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Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Changing planes

As you will remember, Mrs T, I am the proud owner of a Blackbird SR71. It affords me fast and luxurious travel to the ends of the earth, e.g. Australia in about eight hours. For some time, though, I have been aware of this magnificent aircraft's unappealing associations and I had begun to think I should settle for something a little more mundane. The exceedingly naff Jeremy Clarkson is a great fan of the aircraft and has declared it the "second most beautiful artefact made by man". (The first is an Aston Martin. You cannot but admire the breadth of his selection. Could it be that Barbara Hepworth or Henry Moore had a hand in either of these artefacts?)

I do not wish to find myself sharing anything with an individual of such restricted judgement; even the thought of returning to scheduled services therefore has its attractions. However, I think I shall delay making any change for the moment because of a fate that befell a friend.

In January, while last in Australia, I offered this friend a lift back to the UK. In the event, he had to stay on for several weeks and I had to get back promptly so I was unable to help him. A few days ago, he returned. I was working with him on a bank job and he told me of his experiences using a scheduled carrier.
As is his wont, my friend chose a window seat to be out of the way. He is a prodigious reader and likes to spend the whole journey reading.

He had settled down to read while the other passengers were still coming aboard. The seats next to him were empty for a while. Then, he became aware of a couple who were going to be sitting beside him. He did not see them at first; neither did he hear them. Oh no, he smelt them. Apparently, their BO was so powerful and noxious that it had preceded them down the aisle.

My friend asked to be re-seated but the plane was full and that was impossible; he had to suffer the couple until they reached Singapore, where the offending but oblivious pair left the flight. The man's shirt was stained and running with under-arm perspiration. It sounded revolting.

Not appreciating BO myself, I have every sympathy with my friend. I have suggested that he should sue the airline for olfactory trauma. He could then use his winnings to buy his own plane and be freed from the malign possibility of a repetition.
So I shall not be selling the Blackbird, yet. Meanwhile, I have acquired a copy of Janes-Glass's guide to the prices of second-hand ex-military aircraft just in case.

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