Короче, Кларксон. Переводить не буду: заплачу и напорчу.
October 26, 2003
Jeremy Clarkson: What a wonderful flight into national failure
Not much will get me out of bed at 4.30am in the morning. Especially when I’ve only climbed into it at 3.30am. But when you’ve got one of the hundred tickets for the last flight of Concorde . . . I even had a shave.
They seated me right in front of the lavatory, or Piers Morgan, editor of the Daily Mirror, as you know him, and between a future hedge investment broker and an American who’d paid $60,000 to be there in some kind of eBay charity auction.
One of the girls flying was completely horrified at the guest list. “There aren’t even any press,” she said. “Well,” I said, hurting just a little bit, “that tubby bloke’s from The Independent. And then there’s the Mail, the BBC, ABC, NBC, ITN, PA, CNN, Sky, The Sun, The Guardian and the Telegraph.”
“But where’s Hello!?” That’s what she wanted to know.
There’d been talk of Elton John turning up and maybe George Michael too. But in the end all we had was a woman in a wig whom I recognised from a film called The Stud, and someone who used to be married to Billy Joel.
The rest? Well there was the chairman of every company from the Footsie, all of them a little bit northern, a little bit florid, and dare I say it a little bit heavy around the middle.
Despite the weight, Concorde heaved itself into a crystal New York morning at 7.38am and banking hard — but not so hard that our Pol Roger Winston Churchill champagne fell over — pointed its nose at the rising sun and went home. For the last time.
I was, it must be said, in the mood for a party but this is hard in what’s essentially a Mach 2 veal crate. It is possible to leave your seat but you will not be able to stand up properly and then you will have to sit right back down again when the drinks trolley needs to get past.
As we hammered through Mach 1, I asked the hedge-fund man what it was like to go through the sound barrier for his first, and everyone’s last time. But he’d nodded off.
The American was deep in monologue with himself. There are no television screens — to save weight — and I’d left my book in my bag.
Concorde was not really designed as a party venue. Unlike the 747 with its larders and its video games, it is a child of the 1950s, a time when you were expected to make your own entertainment. So I did. I lobbed my drink over Morgan
British Airways were keen that this, the final flight, should not be seen as a wake but rather a celebration of 27 remarkable years.
And to be honest, there was a celebratory mood both in the departure lounge and on the tarmac where all the pilots of the other early-morning flights sent goodwill messages.
However, at 3.24pm local time, as we dropped back down to Mach 0.98, the mood changed. As everyone realised that we had been the last people to fly faster than the speed of sound without a parachute, it was as though a veil of sadness had been draped over the cabin.
Over London we couldn’t help noticing the landmarks of modern Britain. The dome. The Millennium Bridge. The traffic jams. The Mirror offices. And here we were in the last reminder of how great and innovative we had once been. And we thought: what’s going to remind us now?
There was applause as the wheels touched down but in the next 40 minutes, as they unhooked the power and the crowds took photographs, we may as well have been at a funeral. The drink had flowed but the veil, by this time, had become a blanket.
I don’t feel sorry for the chairmen who will now need seven hours to get across the Atlantic. It was, after all, their meanness that caused this final flight in the first place.
I don’t feel sorry for the nation. It’s our own fault that we don’t make machines like this any more. I don’t even feel sorry for the people who’d struggled to keep Concorde flying these past few years: they’ll all get other jobs.
I do, however, feel sorry for the machine itself. It’s sitting in its shed now, wondering what it’s done wrong. Why did it not fly yesterday and why is there no sense that it will fly today? Why is nobody tinkering with its engines and vacuuming its carpets?
And what was that last flight all about? Why were so many people taking photographs and why, after 27 years, did every single one of Heathrow’s 30,000 employees turn out to watch it do what it was designed to do?
I like to believe that a machine does have a heart and a soul. I like to think of them as ordinary people think of dogs. They cannot read or write or understand our spoken words. But they understand what we’d like them to do in other ways. Go left. Go right. Go faster. Sit. Lie.
So go ahead. Think of Concorde as a dog that you’ve had in the family for 27 years. Think of the way it has never once let you down. And how thrilled it is when you feed it and pet it and take it out for a walk.
And now try to imagine how that dog would feel if you locked it up one night. And never went back.