Monthly Archives: November 2017

What is God’s Justice?

Nathan Jennings is another of the people I know online who has brilliant things to share when it comes to the love of God and how brilliant He is.

In previous articles, I have described how I believe that God’s Justice is one of redemption, restoration and reconciliation rather than vengefulness, wrath and retribution.

Nathan fleshes out this concept rather nicely in this piece, I think. Over to you, Nathan:


First, what it is not, is the legal Western term most think of when they think of ‘justice’. Divine Justice is not justice in a judicial sense. God is not an angry Judge looking to convict someone for a crime.

Divine Justice does mean to make things right through healing and restoration. God is better likened to a doctor that heals a disease and His justice is always restorative, never punitive.

How does the Bible define justice, then?

“Learn to do good. SEEK JUSTICE BY HELPING the OPPRESSED, DEFENDING the cause of ORPHANS, and FIGHTING FOR the RIGHTS of widows”
Isaiah 1:17

“ADMINISTER JUSTICE every morning BY RESCUING THE VICTIM of robbery from the hand of his oppressor”
Jeremiah 21:12

Zachariah 7:9

“the Lord is waiting to SHOW you MERCY, and is rising up to SHOW you COMPASSION, because the LORD is a just God”
Isaiah 30:18

“HE WILL NOT CRUSH THE WEAKEST reed OR PUT OUT A flickering CANDLE. By doing this he will cause justice to be victorious.”
Matthew 12:18

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to PREACH GOOD NEWS TO the POOR. He has sent Me to PROCLAIM DELIVERANCE TO the CAPTIVES and RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO the BLIND, to RELEASE THE the OPPRESSED,”
Luke 4:18

Justice isn’t what God uses to punish, and certainly doesn’t act contrary to his love, but is used to restore that which needed restoration. To heal that which was sick. Divine justice is about rescue. It’s about compassion. It’s about defending the defenseless (forgive them, Father). It is about giving sight to the blind. It restores. Always. If it doesn’t restore it isn’t God’s justice.

Excellent stuff, eh?

Many people live in fear of ‘Judgement Day’. I don’t. In fact, I look forward to it with eager anticipation! Because that is the day when everything that was ever wrong will be put right. That’s the day when all injustice will be rectified, and death itself, and all its wrongness, will be destroyed forever. Yes!



This entry is part 20 of 38 in the series Fiona

I can’t believe it’s thirteen months since we lost my precious wife, Fiona. Time seems to have flown by.

And as part of my grieving process, I have been meeting with a bereavement volunteer; she’s a very wise lady who works as part of my local Hospice’s Bereavement Service.

One of the many interesting things that I have learned from my helper is that the way that the grieving process is viewed, by people who study this sort of thing, has changed over the last few decades.

In the past, it was usually considered ‘normal’ that, eventually, bereaved people ‘just get over it’, and esentially just pull their socks up and get on with life. Maybe that’s part of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality; more likely it was simply a lack of understanding of the processes involved. And in any case, research should – by its very nature – change the way we view, and do, things, especially in the broader field of medicine. You find things out, so you modify your systems accordingly. That’s how progress works.

And so, the current thinking is that when we lose someone who was close to us, someone we had a deep relationship with; when that happens, we don’t actually lose that relationship – it’s just that it changes.

I must say that I can identify with that.

In so many ways, the relationship goes on.

Now, ok, I realise that this might sound like wishful thinking, like ‘she’s not really dead’, all that sort of thing. But no, it’s not that; of course, part of the grieving process is accepting that she really has gone. And, even bearing in mind my firm belief in Heaven, I have fully accepted that, for this life at least, she’s not here*.

But the relationship does indeed go on. You see, everything that Fiona built into my life just by being herself and being my wife, with her gentle wisdom and loving nature, everything is still there. Of course I miss not having her here to discuss things with, especially decisions and that sort of thing. I miss her knowledge, wisdom, her ways, her presence, her voice, her smell, her touch, and at this point it’s getting too personal 😉 . But in so many ways, what she was to me still exists even though she is not physically present. I find this difficult to put into words, so I hope it’s coming across.

One way in which this happens is that I  – mainly unconsciously – respond and do things the way that Fiona would have done. Some Christians use the concept of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ (WWJD) as a guiding principle for life, and I like that. It’s a good idea, and if it works for you, go for it 🙂 Some people even have the logo ‘WWJD’ as a tattoo, hopefully the right way up so they can read it as a reminder… 😉

Well, in a similar vein, I suppose it’s as if I have the letters ‘WWFD’ tattooed on my personality, or that I wear a ‘WWFD’ wristband like this one here 🙂  What would Fiona do? Well, I could obviously never be a ‘replacement’ for her in the lives of people whom she blessed on a daily basis just by knowing them. But still I have found that I have taken over just some of the roles she had, and I have done this in exactly the same serving spirit that she would have had. And that’s because she made me into the person I am, just by being herself and transferring her attitudes to me, albeit unconsciously. And I’m sure it worked both ways; I know that she had attitudes and principles that were a result of her knowing me. We all ‘rub off’ on each other our whole lives, but this is especially true for people who are close.

There’s more. This is very personal, but about two or three times a week, I dream about Fiona in my sleep. Not just in the sense that I described earlier in this series, but now it’s different. In the dreams, I know she’s dead, but it’s like she’s just sitting there beside me, without necessarily saying anything, but just being there. She’s very solid, very real, and the really solid thing about her is her presence. Again, this is difficult to describe, but the take-home feeling and impression I get is that she is always there, and always will be, even though she’s not really here any more. Or is she? To be honest, the mechanics of this are quite mind-wrenching, even for a mind like mine, so I just let it be without trying to go too deeply into how it all works. But the solidity of her presence in those dreams, I am certain, is either my subconscious mind showing me that all Fiona’s influence is still solid in my life, or maybe it’s even something far deeper than that, but which I will leave to my readers to interpret in their own ways. And this whole thing provides me with yet another assurance that the person she was, and is, is still present with me in my life. In a very real way, that old adage of ‘as long as we remember them, they are not really dead’ is apparently true for Fiona in my life.

You see, Fiona and I had been together for 34 years, and married for just short of 33 years, and for all of that time we were inseparable. We had such a close relationship, it was almost like we could read each other’s thoughts. And a relationship like that is not broken by death. Sure, our marriage service included the words ’till death do us part’. And I believe that’s true, at least on a temporary basis, dreams notwithstanding. But, you know, there is a deeper truth here. As well as the ‘ongoing relationship’, there is also something even greater that the future holds. As I have said before, death is no longer the big deal it once was. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have seen a foretaste of life after death. Jesus put it like this, ‘Because I live, you too will live’ (Jn 14:19), and ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’ (Jn 11:25). Because of the Resurrection, death has been given notice that it will no longer hold the tyranny of fear over humankind that it has held for countless centuries.

What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. (Romans 6:8-10 Message)

On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
(Isaiah 25:7-8)

Do you see what this is saying? I am not using these as proof-texts; I don’t like using Scripture like that! What I am saying is that, because of the grieving process I have been undergoing, I have come to realise that the truth of the presence of Jesus in my life, the reality of His Spirit in my heart, the reality of His life-changing power at work within me, all point to the genuineness (is that even a word??) of the story of Jesus that we all know so well, but which is so often read like it’s still bound up in a dusty old book. No. This is real! And so, I give these texts as examples of things that I already know to be happening in my own life, and to show what the future has in store, not only for me, but for all humanity. Death indeed does not have the final say. Death is no longer separation from our loved ones for ever. Heaven awaits, and in that place we will indeed see again those whom we cherished so dearly in this life.

And on the other side of the veil waits my Fiona. Fe and I had ‘our song’, ‘Where you go, I will go‘. And when I die on this Earth, that’s what will have happened; I will have gone to be with her where she is. So I would hope that, when that time comes, people will be able bring themselves to grieve with joy, knowing that we are together again, forever, in the incredible place where we lived our entire lives longing to go to.

And the relationship goes on.

*I also believe in miracles, including that of raising the dead. I believe God can do that. But, as I have said before (I think, anyway; my mind is such a fizzing whirl of ideas that I have difficulty remembering things sometimes!), I do think that it was Fiona’s time, and there’s going to be no raising of Fiona before the Great Resurrection. Crazy talk? Well, this is my faith; I have no doubts as to God’s abilities in this regard, but He’s not going to do it. Plus there is no way in which I could ever selfishly ask for her to be whisked away from her heavenly reward. No way in the world.

Header picture shows Fiona at our beloved holiday retreat at Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, in 2011

Affirmation and Freedom

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Coming Out

In this article by Rob Cottrell, he describes how it was the choice between maintaining his relationship with his Lesbian daughter, and following his existing faith beliefs to the letter that brought him into huge freedom in his faith. Truly, for each of us, God uses different means to bring us into that freedom.

This might sound like a bit of a no-brainer to most parents, but sadly, there are those who would rather follow ‘men’s’ interpretation of a book (Mt 15:9) than do something that is perceived by those ‘men’ as being ‘sinful‘. And of course pandering to the demands of those people always leads to more slavery to rules and regulations; they are never satisfied.

So, here’s Rob’s article. Enjoy!

A Father’s Plea to Christian Dads of LGBTQ Children

Eight years ago, my daughter came out. I love her. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing. I stand with her. I defend her. I believe in her. I protect her.

And my life’s work is now to advocate for her and for all those in the LGBTQI community.

Maybe you have a gay son, or a lesbian daughter, or a bisexual, transgender or queer child. And maybe this is not what you hoped for—what you dreamed of. But regardless of the labels placed on our kids by others, they are still our children and their dreams are still very much alive!

If you are willing to take an often difficult and sometimes scary journey with me, it will impact your heart and your life in ways more wonderful than you can imagine. It will lead you into a deeper love for your child, your family and for God.

Having a gay child is an absolute blessing!

I never had a conflict between my unconditional love for my child, and my faith… until my daughter came out.


The source of that conflict could not be my love for my child. That love is pure, holy, God-given, true, right and everything good in this world. So the source of the conflict had to be somewhere in my faith beliefs.

That is the key moment.

That realization is the decision point, and probably one of the most important decisions of my life and my child’s life. How I as a parent react and respond to that will impact both of our lives forever.

Some parents abandon their child for their faith. Indefensible. Some parents abandon their faith for their child. Either decision is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, soul-shattering—and either will have horrible, tragic consequences.

There is a better way. But to make it, you have to be willing to take a journey.

If the source of the conflict can only be somewhere in your faith, then you have to open the box you are in and honestly examine your beliefs. And when you do that, God will reveal truth to you about God’s heart and unconditional love, not only for your child, but for you too.

When you take that journey and step outside of the box of behavior-focused Christianity, it can be scary—but the freedom, peace and truth you discover along the journey is exquisite, life-giving, and deeply satisfying to your heart and soul.

I plead with you to hear my heart.

My relationship with my daughter has never been better, my relationship with God has never been deeper.

To get there, I had to step away from religion, fundamentalism, legalism, anything that is part of behavior-focused, expectation-driven Christianity. As I stepped away from that, I realized I was stepping into the very life Jesus taught and showed us.

I learned that unconditional love, affirmation and acceptance of my LGBTQI child is actually consistent with a faith that follows Jesus.

I am fully affirming of LGBTQI people BECAUSE of scripture, because of Jesus, because of my faith, not in spite of it!

Your precious child holds your heart like no other. And you hold their heart in your hands like no one ever will.

What you do, how you react, the words you say, will have a greater impact—for good or bad—than you know.

I am just a dad, there is nothing special about me. All I did was refuse to abandon my child, and I refused to abandon my faith. I decided to begin a journey—a blessed beautiful journey.

One step at a time.

Will you join me?

– Rob Cottrell

p.s. If you are a Dad and need someone to talk with, please email me at You are loved and you are not alone.

If you’d like to see the original article, just click the graphic below to go to it.

Yeah, I know that my series on ‘Coming Out’ was supposed to have concluded with the previous piece in the series, ‘Conforming to the Pattern of This World‘. But I wanted to make this present article part of the series because of its relevance. And in fact I might just put all my future posts about LGBTQ+ issues into this series in order to keep them all together 🙂 [Edit: Doing that!]

If Hell Doesn’t Exist Then Why the Cross?

I’ve been asked by friends, ‘If you don’t believe in Hell, then why did Jesus have to die?’ And while that’s a good point, there is of course far more to Jesus’s death than His simply ‘purchasing our salvation’. There is so much more to the Cross (by that, I mean Jesus’s death on the Cross) than sin, than wrath, than most of the other attributes and meanings we ascribe to it. The deepest meaning, though, is of course the Love of God for us. St. Paul captures it well in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

But the question of Hell, now, that’s another thing entirely. I personally do not believe that God torments unrepentant people forever in a fiery furnace. I’ve written lots before on this subject. But even if Hell does indeed exist, as Evangelical doctrine would have us believe, to see the purpose of Christ’s death as only being that of ‘saving’ us from that Hell, now that, to me, narrows down the immense breadth and scope of Christ’s death to just the one item – saving us from Hell – to the exclusion of everything else.

And then there’s the somewhat scary idea that some Christians come up with: if there’s no threat of Hell, can’t we just do as we like? If sin is forgiven, isn’t that just a licence to go and sin as much as we like? Well, to be honest, the Cross would not affect that; if we wanted to sin because sin is forgiven, then the threat of Hell is clearly not working. No, to me, this indicates a serious misunderstanding of Jesus’s finished work on the Cross, the effect of the knowledge of God’s Grace in our lives, and the whole idea that if not for this idea of God holding the threat of Hell over us, we would simply sin, sin, sin. But that doesn’t make any sense to me.

Anyway, I read an excellent article on this subject recently by a friend of mine, Mark Darling of Queensland, Australia. Mark is a very smart man whose background is in psychology and applied neuroscience. He puts these arguments forward so much better than I could; why would I want to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when Mark has already written such an excellent piece? I will pass you over to Mark’s article now. Click the link below to go to the article:

If Hell Doesn’t Exist Then Why the Cross?

This essay is a breath of fresh air – definitely go and read it!

Grace and Peace to you.


I’ve always said that there’s no instrument quite like the piano. And it’s by far my favourite instrument to play.

And perhaps the most colossally brilliant pianist on the Christian scene at the moment is the amazing Terry MacAlmon. I love his style, I love his heart for worship, and I love his anointing and skill.

In this excellent demonstration of Terry’s ability, he plays the epic theme from the 1960 movie ‘Exodus’, original score by Ernest Gold. Note how he is offering what some would call a ‘secular’ score as an act of worship; some people wouldn’t be able to cope with that, but I personally have played secular pieces in worship; indeed I consider John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song‘ to be one of the finest worship songs ever written. Segueing then into his own song, ‘You Deserve the Glory‘, which I have shared on my blog before.

Let your spirit be lifted by this magnificent music – ‘secular’ or not – and enter into the worship that Terry takes you into so easily. I’ve put the lyrics to ‘You Deserve the Glory‘ below the video so you  can join in if you want to.


You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

More of Darren’s Wisdom

On my blog, I’ve shared a fair bit of the wisdom of my friend Darren. He’s a man of great integrity and it is my heartfelt honour to share more of his thoughts. Enjoy, and be blessed 🙂

If, during your declaration of ‘truth’, you end up deeply hurting another soul, perhaps you need to re-examine that ‘truth’ in light of the true gospel!…

“Love casts out all fear”
“Love never fails”
“It was for love that He gave Himself up”
“If I have not love, I am but a clashing cymbal”
“Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”
“Love is patient, love is kind”
“The truth shall set you free”
“Do to others as you would have them do to you”
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back”
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil”
“Love does no harm to a neighbor”
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”
“let us love one another, for love comes from God”
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs”
“Whoever does not love does not know God”

Love is no different to salt – it flavours. It draws out and enhances. It also kills bacteria (evil). It melts the heart like snow and ice on a footpath. If what we do or say makes someone even harder in their heart, we must examine if it is really love or not. There’s a difference between preaching love and preaching opinion. Our testimony is about love – how He loves us. So it becomes the Living word, preaching a living example of His love for us. A living testimony preached through action – “I love you because He loves me and has changed me”. This is preaching Jesus. Make me as salt Lord – to add flavour to other people’s lives.

More Quotes…

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

“Listen up fellow Christians. If your path to your understanding of Heaven requires you to provide a little Hell on earth for other humans, you are probably doing it wrong.” – Anon

“The only person more self-righteousness than a fundamentalist Christian is a liberal Christian who believes they have ascended above the petty self-righteousness of the fundamentalist to the glorious self-righteousness of actually being right!” – Jeff Martin

Where is the retribution in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? – Lee O’Hare

Just because everyone believes in a particular doctrine, does not mean that that doctrine is correct. Acceptance of the majority opinion does not make a doctrine true; it is simply more likely that nobody has questioned it! – Me

“Religion has made spirituality so terribly serious. Its a rather eye opening experience that when you launch out into the infinite realm of being with nothing but an open heart, a fierce commitment to truth and a steady hold on a loving awareness for whatever arises, what is actually discovered is a playful mystery seeking nothing from you, but giving to you a love that includes you in its own perfections.

“We’ve called our life “accomplishing a mission”, ” finding a purpose”, “fulfilling a vision”, “discharging a calling”, etc. Its all so gravely serious, sombre, rigorous….

“What if the purpose of your life IS your life? All of it. And what if all this internal and external landscape is nothing more than one infinite playground for your soul to discover its own participation in the delight of its own auspicious grandeur.” – Ron Wright

The only wrath in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is that of the eldest son. – Brian Zahnd

“The Bible is not inerrant, Jesus is. But don’t worry, that should only affect you if you’re a biblican (follower of the Bible), not a Christian (follower of Christ).” – Nathan Jennings

“Your questions aren’t dangerous. The people telling you not to ask them are”. – Jeff Turner

“The more you understand Grace, the more you become empowered to “be” who you already are. You’ll find yourself living more righteous by accident than you ever have on purpose.” – David Jones

‘There is no payment in forgiveness – Lee O’Hare

Religion takes away our greatest power of decision; religion tells you what to do, instead of allowing you to choose……Religion creates a slave, Love sets the captive free! – Jeff Walsh

Restoration to relationship is what the Father considers Justice. And so justice is satisfied – Brian Zahnd

I’d rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned. – Jeff Turner


Night Flying

A couple of evenings ago, I had an awe-inspiring flight that was a major first in my flying career.

I went for my first ever flight at night. With an instructor, of course.

At the moment, my licence only allows me to fly in daylight. In order to fly at night, I would need to add a Night Rating to my licence, which simply involves a short theoretical and practical flying training course and then five solo takeoffs and full-stop landings at night.

I have been thinking about going for my night rating for a good while now, shall I/shan’t I, will I like it, what if it’s really hard, what if I get all disorientated? The inspiration for the night flying came from one of those moments where I was standing in my garden at home and looking up at the brightly moonlit clouds above, and thinking, “I would love to fly up there in that sky!” And so was born the idea of training for my first additional rating in all my 20+ years of flying.

So I decided to go for a short hop with an Instructor and see how I liked it. As it was an instructional flight, I planned on flying the aeroplane for the entire flight, right from moving off from the apron to the final shutdown, as far as it was possible given that I had never flown at night before.

So, first, we had a little bit of a briefing, where Ollie (my Instructor) gave me some important points about the differences involved in flying at night as compared to daylight flying, and I asked a few questions. Then it’s engine startup and off we go.

The first thing I noticed was that it is really hard to read my checklist in the pitch black. I had brought my torch and used it, but I made a mental note that next time I would put a red filter on my torch so as to avoid loss of night vision.

So, engine start as normal, call the Tower, and then taxy the aeroplane to the holding point just short of the runway for the power and pre-takeoff ‘vital actions’ checks. The taxiways are lit with blue lights at the edges and green lights down the centreline, and there are two bright yellow flashing lights to mark the holding point. This wasn’t all that difficult although I did notice a tendency to overcontrol on the steering because of the lack of visual references. But essentially it was no harder than driving a car at night. Lining up on the runway, though, was a bit different because there were no cues at all apart from the white lines on the ground. All the lights on aerodrome surfaces are carefully aligned to cause minimum inconvenience by dazzle and maximum benefit for the different stages of flight. To be honest I don’t remember if I could see the main runway edge lights (the flarepath), but we were quickly cleared for takeoff so it’s off we go.

The takeoff itself was easy, not all that different from a daylight takeoff, but I think I would have found it hard in a crosswind, again because of the lack of visual cues. These visual cues are something that I have taken for granted in daylight flying, because everything is visible all around me and I don’t even think about it. At night, though, the default setting is that everything is black, everywhere, unless it’s a city or a road. But the wind was calm; a nice fine and quiet night weather-wise, just perfect for a night air experience flight.

In fact, the feeling is quite surreal as the aeroplane lifts off and I begin the climbout, just like I would in daylight, but relying on the instruments to maintain the correct airspeed and attitude. Everything is black, except for the bright lights of Exeter and its surrounding towns, and the bright car lights on the nearby M5 motorway, one stream of red tail lights, the other of white headlights. It’s rush hour so the roads are busy and easily visible even where there are no street lights, and the feeling is like climbing up into a huge black velvet coal sack but with all these islands and rivers of coloured lights (mainly orange, red and white) lighting up patches on the ground. Fortunately I know the geography of the local area really well so I am not fazed at all by thinking, like, ‘Where am I?’. That’s one major thing I don’t need to worry about.

The City of Exeter at night, seen from above Dawlish Warren at 2,500ft

I notice also that large water features, like the two major estuaries of the Exe and the Teign, actually reflect light from the sky that I didn’t even know was there; the Moon has not yet risen so the sky is lit mainly by starlight and a little bit of city glow, though not all that much as Devon is really very rural. In fact, I have read many times that water features are one of the best aids to night navigation, and now I can see why. Yeadon, my old home town near Leeds, has a lake near it that they had to drain during the War, because it is only a mile from a factory where they used to build Lancaster bombers. The lake would have been a major landmark that would have enabled German night bombers to attack the factory with some fair degree of accuracy. And the sea, of course, is a major feature around my current area, although it appears much darker than the rivers for some reason…but again it’s easily found because the coastal towns define the coastline really well. And there are all these little white lights dotted around that show where boats are located. You can see one just below the middle of this photo of Exmouth, taken from over Dawlish Warren at 2,500ft (photo is clickable for full-size image):

But the most striking feature, again, is the blackness. Everything is black apart from the towns and roads, and the rivers. In fact the feeling is like that of everything being almost abstract; it’s like I’m not really flying but instead I’m using a flight simulator or something. Because the aeroplane, once trimmed up, basically flies herself, all I need to do is to look out at the view and occasionally check the instruments for height, heading and speed. I know I’m above the MSA (minimum safe altitude) so I’m not going to run into anything. Other aircraft are easy to spot as they have flashing lights on them. In a lot of ways, despite the lack of a visual horizon reference, this is much easier than flying in the daylight. Quite a paradox.

And I can see. Although most of the ground is dark, I notice that there is actually enough light to see by due to the starlight, now that my eyes are becoming accustomed to the dark.

Straight away I notice that I am flying the aeroplane much more precisely and carefully, being careful not to risk disorientation by abrupt attitude changes, and paying much more attention to the instruments and what the aeroplane is doing. When flying, it’s really important to keep ahead of the aircraft at all times; to be proactive rather than reactive, so I am concentrating hard and thinking well ahead because at night it is so much more vital to be ahead of your game. Any tendency of the aeroplane to drift off course or change its attitude has to be seen and acted on early so that it does not ‘develop’. This is probably the most precise flying I have done in a long while.

Coming back to the airport, Ollie points out landmarks that will be useful for me when trying to find the aerodrome by myself. How does one lose a huge field with a 2,064-metre runway? Quite easily, actually 🙂 But the airport does indeed appear as advertised, and I position for a left-hand downwind join for Runway 26. Doing everything slowly, carefully and precisely, I fly a very nice downwind in all this blackness; several landmarks are available to help me in this regard but I also need to make sure that I am well clear of high ground to the east of the airport and below the place where I am going to do the base turn. Downwind checks complete, and turning base, then, at about 1,100ft, the runway approach lights gradually become more visible as a dim string of yellow dots as I prepare the aeroplane for landing. Turning for final approach, the runway is lit up gloriously – I have done dusk flarepath landings before, so the sight is familiar – but in between the flarepath lights, the runway surface itself is totally black.

Photo (not mine, credit goes to ‘Golfcharlie’ as signed on the picture) of the approach lights at Exeter as seen from a Beechcraft Duchess twin-engined training aeroplane. The main runway lights are actually white, not red as they appear in this photo.

I’ve been briefed by Ollie on when to ‘flare’ (the point where you arrest the descent); apparently it’s when the runway lights appear to be coming up around my ears. So I flare and prepare to hold off, but the aeroplane touches down straight away for a real greaser of a landing; almost perfect – except that it was pure fluke. I didn’t expect the aircraft to land so soon; normally she needs to be held off the runway until she stalls gently on from about 8-12 inches above the runway. Again, the lack of visual cues is something I’m going to have to learn to deal with.

I was surprised in that I actually flew the entire flight myself, with the exception of a minute or two where Ollie took over so I could take the two photos featured in this blog post, and the whole flight was easy, if a little surreal. But the precision flying I will have to perform will do nothing but good for my flying technique.

And so my training starts on Monday, weather permitting. For the first time in 20 years, I will be undergoing a flying training programme. I did have a lesson or two a couple of years ago, where I learned things like radio navigation and such, but this will be the first really new formal flying training program that I have done since completing my PPL in 1997. Once again, I will have to summon all my courage, discipline and determination to make this work. The courage to face new and potentially dangerous situations, the discipline of concentration and excluding all extraneous thoughts from my fizzing Aspie mind; and the determination to overcome all the obstacles to learning that I will likely encounter, and come through with my shiny new Night Rating. It will be really freeing to be able to not worry about whether or not I am down before sunset. And I love the flarepath landings; it’s all very pretty.

Outside the local supermarket yesterday evening, I looked up into the black sky and thought, “Crumbs, I flew in that last night!” Well, hopefully I’m going to be doing a lot more of it over the winter months.

Wish me luck!

[Edit] I completed my Night Rating at the end of November 2017, and wrote up my experiences (including sections of this present piece) to be submitted for publication. My article was published in the October 2018 edition of the UK’s best-selling General Aviation magazine, Pilot, and occupied five pages including photos. Very pleased 🙂

[Second edit] – Now that my published article has been out for a few months, it’s become freely available on the Pilot Magazine website. If you’d like to have a read of it (it’s similar to this present article, and obviously based on it, but there are some differences) then here is the link.