The sun struggled through the patchy grey sky to glint off the yellow tail fin, on which the logo of a puffin in flight seemed strangely motionless. A bracing wind blew; after three weeks of almost solid sunshine, autumn was making its presence known.

Like the island on which it sat, the aircraft was rather out-of-date. That wasn't a bad thing; just typical of the nostalgia which always seemed to characterise this sometimes anachronistic community. Of course, that was why people would make the noisy trek on this thing—to experience another world. They were willing to put aside 45 minutes of their time in which it was totally impossible to speak to the person next to you because of the three screaming piston engines about six inches from the ears. "It’s all part of the fun," they’d say.

They were right; the island didn’t have traffic lights and seatbelts weren’t compulsory. There was no road-tax or VAT. A bottle of the finest whisky could be purchased for less than £10. Financial motivation didn’t seem to be what brought people to Alderney. More...the feeling that you are leaving one world and going back in time to another one, except it is only 3½ miles long. That’s why we live here.

It’s late now. The wind is blowing across the runway, and fog has enveloped the island like a shroud. Inside, people sit with knitting and luggage talking and waiting for the fog to clear. We are enjoying a tipple of something warming, and the rattling of the doors from what is becoming a howling gale is certainly fading, with the last dusky light of another day. The flights are going again, and we are too.

Funny how you have to go forwards in time to go shopping.

The engines throb as we line up at the end of the runway. The lights shine into the darkness, illuminating nothing. We’re going to Guernsey. They’ve got civilisation over there...we like to call it Marks and Spencer. The pilot moves his hand forwards on the throttles. The props spin faster, mincing the fog and burrowing through the cloud as we lumber vaguely skyward. You can’t see a thing, but the pilot has already done five of these trips today so we trust him.

Before long, a lighthouse comes into view and we are approaching the civilisation. They’ve got a bowling alley here, for God’s sake! Through the mist appears a row of lights, and the pilot plonks us down neatly, right in the middle. We taxi over and he turns off the engines. We have arrived. A man comes over to open my door; and the door in front; and the door behind. Forgetting an aisle in this plane was a silly mistake. I clamber out, the engine exuding a welcome warmth towards me. Then the wind again. I stand back, and look at this thing. Built in 1975, and they’ve even painted a red nose and eyebrows on...they probably call that "a touch of class" in Guernsey. We don’t mind; just a funny way to paint a time machine.

Three days of stocking up for winter and we’re already homesick. Afternoon has rolled around and we are waiting for our flight, laden with good food and curtain rails. The aeroplane is coming towards us now, and we watch our precious booty being put in the back.

Everyone is doing the same thing, it seems.

We are seated in the back row. The cheery pilot turns around and tells us the flight time, which we all know already: twelve minutes. I wonder if he’s slightly tipsy...we forgive him. The flight is full and the air is warm, but it is still cold outside. The wind seems incessant, and a sad and clear winter dusk has arrived having stolen all the leaves. If the air was clear, it certainly is no longer. Puffs of black pour from the engines as they start, and we judder gently from side to side. It smells nice.

The plane moves towards the long strip. Amazing that it is possible to spend £80m on a new one...but it is Guernsey. We stop, the runway in front of us. A larger plane lands and we wait patiently. The light reflects off the smooth metallic propellers as they spin, and I look sideways. The engines roar and we are airborne in a few hundred yards. A quick turn to the left and we level off at one thousand feet above the sea, hugging the low clouds in the early winter evening.

We are homeward bound now. There is sea all around us...dark and murky and full of ormers. The airline magazine contains stories of far-off lands, some of which I have never heard. And nice as Venezuela is, we are flying to Alderney now. Soon, the ragged cliff-tops are in sight. I can see our home nestled in St. Anne as we skim over the pig sties and onto the runway. Without any braking, we have stopped within seconds and are moving towards the terminal, engines chugging faithfully as ever.

But do time machines grow older?

We do, and the Trislander is certainly showing its age. The engines splutter and stop—we have arrived. It’s good to be back. We troop inside and collect our luggage as it slides down the ancient squeaky rollers. After the ritual goodbyes to the same old faces, we are on our way.

The wind has stopped now. We unpack our hoard and put the kettle on.


Edward Pinnegar is a 15-year-old British author. His second book, entitled Airline Scams and Scandals, comes out in May 2012. This story is about a trip from Alderney to Guernsey, on a Britten-Norman Trislander of Aurigny Air Services.

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