pilot who tried to it. I realised the rig had now gone; but it explained the "exclusion zone" marked on various maps of the site and the need for small explosive store located nearby. By coincidence, it was the first part of Pyestock Tom and I encountered the previous year, pausing by the sheds around the former testing area before running across the service road to the relative safety of Cell 4.

A piece of paper sellotaped to the door advertised Ian MacKenzieís book and gave a publication date of the following week. Again, my luck seemed to have deserted me (not a good omen for our forthcoming trespassing) but I happened to stop by a bookcase and suddenly realised Ian MacKenzieís book was on the bottom shelf.

Was this a preview copy? It was definitely worth a try at least. I took it to the cash till where it was viewed with some surprise. "How much is this?" "It says £8.99 on the back." The purchase was made and we left the museum with the book one week before its official publication. I still donít know if I successfully purchased the museum's preview copy or the book was legitimately on sale before its official release date.

Moving into Pyestock from the southern tip as the skies darken.
23|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007