8. The Future of Flying

26-year-old Amy writes to her mother on the eve of her solo flight to Australia

4th May 1930

Dear Mum,

I fly to Australia tomorrow. I can’t quite believe those words even as I write them. So many months of planning, so many years of waiting and then suddenly I am to be the first woman to fly solo to Australia! There is no question of whether I shall achieve or not. You do know that, don’t you? I’ll get there, no matter what and I’ll give it my best shot at beating Hinkler’s record. I’ve even been secretly thinking of flying home again after getting Australia. Jack’s been encouraging me. That would be a record indeed – England – Australia – England!

Of course people don’t think I’ll do it. At first everyone was very interested – you should have seen it, the reporters turning up every day at the aerodrome, baying for interviews and photos! Jack said I should make the most of it – that’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy, he said. So I did their interviews and smiled for their photos. But all they wanted to know was the colour of my flying suit! As if that was important! (Though green is my lucky colour.) When I approached them for sponsorship, they all scurried away. It reminded me of when I took a cricket ball full in the face at school, do you remember? I was one of the boys until that moment. Then they laughed. They laughed at my bleeding mouth and my broken teeth and jeered and teased. I put on a brave face but I never forgot it. Celebrity is like that – it hangs on a thread, liable to snap at any moment. Fame is just as fickle as friendship. They will try to make me yesterday’s news but I won’t let them. I shall be today’s news – and tomorrow’s and tomorrow’s and tomorrow’s!

When I think about it, all this started for very strange reasons, really. Now I feel quite passionate about the equality of the sexes – or at least proving a woman can be as courageous and adventurous as a man. But the truth is it started quite selfishly. I needed a distraction from work, from Hans. If I tell you something, you must promise not to get upset. Do you promise? It’s like this. When Hans told me he was married, I felt desperate, and I think that was the thing that made me decide I must learn to fly. Not simply to get away but so I might crash the plane and end everything, without hurting you and daddy too badly. You mustn’t be upset at me telling you this. I feel entirely differently now – I am quite determined to survive. But there is something about the excitement, the anticipation, the nerves the night before a big adventure that makes you want to be honest. I know I haven’t been the best daughter but I love you. I am grateful for everything you and daddy have done to help me, very grateful.

I don’t want you to worry. I have taken every precaution. Lots of folk at the flying club have mocked me for it – “you’re taking a PARACHUTE?!” They see it as chicken but it’s quite different. I’m not scared, but “Be careful” shall always be my motto. I’ve even had the boys at Stag Lane teach me ju-jitsu, just in case I get into trouble abroad and need to defend myself. I shall be taking risks, but they will be calculated risks with precautions in place if it goes wrong. What people don’t seem to understand is I don’t want to die. I want to do this but I want to come home afterwards. I want to see the look on their faces when they see a woman can do anything she sets her mind on. Even my little plane’s registration plate reads “G-AAAH” as though it were gritting its teeth in determination with me.

I have wondered if I’ll really be able to make my mark on aviation. Sometimes I am certain that it is possible and other times it feels so unreal, so impossible that I’m certain it must be a daydream and I shouldn’t be so foolish to try. The truth is it scares me, a little. Not the doing of it but the thought of failure. Not of dying, but of crashing and being only remembered as the girl who flew too close to the sun. The girl who never was very good at landings. But I realise that whenever I have been scared of something before – really scared – I’ve always run away. Work, Hans, Hull – whenever things get difficult I bolt. Not anymore. Not with this. I won’t let this go wrong. I won’t let myself run away from flying. It means too much.

For a while now I have gone by the name Johnnie. It seemed to fit better than any other name ever had, my new identity, a woman in man’s disguise. But now I see things clearly. I am Amy Johnson. I must always be Amy Johnson, the girl from Hull who borrowed and begged and clawed to be here. I shall fly in my name, proudly – in my family name, for my family who have been there every step of the way.

I want to show the world that no matter where you’re from, no matter who you are, you can do something wonderful. You can go beyond what life gives you and seek more. That is what I have done, all these years, and I shan’t stop now. I have a notion, crazy as it might sound, that my little Moth Jason and I might one day conquer the world. I will always be Yorkshire, and I will always be yours. And I will always be up there, floating in the air, soaring up, up and up, to dive above the clouds into that bright, sunshiny heaven where no one can find me and I am simply myself. A pilot, forever, and free.

With all my love,

Your daughter,

Amy Johnson

7. Floating, Falling

26-year-old Amy writes to her dad back in Hull after the suicide of her sister Irene

4th August 1929

Dear Dad,

How are you and mother? It was very hard to leave you after the funeral. Now I’m back in London it all feels like a dream, like it never happened. How can she be gone, so suddenly? Our dear Reeny. It makes me so sad that she felt that ending everything was the only choice she had left. There is always a choice, isn’t there? There is always something more than giving up, than running away?

I know you want me to stop flying. I know that Irene’s death has terrified you and mother. But I am writing because I have to tell you I can’t stop. Flying is everything to me. It is my entire world. I don’t want to worry you but I must carry on or I don’t know what I will do. Now Reeny is gone it is even more important than I continue. Flying is all I have. It scares me too sometimes. I’ll tell you a story – not because I want to frighten you, but because I want you to understand how I feel.

Last year, just after I’d got my A certificate, I went out to do my first solo cross-country. Everything went as normal until suddenly I realised I was lost. I was heading through the cloud belt and had no idea where I was. I kept dipping lower to see if I could recognise something but everything looked the same, from the green fields to the little roads chasing from house to house. I managed to make an emergency landing but it shook me up and even though I made sure I never neglected navigation again, it’s haunted me ever since. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, breathless and shivering and I’m back there, trapped forever just below the clouds, circling desperately, looking for something – anything – I recognise. But I never find anything. I never see another soul.

The truth is I’m lonely, dad. Most of the time I dare not admit it even to myself but I am. I have always had these black moods you know, and always thought it better to vent them rather than let things get on top on me. But I never thought I would end up alone, not through choice but circumstance. Have I driven people away with my honesty? I think about Irene and I thought she was so happy with Teddy. They were so perfect and still this happened. Why did she have to do it? She loved Teddy, didn’t she? Wasn’t that enough for her? To have someone to hold? Everyone needs someone. You have mother. Who have I got?

I have my planes. I have the sky. I have freedom and independence and I know in that I have more than many. And I am grateful for it. I must make the most of it, whatever happens. When I first discovered flying, it was like coming home, like belonging somewhere. I’ve always been slightly out of step with the rest of the world, haven’t I? I’ve never needed people, not really. Planes are easier than people. They don’t let you down. They work with you, for you, not against you. But I mustn’t cut myself off. I do have friends here – not just Winifred and Gwyneth but friends at the club and of course Jack and the other engineers. I am not as alone as I feel. I have realised that in that dream – that nightmare – I never find anything on the ground because the thing I’m looking for is flying itself. It’s my little bi-plane and me, dancing in the clouds, not needing anyone else.

I know you are scared about my flying but I dare not give up on my dreams now in case they leave me forever. I don’t know what I would do without them. Working here, chasing the clouds and the stars, that has come to mean more to me than anything else ever has. They are my friends, my solitary little bi-planes and helmets and radios and my grease-covered overalls. They are my world.

Dad, I want to be a professional pilot. I want be a pilot and an engineer and I shall make it happen. I cannot bear to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. I shall find a way of always doing what I love.

Please don’t fear for me. Just think of me, riding high above the clouds, darting between mountains in the sky and banking here and there on the most glorious adventure of my life. I think that is how I should like to be remembered, if ever I am, soaring above the world, quite alone, quite free, quite at peace. Are you proud, dad? After everything, all the money and the arguments and the fuss, I hope I have made you just a tiny bit proud.

If I do this, it will be for Irene, and for you and mother, and for myself. It will be for Hull, for Yorkshire, for women. For all of us who are alive.

A x

6. A Man’s World

26-year-old Amy writes her friend Gwyneth from Maida Vale

10th July 1929

Dear Gwyneth,

Sorry I haven’t written in so long – you won’t believe everything that’s been happening here! It has happened at last – I have passed my pilot’s A certificate! That means I am qualified to fly all types of flying machine. I can’t believe it. It has been so long coming, what with all the delays to my training (money has been a bit tight) and the weather has not been on my side – fog in April and May for heaven’s sake, and now we’re in the middle of a heatwave! (The city is so exhausting in the heat, I really can’t describe it.) Finally, finally – I flew solo for the first time last month. It was like nothing I’ve ever known. It’s nothing like those dreadful five bob flips people rave about it. It’s real – just you and the controls and endless skies beckoning you to play. I can’t get enough. I took two weeks’ holiday from work so I could dedicate some real time in the air and it paid off! I’ll go for my B certificate next – that lets you take passengers up with you. You’ll have to come for a ride! I’m determined to get mother to come up with me – that’ll show her flying’s not such a dead end drive!

I’ve started working in the hangars now, as a sort of engineer apprentice. The idea came into my head when I was doing up the engine of my new Morris Oxford (yes – I bought a car! Naughty really when I must save as much as I can for flying, but I have to get around somehow and I’m quite fed up of buses). Of course it’s quite out of the ordinary for a woman to get their hands dirty but lucky for me, Major Travers (who’s in charge here) said he didn’t have a problem with it if the chief engineer didn’t. Well the chief engineer is Jack Humphreys and we’ve been on good terms since I snuck into the aerodrome weeks ago to look closer at the engines and he was ever such a darling about answering all my questions. So obviously, he didn’t mind a bit. His chief assistant on the other hand – he made a right to do about a woman “on the floor”. I determined then and there I would show him and I believe I have. It’s been hard work – the hardest of my life. I am black and blue from head to toe, never mind the cuts and blisters and oil stains. But I am happy. The other lads have accepted me now – even Eric saw I’m a hard worker and that shut him up. They call me “Johnnie” like I really am one of them! You know I’ve always thought Amy a dull sort of name – the nasty girls in romance novels and films are always called Amy – so now I can be rid of it. (They call me the Platinum Blonde too, as I’ve dyed my hair – but I prefer John!)

All this has made me think about the difference between men and women much more than I ever used to. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong in admitting men and women are different. After all, two men (if they’re decent sorts) admit they have differing skills. If one engineer isn’t strong enough to do something on his own, he simply fetches a bigger man to do it for him, quite unashamedly. Men and women should be like that, shouldn’t they? After all, we’re all doing the same thing, just trying to be the best we can be. I don’t have time for all this competitiveness or making girls feel lesser than they are. Do you remember that time at school when the headmaster wouldn’t let the girls have a swimming club and I made daddy hire Bev Road Baths so we might form our own? I feel like that now. Quite determined that no one should stop me from doing what I want to do, especially not because I am woman.

People are always surprised when I tell them women have been making their way in flying already. I’ve been working as an assistant to the secretary of the Flying League whilst learning – just a voluntary post so I might learn as much about flying as possible. I read all about Lady Bailey and Lady Heath and their solo flights around the world. Lady Heath was a ground engineer and I have decided I am going to qualify. I don’t want to work in a dull office anymore. I want to be here, covered in oil and grease, all day long! I will be the second lady ground engineer in the world, after Lady Heath. I should like to be the first ordinary girl – not a lady at all – to make my mark on the world. On aviation.

Captain Baker told me I’d have to earn my spurs if I want to fly. When I asked him what he meant, he grinned and said I’d have to fly solo to Australia or something. Australia! I told him straight that’s already been done (as if he didn’t know). Bert Hinkler set the record last year – just fifteen days and a half days. Baker pointed out, a woman hasn’t done it. But is that enough? There’s no point doing something just for the sake of it, just because you’re a woman. No, if I wanted to do it, I’d have to beat Hinkler’s record. Can you imagine?! A record-breaking aviatrix! I like the sound of that. What do you think? I bet you never expected this of your odd little tomboy friend from Boulevard School!

Yours,

“Johnnie”

5. Learning to Fly

25-year-old Amy writes home from London to her sister Irene in Hull

2nd October 1928

Reeny,

I’m just back from flying! A lesson, of course, but my sixth now and they get better every time. I had Captain Baker today. He’s my favourite instructor. I’m not keen on awful Captain Matthews. Just because my first lesson was a disaster – he shouldn’t hold it against me. I think it says more about his teaching than my flying. How was I supposed to control the thing my first time? I’m much better now. Landings are more difficult than I took them for but I’ll get there. How hard can it be? Men manage it all the time and they’re known for being reckless. Besides, what’s a few bumps on the way down? I’m quite the novelty at the airfield, a female pilot. Some of the men look at me crossly, as if to say “look at her! Who does she think she is?” I just smile and think quietly, “I’ll show them. A woman can do anything you can do just as well – if not better!”

I’m going to get this over with now. There’s something I have been keeping secret. After Hans and I agreed to just be friends, we began to drift. Natural, I suppose. What reason to go on as we have all these years if nothing is to come of it? Quite out of blue, he wrote and asked if he might come and see me in London. It was the most brilliant summer’s evening when he picked me up from Maida Vale. Seeing him again, everything came flooding back. Every feeling I thought I’d buried, every fruitless hope I ever had. We were always doomed to failure, weren’t we? We defied convention for a long time in not marrying. The funny thing is, I always thought I wanted marriage and he didn’t. But it turns out I am quite happy on my own and Hans… well, he’s married. To that girl he started seeing in Hull whilst we were still together, if we ever were. I must have looked a fright when Winnie answered the door. After that night I thought I’d never cry another tear. I don’t think I truly understood heartbreak until that moment. The next morning, I got up, washed my face and went to work. I carried on. I won’t let him break me, Reeny. However hard, I will be alright.

Flying has helped. A distraction, but more than that. I have finally found something that feels like it’s mine, all mine. I had to wait so long – as with everything, it seems. It wasn’t until September my lessons finally came through. I don’t think I’ve ever waited so impatiently for anything! I would run down to the postbox every morning. It was only when I’d given up hope completely that the letter finally came so now I am determined not to waste another moment. I’m hoping father might tide me through with a bit of money. I’m rather short again. Don’t worry – it’s nothing like before, all that silly business with debt – I’ve been spending every penny on coming up to fly so things are a bit tight. But I’ll find a way to keep afloat – I always do, don’t I? I seem to have quite a skill for bouncing back whatever life throws at me. Sometimes I think that’s the only thing that’s kept me going until now. Fingers crossed it continues! Let me know how everything is at home, won’t you? You’ll have to tell me what it’s like being married. I don’t think I shall ever know for myself.

Love to everyone at home,

Amy x

4. Looking to the Skies

24-year-old Amy writes from London to her sister Irene, back home in Hull

4th April 1928

Reeny darling,

I can hardly believe I’ve been in London a year already! I suppose I can start calling myself a local now. It feels very strange after so many years in Hull but I am settled here, especially now Winnie and I have found ourselves the most darling room share. You must come and stay with us – if Teddy will let you. You’ll just have to tell him to put up with it! There’s no use letting boys tell you what to do. They do everything wrong.

The house is in Maida Vale, which is a very peaceful part of London, quite a relief sometimes from the dust and the din of town. I have to admit, before Winnie came, I was growing quite fed up of London. It can be overwhelming, on your own in the middle of Oxford Circus with buses and taxis and people coming at you from every direction. And living alone I started to grow quite anxious at night, the sirens and the shouting outside all seemed very sinister on my own. Of course I’m over that now but I needed to get away from all that for a little while and have some air. Maida is perfect for that – there are places to walk and swim and tennis courts right across the road. It’s good to be active, to be doing things, to be keeping my mind occupied.

And then there are the airplanes. Yes, airplanes! The drone of them thrums overhead all day long. I find myself darting for the window for a glimpse whenever one goes over. It turns out we’re quite near some airfield. It drives everyone else mad (why live here then??) but I like it. There’s something quite comforting about it. It reminds me of the war – do you remember that time the Zepps were going over and I ran outside to have a look? Dad dragged me back into the cellar so fast – you were so surprised you fell in the coal bunker!

I remember seeing a film at the cinema of a plane soaring amongst the clouds. Were you with me? I don’t remember. I just remembering thinking, what must it be like, to be so free of everything, so at home with the sky and the wind, the whole of the world at your feet? Then there was that disappointing five bob flip Molly had at the fair – it was all over so quickly! – but that hasn’t put me off. Something about the sound of the planes fills me with a burning desire to get up there myself. One day last week I couldn’t stand it any longer. I thought I would go mad if I stayed indoors listening to planes zoom by. So I got on a bus and went up to the airfield myself – Stag Lane. It was quite wonderful, planes taking off and landing and doing turns in the air and people sat in deckchairs watching. I joined in. I felt – I can’t exactly describe how I felt except it felt like home. Does that make sense? It sounds awfully silly now I write it. Anyway, I ended up asking about having flying lessons, just for the thrill of it. The club secretary says I have to pay for membership and then wait for a vacancy. I’m all paid up so now it’s just a waiting game!

On the subject of boys doing everything wrong: when I moved to London, I was sure my moving away would force Hans to act. I think half of me really expected a ring. Of course nothing of the sort has happened. Oh, we’ve written, as usual. You remember when I told you I was going to Scotland with a friend from work? The truth is we were together. I don’t know why I lied about it. Because I knew you would disapprove, I suppose. I still have his little portrait out on my dressing table and I look at it every night. Hans won’t commit and I can’t let go. He told me he’s started seeing another girl in Hull. Even knowing that, I didn’t break things off. Will I ever be able to? I don’t know. I feel as though he will always be there, at the edge of everything I do. I am trying to be strong and live a full life but he is always there. Sometimes he talks about coming to live in London and I dread it. It would be too hard to keep away from him if he were here. But I dread it most because I know that deep down I don’t dread it at all. Deep down I long for it, desperately.

That is why I have made a decision. I am going to take control of my life. When I come home for Easter I am going to tell Hans we must just be friends from now on. I know I am in the habit of giving him ultimatums with the secret intention of making him act but not anymore. This is for me. It’s not because I want another man – there’s no one – but I want my life back. I don’t want to feel like I’m only half-living any longer. I want to be able to go out to dances and parties and not feel guilty. Do you think it is the right thing, Reeny? I keep telling myself, however hard it seems now, it will be worth it in the end. It will, won’t it?

Amy x

3. Moving to London

23-year-old Amy writes from London to her mum and dad back in Hull

22nd May 1927

Dear Mum and Dad,

London! Dear, wonderful London has restored my faith in everything – people, life, myself! Moving here was the best decision I ever made. I needed change. You know I am not a patient sort of person. I couldn’t bear to be confined to the frozen north any longer. I know you think I’m impulsive but London is so alive with parties and all sorts of entertainments. There’s always so much to do here. I discovered Kew Gardens the other week which is quite beautiful and there are lots of parks and places to walk where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of town. And the underground! You’ve never seen anything like it, trains hurtling out of tunnels at 100 miles an hour (or that’s what it feels like). You must come down as soon as you can. This would be a much better holiday than those dreadful out of season sojourns to Brid you insist on making.

I’ve got myself a job – a proper job. I’m not too proud to admit I was worried when I first arrived. All I could get was a shop girl at Peter Jones. I didn’t think it would be that bad – everyone was saying Peter Jones was going to be the new John Lewis. A few weeks of tidying ribbons in the silks department and I’d had enough. You wouldn’t believe the snobbishness when you tell people you work in a shop! You’d think it was the worst act of criminality in the world. Just because I don’t speak as nicely as some of the girls. I am Yorkshire and proud, whatever people say. Anyway, now I am settled at a firm of solicitors. I think I shall stay here and make a go of it. I might have found my profession at last. It’s quite exciting really – very grand and important, much more than advertising. I can’t believe I ever thought THAT was a good idea!

There’s one thing I must say. I know I have been a disappointment to you over the years. You have disapproved of the choices I’ve made with money and work and everything with Hans. I admit I got myself into a bit of a mess. But this is a fresh start. Hull wasn’t working for me. Of course I’m grateful for the roof you put over my head but if I had stayed we would have kept falling out. A grown woman like me living at home – it was never going to work. I feel so much better now I am here and I am independent. I’m sure I shall find some friends soon – how hard can it be? You remember Winnie from university? She wrote me the other day saying she might be moving down so things might work out better than I ever expected. Whatever happens, I promise I am going to make things right. I will make you proud of me.

Amy x

2. Coming Home to Hull

22-year-old Amy writes from Hull to her close friend from school and university, Gwyneth Roulston

10th June 1926

Dear Gwyneth,

Hans is the most despicable creature I ever knew. He is a pig – an absolute pig and I can’t believe I ever loved him. I never should have come back to Hull just for him – I should be in America. Father could have found me a job there, I’m certain. But no, I came back to this rotten old hole that is Hull and for what – love? I am a fool, the biggest fool I ever knew for thinking Hans and I could be together. Four years it’s gone back and forth, writing letters – always letters – and what else? Engagement? How could there be? He just likes to keep me on a string he can pull when he wants company, never willing to commit. Am I really just some puppet of a thing, controlled by a man?

You were right – I should have ended it all months ago but I didn’t know how. I still don’t know if I can. Despite it all, I love him. I know I shouldn’t. Of course now we’ve had another row. It started off about some business trip abroad but it wasn’t really about that. I just want him to be steady with me. Irene has her Teddy and he – of course – is perfect. Why can’t I have that? I wish Hans were the kind of hero you see in films or read in books. I want him to rescue me from this dull, black and white life. But at the same time, I’m angry for wanting that. I should be able to rescue myself. I’ve always done what I want. You know I have a knack of getting my own way. What’s happened to me? I even asked mother to teach me how to cook and do things around the house so I might be marriageable. Me, cleaning and ironing! I couldn’t stand it. I’m just not that sort of girl. Whoever my husband is he’ll have to be able to do his own ironing. I certainly won’t be wasting my time with it. If I ever have a husband, that is.

On top of that, it turns out I’m not very good at anything in particular. I tried accountancy but that was dire I gave it up. It turns out that with a degree I am overqualified for making tea but unqualified for serving it! You know me, I shall keep trying. I’m in advertising now. It’s a little better but I’m only a junior so I get all the worst jobs. And the other girls in the office don’t seem to like me. I get along with the lads alright, even if they do try to be terribly over familiar sometimes, but I don’t know what to say to the girls. I miss you, Gynnie, and Winifred and Tuppy and the other Sheffield girls. I don’t have any friends here. It feels like everyone in Hull is either family or Hans’ friend. I don’t have anything of my own.

Things are dire at home too. It’s been brewing ever since I came back. I know father is frustrated – he thinks I can’t settle. Why can’t he understand I’m waiting for something to feel right? Mother disapproves of Hans terribly (made worse by Irene’s perfect Teddy). The fact he’s a Roman Catholic has always been difficult and mother is terrified I am going to convert from Methodist. In truth I have thought about it, but what’s the point if we’re never going to marry?

Then one other thing. I’ve not told anyone else. I can’t bear to. Irene is too busy with Teddy. I’m in debt. Terrible debt. I’ve made a right fine mess of things, buying too many new clothes and books. Things just sort of spiralled out of control before I could stop them. I’ve borrowed £50 to pay off the debts but now I must pay that back. It’s on my mind all the time, especially at night, lying in bed and I think I’m going to be sick with fear.

Oh what shall I do Gywn? Write to me and tell me what to do. I need a change in my life. I’ve gone on so long waiting for something to happen. I’m scared it never will. I’m scared I’ll end up like my mother. I don’t want her life. I want something more. There must be something I’m good at, mustn’t there? If you can think of anything, do let me know, won’t you?

Yours despairingly,

Amy x

1. University

21-year-old Amy writes home to her sister Irene during Amy’s final term studying Economics at Sheffield University

2nd May 1925

Dearest Reeny,

Well, you won’t believe it. I’ve done it. I’m free! Or at least, almost. A few more months of my degree to go but for now, I’m free of those awful student lodgings. I couldn’t stand it there. The darkness, the noise, the mess, the constant thrum of other people running up and downstairs, shouting each other – I had to get out. I have rented a cottage out in the countryside quite by myself in a quaint little village called Hathersage. Winifred and Gwyneth are still in shock. I think they might be offended. I tried to explain it’s not that I don’t want to be around them – they’re the best friends a girl could have – but I need some quiet to study. I need some time to myself but the girls just looked at me like I’m cuckoo and said they would miss the company, the parties, the life of the city. But Sheffield is draining the life out of me. Nearly three years is more than enough. The buildings drown me. I need the breeze on my face, the wind in my hair, the sun on my skin. How can people live without that feeling? There’s a glorious spot near here where you can see for miles across the Derwent and not meet another soul all day if you don’t want. Is it odd that sometimes I wish my whole life was like that, quite alone? Win and Gwyn (as I’ve started calling them – but don’t tell them!) don’t understand. You’re the only one who knows me truly as I am, the way only a sister can.

Of course I am not really as strange as people think. I’m not alone all the time. Last weekend Hans came on Saturday and Sunday – 76 miles a time! He took me out on his motorcycle and we went so fast it felt like we were about to take off. I threw my head back and looked up at the sky sprinkled with cotton wool clouds and felt like I was flying. Do you remember when we used to bike along the Humber, the banks of sand, the ice of the water and fire of the setting sun? It was like that. I felt alone – but alone with him, in the moment together. Does that make sense? I’m not sure any more. Everything is so muddled in my head. Being with Hans makes me feel… I can’t say. It fills me up but I am scared I am growing dependent on him. I’ve always thought I was independent but Hans has been there ever since I was 18, to write to, to tell everything, to rely on. What if I’m not that independent at all?

I suppose we shall see. The world awaits. Just a few more weeks to go, if I can make it through all the studying. Hans has sent me some tablets to help with the exhaustion – some Swiss herbal things – and they do seem to give me confidence. When I take them I’m certain I’m going to pass all my exams with flying colours! I must be careful with them though. I had a terrible burning head from taking too many last week and I was quite scared for a while.

Dad’s coming to visit next week, stopping in on his way to America. Some business trip. He wants to know what I’m going to do after graduation. So do I! Something will come along. It always does. I’ve told him and mum there’s no way I can stay here another year for my teaching certificate. Besides, teaching’s not for me, I know that. I haven’t got the patience. Other people don’t seem able to keep up with me and it frustrates me. Perhaps I’ll get father to look for something for me in America – what an adventure! I would miss you of course and Hans but with me in Sheffield and him in Hull, what difference would it make? You could come and visit, Reeny, imagine that! New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia. Coming back to Hull feels like a terrible compromise – no offence, dear old Hull. But to live at home again after three years of freedom… No – I must find something else. A real adventure. I wasn’t born to sit around. My feet itch to see the new places. One day the world will know Amy Johnson’s name. All I have to do now is figure out how. Ideas on a postcard.

With all my love,

Your sister Amy x