About the author


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About the author

I am a hang glider pilot, photographer, and amateur philosopher. My profession is software engineering. See Programming career for brief details of the latter. (The link skips down this page.)


Under fire

After we moved from north London, where my dad lived, to the central south coast of England, where my grandparents (on my mother’s side) had retired, at eight years old I was surrounded by fir trees, sandstone ridges and quarries, and disused air raid shelters – instead of (or rather, as well as) streets of houses and shops.

Crossing a plateau of waist-deep heather on a lower slope of a nearby hill in about 1965 with my brother and school friends one day, we were surrounded by buzzing and several thwacks – then the staccato of what sounded like automatic fire. (It was rifle and/or pistol fire by several shooters simultaneously, which the mind seems to perceive as automatic fire, likely from watching too many war films on television.) We lit out of there and they moved the firing range to a safer location soon after. To this day (2018) the cool still air of summer mornings carries the sound to us from that (safer) outdoor firing range.

We were under fire in other ways too, or perhaps more like secret agents parachuted behind enemy lines. It was like going back 200 years. For example, we lived opposite a hospital and, when we first moved there, an occasional black or Indian doctor would walk down the street. When they did, often the proverbial ‘little old ladies’ stopped and watched them go by. They had never seen a coloured person before except, presumably, on television.

Motocross painting by Everard Cunion

My first painting: About 1973

At school I looked forward to flying F-111s in Vietnam. Then the RAF cancelled its order for F-111s and Britain, unlike Australia and New Zealand, did not follow the Americans into Vietnam. (Rightly, I think now, but all I wanted was to be a flying superhero, which — until hang gliding appeared — required a war.) Then I wanted to be a top motorcycle trials rider like the guys who practised on my local hill. I was unable to afford a good bike and I am the world’s worst mechanic, so I was unable to keep an old bike running.

As a male in your late teens in Britain of those days, you either went into the military or further education. I went to sixth-form college because I found physics easy and I am grateful for the way they unobtrusively made leeway for this troubled and troublesome individual.

Everard in 1973

Me in 1973

While I believe I still hold a rifle accuracy record from sixth form college (all the bullets from the magazine went through the same ragged hole in the target – which I still have) shooting was not really my thing. Hang gliding was a new phenomenon in Britain in 1974. It was the only thing available to me as a route to stardom. Furthermore, it was the big thing at the time: Everyone was talking about it both in print and on the radio and television. I figured I could fly one from the heather-covered slopes of the same hill where we did our off-road biking, which I did.

Experimental hang glider launching

One of my experimental hang gliders (this one in 1979)

As a hang glider pilot, I expect to be admired by men and loved by women. Everything else is rubbish.


New avenger

When The New Avengers first appeared on British television in 1976, I had the bizarre sensation of wanting to somehow climb in through the screen of our small black-and-white TV to get at Purdey, played by Joanna Lumley, to possess her.

Joanna Lumley (IMDb photo)

Joanna Lumley in 1982 (IMDb photo)

Eight years later, a taller (and younger) version of Purdey walked into my life. We were never more than ‘just friends’ (unfortunately). She is the girl with her arm around me in the 1984 photo, although I have cropped her out. Sorry.

The BPA sweatshirt reminds me that I founded a university parachute club in early 1979. (First jumps from a Cessna 206 at Shobdon airfield, Herefordshire.) Last I heard, it is still going.

Everard Cunion at Southbourne probably 6th August 1984

Me in 1984

By that time I had acquired a broken nose (bike crash), a crushed vertebra (hang glider crash sub-optimal landing), and not forgetting a splinter of bone sticking out of a knuckle from skiing on the army’s dry slope at Aldershot. (The army nurses at Frimley Park hospital could not help with that one either.)

In the mid-1980s, being unemployed, I took up BMX racing. (Each race, which lasts about 45 seconds, is termed, bizarrely, a moto.) No longer able to afford to run a car, I raced only at my two local tracks, but I eventually reached national level and I won the Bournemouth Summer Series in my bike/age classification in 1985. Tim March, the gentle giant with a Billy Idol hair-do, was the club’s most famous rider.

Everard Cunion in a BMX race at Branksome, Poole, in 1986

BMX bandit

The photo of me during a race was taken by a track-side photographer at the Branksome track, near Poole in Dorset, which I am told no longer exists. (That is, the BMX track no longer exists. Poole is still there, last I heard…)

See my page Generation BMX (link farther on) for a socioeconomic comparison of my generation with generation X and Generation Z.

In the summer of 1987 I started a programming job in London. Because I was paid in arrears, but accommodation and travel costs had to be paid in advance, I was temporarily in debt and I saved money by not going home on the first few weekends. (Initially I slept on the floor of a shared house in south London and I used cardboard boxes for furniture.) We had troubles at home and, unknown to me, my mother suffered a semi-paralyzing stroke (a blocked blood vessel in the brain).

How long since you wrote to your mother?
For you the hours may fly
But these hours are years to your mother
When the mailman passes her by.
How long since you wrote to your mother?
Better get that letter done
For mothers fade like flowers
When they miss their wandering son.

— From Stars and Stripes during World-war II

I spent my weekends and holidays over the next eight years taking her out in a wheelchair. We went to a BMX race day at the Iford track one Saturday. I thought I recognised a few faces, but I could not be sure.


The mysterious lady

Garbo belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philtre, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced.

— by Roland Barthes, author of The Jet Man and other illuminations of the human condition

(Philtre? A love potion, apparently.)

Unfortunately, I have no photo of the nearest thing to a proper girlfriend I ever had. Quite unlike Purdey (see New avenger) but even more desirable, if such could be imagined. She was a former Wren — Women’s Royal Naval Service. (Women in uniform! Woof!)

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo

She styled herself on the Swedish-American film actress Greta Garbo, but my lady was cuter and curvier than the tall and lanky Garbo. We sometimes met on a weekday evening at London Waterloo railway station and went to a café-bar on one of the streets below. Some weekends, we went to a cinema in Southampton, but I have no recollection of any of the films we saw. We were occasionally together for seven years.

Those weekend outings cost me time that I would otherwise have spent visiting my mother in the nursing home, so it could not go on. Eventually, Greta moved in with me. However, because of a combination of unfortunate circumstances, that did not last.


Interlude

Everard's mother Kathleen at Avon Beach in June or July 1988

My old mum in 1988

My mother died in December 1995, which really did feel like the ground giving away beneath me. (New books I had bought her and Xmas tree decorations that she had owned from childhood were stolen from her room in those last days.) I completed the degree that I had returned to university for in the autumn. My final year project was a feasibility study of using a helmet-mounted display (so-called virtual reality) for hang glider collision avoidance training.

One time, after one of my hang glider crashes, my left arm swelled to twice its normal diameter and I could barely move it. I waited for an hour in the casualty department while lots of people sat around chatting like it was some kind of social club. They were clearly not emergency cases. Meanwhile, a small child was crying in real pain (not like reflex crying just to get attention) and her mother was in increasing distress about it, but she was left in the queue just waiting. I got up and left in disgust.

I went to work as a technical author for a helicopter-related software house. One incident that might have contributed to me being laid off just short of a year later, despite being hailed as the most productive individual there, is a long-standing problem we have endured as a family. Whenever there was a high profile murder or similar, often I or my brother was interviewed by the police. (They have to follow up every lead, no matter how unlikely it is.) A lady television presenter was shot dead in 2000 (or about then). I had never heard of her, but a bunch of armed police turned up at that workplace to interview me. We used to be certain who was carrying out this campaign, but that individual had died by then, so we had been blaming the wrong person all those years. It strikes me as a continuation, from school days, of the hatred that provincial Brits have for those they categorize as ‘London intellectuals.’

I then worked as a manual labourer for the new UK national minimum wage (£4.10 per hour) first in a machine shop then at a factory. It was a modern style factory, consisting of a handful of two-story workshops on a trading estate. Here is an example of how some highly intelligent and educated people live in societies that prevent them from using their abilities, and they find refuge in Britain: I somehow got into a conversation that included ‘imaginary numbers’ — the square root of minus one. (Square any number and the result is positive, so there is no such thing as the square root of minus one, but it is useful in computations of electrical alternating current — I am told.) Anyway, a lot of those guys seemed to have never gone to school and they clearly thought I was making it up. Then a little guy from Bangladesh, who knew only about three words of English, joined in on my behalf by writing down the arithmetic notation of such calculations on a bit of scrap paper.

Then there was tall Pierre, who during a stock-taking day, was in charge of placing all the tools that lay around into their proper places. When you handed him something, he told you its name in French. I gave him a pair of pliers and he said “Pants.” I relayed this to the others, who had Pierre confirm it, and they fell about laughing while Pierre grinned uncertainly.

I spent much time writing down memories of my mother and of other events during her time in the world. Nothing much else held meaning for me.


New life

On a wintry day in October 2000, Rebecca arrived in a wooden crate from California, initiating what was for me a new life surrounded by silicone rubber women.

One visiting lady photographer stopped work for a minute and said, “It’s not just a doll. It’s a whole world.”

Rebecca Realdoll in 2010

Rebecca in 2010

Anoushka Anatomical Doll in uniform on Xmas day, 2014

Anoushka in the New Forest, southern England, on Xmas day, 2014

Life-size doll posing on quay-side with artificial hippo in water

Faina in 2018


Rocket man

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.

— opening lyrics of Rocket Man by Elton John, 1972

1/48th scale Blackburn/BAC Buccaneer

1/48th scale Blackburn/BAC Buccaneer

While I gave up painting (pictures) in the early 1980s, I continued with plastic modelling, on and off, over the years.

The launch tower of the Vanguard rocket is 14 inches high.

Everard's Glencoe Models 1/76th scale Vanguard research rocket

Glencoe Models 1/76th scale Vanguard research rocket I built in 2016

Revell 1/12th scale Husqvarna and Suzuki motocross bikes with Tamiya riders

Moto cross in 1/12th scale

The bikes are 6.5 inches long, nose to tail.


2017 hang gliding calendar cover photo by Everard Cunion

2017 U.S. hang gliding calendar cover photo

My hang glider in-flight photography really took off when I changed from a film camera to a GoPro and I had photos published on the covers of hang gliding magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. I took the photo that became the 2017 calendar cover over north Dorset, England, in 2016. I was flying a Wills Wing U-2.

Hang Gliding & Paragliding magazine cover September-October 2016.

U.S. magazine cover in 2016


Mountain bike on up-hill camber

Tackling an up-hill camber in 2017

Who could be against environmentalism? Unfortunately, in Britain, it is used as an excuse to ban mountain biking from just about everywhere. Nobody evaluates the pros and cons. Instead, the environment charities buy the land, cut down the trees (without telling anyone first) and put up signs and fences, turning those places into what are effectively their own private gardens.


The future of humankind

In provincial Britain during the 1960s, heavily-built types were assumed to be mentally dim. The occasional exception, like the science prodigy at our school who was a big lad wearing spectacles, paradoxically seemed to reinforce the stereotype, as did the one girl in our physics class who challenged the assumption that girls’ minds are ill-equipped for reasoning.

The discarding of those prejudices has undoubtedly improved society. However, there is a down-side. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and men are supposed to be ‘hunky’ rather than slim and have ‘social skills’ instead of intelligence of the technical kind.

The goalposts have been moved. (Who moved them?) Is it a side-effect of democracy? How do we correct it?

It is imperative that we fix this problem. Although humans are uniquely cultural among living things, we are nevertheless primarily genetic beings. Women who select gangsters and businessmen (or other dodgy geezers with ‘social capital’) as the fathers of their offspring cannot expect the panacea of education to stand in for technical intelligence. The genetic quality of humanity is at stake.

To be clear, I have failed in life not because of external causes, but because I failed to measure up. Nonetheless, I have yet to hear an argument that assuages my fears for the future of humankind.


Programming career

  • In the early 1980s, I programmed radar guidance for point-defence surface-to-air missiles used in the Falklands War.
  • In the late 1980s, I led a team of seven programmers at a software house in central London creating ‘interactive video’ computer-based training programs.
  • During the first Gulf war, I worked for the computer-based training arm of a maker of mine hunter patrol boats.
  • Operating as Flight Training Systems, I created the computer-based training program Aerodynamics & Propulsion in the early 1990s.
  • In the mid 1990s, I programmed airliner flight deck procedures training at premises directly under the final approach to London Heathrow Airport.
  • In the late 1990s, I wrote the online help for the Apache attack helicopter forward maintenance data station in time for the second Gulf war.
  • In the mid 2000s, I led a team of seven (again) technical authors tasked with writing online help for automotive software. My last job involved compiling release notes for the same automotive software house.

Internal links

Aviation computer-based training

Generation BMX

Hang gliding

Lars and the real Everard — my review of the Canadian movie Lars and the Real Girl, 2007

Off-road bikes

Plastic models

Rebecca and friends

External links

Joanna Lumley – IMDb

The following comedy set in 1960s London illustrates where I grew up until about eight years old:
SMASHING TIME – full movie – 1967 – Rita Tushingham & Lynn Redgrave on YouTube.
Thanks to Davecat, American Anglophile extraordinaire, for bringing it to my attention.

5 Responses to About the author

  1. Fly with hanglider is also my pasiion.My name is Luca, I like your story about your flight and I am happy that in England there are people like you. I fly in italy where there are a lot of mountain and it is very simple to reach a good place to fly and you show me more passion than a lot of people to fly and write about flight. I hope to fly with you and could you send me some gps coordinates for the place where you fly?

    Have fun
    Luca Silvestri

    • I don’t have a GPS, but the info is available in the club sites guide. We do not have many hang glider pilots in Britain now (lots of paragliders though). Visitors are always welcome.

  2. proamatrice says:

    Hello Everard,it’s not easy to read about you, my English is not enough trained:/
    I’m a computer scientist, too. What does your job consist in, more precisely?
    If your socialisation level is not in a bad moon at the moment, you could even answer me:)
    PS. Why do you let tv to violate your privacy?
    Best wishes L.

    • I write and edit documentation for complex computer systems.

      I do not really have a concept of privacy. I live in a society where deviousness and dishonesty are the norm. The main defense against it becoming like an African corrupt state is its free press. People who hold privacy as a high value have something to hide. If we are to evolve into the proverbial race of brave men and beautiful women living in equally proverbial sunny uplands, we must leave those people behind.

      • proamatrice says:

        So you like to let Google and Facebook, under the false pretenses of the “completely free”, collect billions of data about you? They don’t care whether you have something to hide or not, they want to earn money with the information you provide.
        Could you link me some pages where I can read something more in detail about your work? Which kind of complex systems you deal with? I work in an environment in which documentation is the evil for productivity! Even if I don’t agree this idea of documentation in general..

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