A few weeks ago we were contacted by a television production company. They were planning a documentary for BBC4 to be fronted by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili. I can't remember now what the general subject matter was, but they were interested in using kite tails to demonstrate the effect of solar wind on comet tails. For those who are unclear a comet has two tails, one is a debris trail that the comet leaves behind in its orbit, the other is a plasma tail that is blown by the solar wind and so always points away from the sun.

After some brief discussion, we agreed that we would be able to help, and as most of us are now retired, midweek filming shouldn't present too much of a problem. It was reiterated that they were interested in kites with tails, and this represents a slight challenge, as kite tails create drag, and therefore require a little more breeze, but we were hopeful. Next was the question of location. I suggested two where we get fairly consistent breeze, and we settled on Walmer beach, one of our regular flying sites. The final question was dates. They had a schedule of dates on which Prof. Al-Khalili would be available to them, and we settled on either the 13th or 14th October. Once again we pointed out that we are completely weather dependant, so it was now a case of regularly checking the weather forecast.

On the preceding Sunday, we were at Blackheath Kite Day, where we were completely defeated by the lack of wind, so things didn't look favourable, but the forecast for the Wednesday was still a pleasant day with a 9mph offshore breeze. We could only hope. A final telephone conversation with the producer on the Monday afternoon, and we agreed to go ahead with filming on Wednesday 13th. Permission had been granted for filming so only the weather could beat us. The plan was to meet at about 11 with the crew. Prof. Al-Khalili would join us a little later as he was coming by train from Portsmouth. But they could use the time to get some background shots. They would have to be away by about 2:30 as they had another sequence to shoot later demonstrating the doppler effect with a classic car and trombone!

So it was that we descended on the Borrow Pit carpark in Walmer at 11am. [RANT ALERT] Dover District Council have been planning to introduce parking charges at this carpark, from March through October. We discovered that they had implemented the charges from early October, which they would then suspend at the end of October, and re-introduce at the beginning of March. Is it me, or does this seem like the most money grabbing scheme on the planet? For the amount of income they are going to generate in October, could they not have waited until the following March? To add insult to injury, the only means of payment is via Ringgo, there are no payment machines, you either phone, or use the ringgo app. But at this carpark, Ringgo are levying an additional 40p transaction charge. So if you only want to park for an hour, the published charge of 90p for a car suddenly becomes £1:30. Bear in mind this is a transaction charge, so if you need to extend your stay, you will pay another transaction charge. This seems simply extortionate! My main issue is that the council publish their parking charges as 90p per hour. Fine. My contract for parking is with Dover Council. Their contract for collection of that charge is with Ringgo. I have no relationship in this transaction with Ringgo, so why am I expected to pay their extortionate charge? If there was a payment meter, at least I would have a choice, but there isn't, so I have no choice but to pay a charge for which I get absolutely no benefit! [RANT OVER]

Back to the filming. By the time I arrived, Peter already had a manta ray in the sky, and there was a reasonable breeze, not the promised 9mph, but OK. Mike was already chatting with the crew in the carpark and we loaded up with kites and cameras and headed up onto the beach. There we found, Peter, Janet, Janet, Tim and his wife Gillian. The cameraman found a spot where he could get the shots he wanted, all we had to do was keep kites in the sky. So began a battle with the wind as it came and went all day. On several occasions, having set up a shot, the wind disappeared for a while. A couple of times kites ended up in the tide, so needed to be flown dry, but on the whole, we had a successful days filming. Several different set-ups with Prof. Al-Khalili and some background shots of kites against the sky and filming from a drone. It did, at one point, have a close encounter with a kite tail, but neither kite or drone seemed the worse for the experience. Finally the crew headed off to their next appointment and we spent a while chatting before heading off. We're told that they got all of the sequences that they wanted, and were happy. The documentary will be on BBC4 sometime probably in the spring or summer.