King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Monday, August 8

The Grand Day Out

Yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, I had a day out that quite frankly I will never forget. Not because it was expensive, not because it wasn’t fun, but because it was possibly one of the best days out I’ve ever had. It started out something like this…

5:30am: I dragged myself out of my warm bed.
5:31am: I told Johnaitch to go back to bed, because it was too early.
5:32am: I let Johnaitch get up anyway, because he was as excited as me.
7:00am: I collected JudgeTredd, and Mrs. Tredd, and we hit the road.
8:12am: I lost my rag with a dodgy CD I’d made for the journey that refused to play, and was relegated to the glove box until I find a receptacle to dump it into.
9:45am: We arrive in Longleat, Wiltshire for the free spectacle that is the Red Bull Air Race.

Free. Race. Air. After dragging my car fridge, a separate cooler bag, 2 large picnic chairs, 2 large camera tripods, a travel blanket, a large bag full of food, an umbrella large enough to shade a small south American country, and a partridge in a pear tree up to the viewing area we found a nice quiet (!) spot by a screen and settled down for what seemed like it was going to be a long boring wait until 12:30.

At 11 o’ clock Dougie Lampkin, world champion trials bike rider gave a short show, proving that riding a bike really doesn’t have to be something to get from A to B unless somewhere along the way you have to cross upturned skips, large logs, and even a nice Red Bull hospitality suite with a baby inside getting freaked out by a motorbike on the roof.

What's that underneath him? Nothing? Oo-er.

The Marquess of Bath, owner of Longleat, and known unofficially as the “weird bloke off that safari programme,” opened the show at 12:15 and then we were treated to 2 of the competition pilots imitating the Red Arrows for 90% of the time, but doing some tricks I know I will never see the Red Arrows do. The highlight was watching a plane hover, literally, in the nose up position for 10 seconds or so, before turning around and moving on to the next trick. There was then a short recall of past air races as models of older competitor planes were flown around showing how much the sport has changed. Most people took this opportunity to get fed and watered, before the main event began. Before the main event itself, we were treated (if you can call it that) to 5 men leaping from a perfectly usable plane and parachuting down. Apart from 2 pairs of the men getting tangled halfway, it was hardly exciting. Even the commentators weren’t sure how to talk about this one…

At about 2 the actual race started in earnest. I’d like to say how boring it was, how slow the planes cruised around the circuits, and how typically British the crowd were with not making any real noise apart from the occasional clap, but I can’t. The planes scream past at 250 mph, not 40 feet from the ground, and not more then 400 yards away from us. Hard cornering through the gates woke up anybody as the crowd ooooh’d and aaah’d and as the British Pilot Steve Jones qualified in first the atmosphere was just a tad charged. I’ll not bore you with a blow-by-blow (literally in a couple of cases) account of the race, but some 2 hours later and the race was over. It felt like it had been only 10 minutes, and I could have watched it all again.

People, realising it was home time, and not a lot else would be seen, started to leave. All 60,000 of them. We hung about for another hour, curiously enough part of which was taken up when I bumped into Ian Lewis, engineer extraordinaire, and team member of Razer from Robot Wars who I had bumped into at the ATEI in London (see January 26th 2005 post). I was disappointed not to get all the pilots autographs but I got my personal favourite, and some other German that Mrs Tredd didn’t like (!). Judge decided he wanted to do his He-man impression, and hauled the heavy and full car fridge onto his shoulder, so he could carry it all the way back to the car in one go. He's a fast walker at the best of times, and when he's in a hurry, he can really motor. Off he shot, like a whippet with a large car fridge on his shoulder, towards the car. I'm not sure, but I reckon as he neared the carpark, I heard a sonic boom. I was following along at my usual leisurely pace behind, and from about half a mile behind him, I'm sure I could see people being thrown out the way like pins in a bowling alley. I'm not sure, but I think he actually held his breath the whole way, because when we arrived some 10 minutes later, he was still sounding like some fat bloke who'd just run the London Marathon.

The journey home was a slow nightmare. The 25 miles from Longleat to Bath had only taken some half an hour on the way there in the morning, and would take over 2 hours on the way home. Some solace was made seeing all the Arsenal and Chelsea Fans heading back to London from Cardiff, and going nowhere. That’ll teach them to like football. I knew I’d caught the sun on my arms when we left, but I didn’t feel that sore at all. When I finally dropped Judge home, he collapsed into a fit of giggles when he’d seen that the sun had not only caught my face, but the sunglasses had done their job of protecting my eyes. I didn’t think it was that bad, but as the night drew on, I looked more and more like the Lone Ranger without his mask. I have now affectionately become known as Panda eyes.

I wonder if he ever gets a sunburnt face?

We have all had a little too much sun, all ache around the necks from looking upwards for 4 hours or so, and all have headaches from not drinking enough water on the day and do we care. Not a jot.

Do it again next year? You try and stop me.

P.s. More pics are here...