by Alan Townend

Dear [FRIEND], I don’t know about you but I just can’t handle flying. And I’m talking about travelling in aeroplanes, of course. There’s something about being inside a long tube, thousands of feet above the ground, not being able to see anything except a lot of clouds that terrifies me. Then there’s that awful moving around on the ground before you take off, the ear piercing noise as the engine revs up until you eventually rise upwards at a most peculiar angle. Throughout the journey you hear the occasional bang and there’s that part of your brain that reassures you that it’s simply a bump in the road until you realise that you’re in the air and you’re not touching anything. And then there’s the landing, which also has its attendant problems.

Funny really that we use the verb ‘fly’ to talk about a creature which has wings and when we use the verb with people, we assume we’re talking about going somewhere in an aeroplane, unless of course you’re being specially classical and describing what Icarus tried to do. He, poor chap, went too near the sun, the wax on his wings melted and he ended up dead on the ground. The strange thing is that we read in the newspaper: The Prime Minister is flying to Holland tonight. Now, no one imagines that he’s wearing special wings, do they? But enough of my flying phobia.

Dear [FRIEND],

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I hope you liked this amazing essay by Alan and if you like, you can purchase one of this books in our shop here: Shop

Let’s have a look at the verb ‘fly’ itself.The past tense is ‘flew’ and the past participle is ‘flown’ and remember that ‘flies’ is the correct spelling for the third person singular for the present tense. While we’re looking at this verb, it’s worth noting similar sounding verbs that are quite different in meaning. ‘Flee’ means to run away from, very often in a state of fear.The past simple and the past participle are ‘fled’. Again the verb ‘flow’ describes the gradual movement of a liquid such as water and rivers, has a past tense and a past participle of ‘flowed’.Remember that you would flee from danger if the water in the river was flowing too high over the bank and what you would like to do is fly like a bird to escape.

Of course apart from its meaning of using wings for movement, ‘fly’ in its adjectival form ‘flying’, has the idea of speed. We say that Aunt Agatha paid us a ‘flying visit’ yesterday. This means we didn’t expect her to come and visit us and she didn’t stay long with us, You can also ‘get off to a flying start’ suggesting that you begin a business or a project which is immediately successful and profitable. You can do very well in an examination and get the highest marks possible. In that way you pass your examination ‘with flying colours’. If the business is good and the examination results are excellent, you could be said to be ‘flying high’ – you are being very successful. Again speed reappears when you need an expression that’s very useful when you want to leave someone’s company. And it’s not impolite but very effective. You say something like this: Well, I must fly because I have an awful lot to do today. You can also lose your temper with this clever verb. If you suddenly start shouting and expressing your anger, you are said to: Fly off the handle. Possibly someone gives you a piece of information about a new law that’s just come into force. Well, you can fly off the handle if you want or you can be more measured and maintain that the law just doesn’t make sense and really is quite stupid. You say: That law just doesn’t add up and has no practical use. In fact it flies in the face of common sense. Again someone tells you something that you really can’t believe because you know it must be untrue. This is how the conversation goes:

A Have you heard that George is going to marry the girl who has just won the title of Miss World?

B I don’t believe it – pigs might fly.

While we’re on this little three letter word, let’s not forget that little insect that comes and sits on your sandwich when you’re having a picnic in the open air or comes buzzing into your bedroom when you’re just about to fall asleep – the fly. That too appears in common expressions. ‘The fly in the ointment’ describes the one problem you experience when everything else is fine. You’re on holiday, the sun is shining and the food is excellent at the hotel where you are staying. The only ‘fly in the ointment’ is that your room is right near a busy main road and the noise of the traffic keeps you awake at night. Sometimes you hear people say of someone; There are no flies on him. That means he is not an easy person to trick or deceive. Now, the fly is very small and it’s possible that when it doesn’t go around buzzing, you don’t even know it’s actually in the room. When you wish you could hear someone’s private conversation with another person and the topic is very interesting you sometimes wish you could listen in without being seen or noticed. It’s on occasions like these, you say: Oh, I wish I could hear what they’re saying I really would like to be a fly on the wall.

Now I must go back to the phobia i started talking about in the beginning. I began to think about this subject after I’d heard an item on the radio. A very distinguished professor of astronomy was saying that it would indeed be possible for people to travel to the planets on a regular basis later in the century. He was asked whether he thought it would be feasible to travel to Mars some time in the future. He assured the interviewer that it would indeed be possible but it would be expensive to send someone there. He said he didn’t think at his age he was ready to go. When asked what age had to do with it, he explained that it was indeed very expensive to get there and it would be far too expensive to bring someone back and so you would have to stay there. Personally, with my feelings on flying, I don’t think I’ll be putting my name down for the next flight!

Alan Townend
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