October 1st, 2018

Secret Agent Dog

Weekend Espionage

I spent my weekend deeply embroiled in Spy Things.

Saturday morning was a talk at the Shuttleworth Collection on 'The Secret War and the Lysander', all about the role played by the Westland Lysander in SOE missions: landing agents in occupied France and, hopefully, getting them out again.

This was obviously very relevant to my interests, and I learned a lot about the aircraft and its operations. With an enthusiastic guide ("There'll be random shootings at the end!") and a knowledgeable audience of 15 or so, the talk overran by several minutes and we could all happily have hung around chatting all day.

On Sunday I assumed the code name 'Modesty Blaise' and took on the role of a new recruit to The Circus in an interactive spy game based on the works of John Le Carré. My friend Myk and I teamed up for an afternoon of dead drops and pickups, contacts and code words, all based around Soho.

(I find it highly suspicious that my first task was to pass the word 'Labrador' to our handler.)

The Fire Hazard Games agents did a brilliant job of keeping things exciting, keeping a straight face and denying that it wasn't the 1960s; no mean feat when we were receiving instructions on our mobile phones, which they insisted on calling 'your device'.

We reported in for the final debrief (we won no prizes, but didn't do appallingly either) before retiring to the pub.
Dogfight [by the_gneech]

Småland Perfectly Formed 6: Wednesday 19th September

My other Big Treat of the holiday was a trip to the Flygvapenmuseum, the Swedish Air Force Museum, in Linköping (pronounced 'Lin-chirping').

Before arriving, we sought out the point on the motorway where I knew Saab Draken and Viggen fighters were to be found on poles at the side of the road. There wasn't a convenient layby so we stopped on the hard shoulder, where Howard pretended to have broken down while I snapped a quick photo.

I'm very geeky about Swedish military aviation, and a whole museum full of it was almost too exciting to bear. It's also FREE, as I discovered when I marched up to the desk with my carefully-prepared 'two adults please'.

The basement floor is given over to the wreckage and the strange, sad story of the Swedish DC-3 carrying surveillance equipment which was shot down over the Baltic by a Soviet MiG-15 in 1952.

Both sides hushed up what had happened, leaving families and friends in limbo, and it was only in the early 2000s that a private firm located the wreck and raised it from the seabed. Four bodies were recovered, identified and buried, with the rest of the crew of eight still unaccounted for.

Upstairs, the first half of the main exhibition took us through Swedish aviation of the 20th century, in the wider context of international events. It was strange to see familiar aircraft like the Spitfire, Mustang and Fieseler Storch in Swedish markings.

There was also an Animals In War exhibit with an interactive 'which heroic animal are you?' quiz. It will surprise nobody to learn that I am Laika.

Then the Cold War exhibition, which I loved. After the Second World War, Sweden was determined to design and build its own aircraft so they wouldn't be let down by suppliers, and they came up with some weird and wonderful creations: the long-nosed Lansen, the Tunnan 'Flying Barrel', the double-delta Draken and my favourite, the Viggen.

For each decade, there was a display of aircraft and a mockup of a typical Swedish home, showing how the occupants were affected by the current state of the East/West conflict.

I was very restrained in the gift shop, all things considered. A kind member of staff found me a tube for my Saab Past And Present poster so it wouldn't get damaged on the bike, and it arrived home in perfect nick.

From here we would be riding around Sweden's second-largest lake, Lake Vättern, before heading homeward. It was a relatively short ride to our stop for the night, because we'd known we might spend a lot of the day in the museum, but a pretty one as always. After riding across a bridge with a view to the left of wooded islands scattered across the lake, we reached our destination and were greeted warmly by the owner of the hostel, who introduced himself as Per.

This was a hostel in the more traditional sense, in a large and lovely building a short walk from the beach. We had a twin room with lighting and wallpaper that made it look rather like one of the Cold War Swedish homes in the museum.

After we'd unpacked, Per found us in the cavernous dining-room/lounge, its wood-panelled walls hung with equipment for winter sports, having a meal of lingonberry bread and tinned goulash by candlelight.

"Oh," he said, "I came to see if you were OK but I see you are all set!"

Miles: 117.7




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