Article by Stewart Knowles
The tiny single-engined aircraft swooping low like an inquisitive bird over the sunlit Wye Valley dips its wings in salute
while the grey-haired woman in the bright red dress waves back.
It's her daughter, Noele Gordon, up there in the co-pilot's seat. Noele learnt to fly for a television programme
in 1959. She's that sort of woman.
For over 30 years she has worked hard, managing very well without a man about the place, and now she's flying over 'Weir
End', the handsome Georgian country house she bought in 1963 to make a dream of comfort and security come true.
The Union Jack flutters at the flag-pole her mother, "Jockey" Gordon, gave her two years ago as the annual Christmas-cum-birthday
present. And the whole house, as the sun catches its own reflection in the windows, seems to be smiling.
"It looks absolutely super!" Noele shouted against the noise of the engine as she flew over her five-and-a-half acres
of Herefordshire. "I can't believe it! I never knew how much lawn I had to cut. I can see my mother waving
in the garden ... yes, there she is. She is on the front lawn in a red dress and she's waving like mad. Hello,
Mrs Gordon cannot hear her daughter but the relationship between these two women is more than close enough to bridge
any gap that noise and space can create.
It was a Monday morning. Earlier I had driven Noele from Ross to Birmingham's Elmdon Airport, cursing lorry drivers
who hogged the fast lane of the M5 until Noele told me she was an honorary member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
I might have known. Last year this do-anything lady with the sparkling blue eyes drove a huge Swedish road transporter,
the 1,000th to be imported into Britain. "Ever since then I've had a lot of sympathy with lorry drivers," she told me.
At Elmdon Noele took off to make the journey back to Ross again, this time to enable photographer Ron McFarlane to get
air-to-ground pictures of her house.
Meanwhile, the Crossroads cast gathered at the ariport for the 1,500th episode celebration flight to Jersey,
where Noele would be soaked to the skin on the Duchess of Normandy in St. Aubin's Bay and thrilled to bits with
her first time in a tight-cornering kart.
Between whiles we talked: first about Noele's childhood, which began on Christmas Day nearly fifty years ago in a house
in London's East Ham.
"I'm very lucky," said Noele. "I have nearly total recall and can remember things that happened when I was around
two. I can remember 139 Clements Road, East Ham, very clearly.
"It was a nice house, just an ordinary little house you find in a suburb. It had a little paved front garden and
there was a room on your left as you went in, and a room at the back, and the kitchen and back garden where most of my baby
pictures were taken.
"Upstairs there were three bedrooms and a bathroom. I feel tremendous affection for that house. I can even
remember my mother's bed. I could spit that we threw it away because it was all brass, with brass knobs and things.
What I'd give to have it now!"