A non-flying day today, and rather a strange one (as befits Friday the 13th). From yesterday evening we were under a severe weather warning, told to expect possibly damaging winds most of the day, with gusts to 45 knots. Many gliders were disassembled into their trailers, and everything was supposed to be securely tied down (just how thoroughly this was accomplished is a matter for speculation; glider pilots can be curiously fatalistic about such matters). Flying was cancelled around 8:30 am.
In the event, we certainly had a non-flyable day, with solid cloud cover and ample rain. Clouds were seen scudding overhead at a good clip, but on the airfield those dangerous wind gusts probably reached 10 kts at their worst. So it was rather a quiet day at Benalla. We are told to expect much better tomorrow, and indeed to be ready for an unusually early (11:30) launch. The skeptical among us focus on a forecast high temperature around 76, whereas it has typically required at least 90 to produce good soaring here.
More thoughts on local culture: Australians speak a variety of English that is more or less comprehensible to Americans – though it’s occasionally necessary to ask the speaker to slow down or “say again”. There are differences: the standard greeting here is “How ya goin?” (spoken as one word), and perhaps the most common phrase is “No worries”, a substitute for “you’re welcome” that reflects the near-universal Australian attitude that things are good and will continue that way. Residents here are amused by our pronunciation quirks, including “tomatoes” (they say “tomahtoes”), “basil” (we often make it rhyme with “hazel”; they with “dazzle”) and “solder” (they pronounce the “l”). (During a visit to New Zealand, I was mocked for my rendition of “solder”, but managed a good retort by asking the kiwis how they pronounced the name of that popular fish with pink flesh: they pronounce “salmon” just as we do.)
The paved runway at Benalla is not asphalt, but “bitumen” (first syllable rhymes with “pitch”). Agricultural fields are “paddocks”. French fries are “chips”. Slot machines are “pokies”.
Other things occasionally are curious: Benalla businesses have been encouraged to support the contest (they are doing a fine job of this) and even to adopt a team. Supporting us is “Shakes and Cakes”, an Australian rendition of a 1950s diner. It’s a good place, but it took a surprising time to actually find it. We had a map that depicted its location (right along the main street in Benalla, about a 1-minute drive from the airfield) but no one managed to spot it driving by. On foot we finally found it – right underneath a prominent sign that says “TMA Performing Arts”. (A much smaller sign, unlikely to be spotted from any moving vehicle, gives the actual name.) It’s popular with local residents, who seem untroubled by the curious signage.