Wow - what a wonderful weekend we had in Sunderland. Harry and I headed up on Friday evening on the fairly lengthy drive but the anticipation of the airshow made for a journey filled with giggles and goofy behaviour.....
We arrived at the Roker Hotel, checked in and managed to fit in a quick pizza before settling down in our room with a sea view to watch the opening of the International Airshow. There were three planes in the launch and Harry and I watched spellbound as they flew at speed over the beach. These displays were followed by a fantastic fireworks display and we watched as we cuddled up on the window seat in our pyjamas and sipped hot chocolate.
Both days of the airshow were fantastic. I was working on both mornings as we did an outside broadcast from the decking outside the hotel. The terrace was heaving and the atmosphere just fantastic. The planes and pilots all put on a stunning show and HMS Westminster provided a great backdrop too. The weather stayed fine and warm which really helped! In the afternoons Harry and I went exploring and had lots of fun playing in various planes and helicopters and he loved the huge inflatable assault course too.
The real highlight of the weekend though was something totally unexpected. On the Saturday evening we got talking to some of the pilots, they were Royal Navy helicopter pilots and as I chatted to one he asked how Harry was enjoying it. I explained that he has wanted to fly since he was 3 or 4 and this pilot, James, called him over. He explained to Harry that when he had been 7 he had met a pilot who had given him a squadron badge - it had kept him motivated and inspired throughout his training. Now that he had his own badge, he was going to continue the tradition and he gave one of his own badges to Harry. It's a beautiful embroidered badge from 846 squadron and I don't think Harry has let go of it yet - I hope it continues to be as important to him. It's a lovely memory to have and it was made all the more special because James found it just as emotional too. I really hope this badge can be as inspirational to Harry as he grows and continues in his studies - maybe one day he can carry on the tradition himself.
These pilots were also performing in the display on the Sunday and promised Harry that as they flew towards the hotel they would dip the nose on the helicopter and flash the lights for him - and they did. Of course the emotion is intensified when you remember that these men will be back out in Afghanistan in September.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend and one we'll remember for a long time to come.