My friend Mike, of my visit to Bournemouth Air Museum fame, isn't there either. In his case it's for health reasons. He's well, but barred from long-haul travel, following a trip to Oz last November for the cricket, which nearly killed him. We can't have that.
But we're both at Alice in virtual form. Our mutual friend Phil – my agency-bossing, bike-riding, music-loving Evil Twin – is there to give a presentation on Sir Alan Cobham, whose aerial exploits in the 1920s and 30s did so much to promote air-mindedness in Britain. Cobham and Shute had a lot in common. Both began their careers at De Havilland's. Before starting Flight Refuelling (now Cobham plc), Cobham joined Shute on the board of Airspeed Limited, and his
Phil has made a recording of Mike reading the opening chapter of Shute's novel Round The Bend, in which Cobham makes a cameo appearance. At his request I've added some clips from the BBC/Open University Nation on Film programme about Sir Alan, and some images from books, creating an audio-visual experience to introduce the presentation. I hope the delegates will enjoy it. And now, through the wonder of YouTube, so can those of us regrettably unable to be in Australia this week!