Crikey, Magnifique

> New Jersey Transit 19.37 to Newark Broad Street, NJ
& New Jersey Transit 20.00 to Morristown, NJ <

Given that I’ve usually got my head in the clouds anyway, it was jolly nice to be reminded a couple of nights ago of something we once upon a time used to find there: Concorde.

Back from a long day a’wandering in the city (for a happy change, I was there for fun), I went flipping through the channels. All I needed – camp coffee to hand and feet in a foot spa – was something to watch… far from a done deal, something that didn’t involve ‘celebrities,’ the psychologically suspect, rolling ‘news,’ or women playing pool (I bow to no one in my capacity for sports-watching, but there comes a point you have to draw a line…*) Perfect: on the Smithsonian Channel, a potted history of Concorde.

It was a fascinating story, well told, and, of course, an even better plane. If you don’t believe me, then consider this, an anecdote from one of the talking heads. The US Ryder Cup team were flying Concorde one year and to help make the short journey even quicker, a BA stewardess issued one of the players with a challenge. Putt a golf ball the full length of the aisle into a plastic cup. Our golfer duly obliged. From setting up the putt to sinking it took a grand total of 23 seconds – a period in which the impromptu green had travelled… eight miles.

Yes, that’s right, eight! A full seven and a half miles more than it’s ever reasonable to jog. What can I say? If that information doesn’t make your head spin, I suggest you give your doctor a call. You really ought to be on friendlier terms.

Not just a plane, then, that looked amazing from every possible angle – at night, in silhouette, on the ground or (very) high up in the air – Concorde was for good measure an engineering freak as well. Almost twice as fast as its passenger-plane competition… a missile with wings, roomy enough inside for Fuzzy Zoeller to fine-tune his putting stroke. A Ben Johnson on drugs in a world of Ben Johnsons now.

It really was a great program – and fit to make my British chest swell with pride. It’s a shame I missed the first half-hour, though: the portion, I presume, covering Concorde’s initial design. I’d love to know what exactly the French did. I figure upholstery on the seats or something similar. Maybe the window curtains…

But seriously. What an extraordinary, unprecedented, unequalled thing was Concorde. Don’t you miss the days of it passing overhead? For me under Gatwick’s flight-path, it was an almost daily dose of awe. “Look,” we would say, craning back our heads, “Concorde.”

And always just as quickly it was gone.

* Hindsight tells me that Little League softball on ESPN 2 was probably too big a stretch… but, no matter, those 40 minutes last week I’m never getting back.

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About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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