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The Picnic

Report by The Black Chrysanthemum

Pictures by Sam Seal

This is my report on the Farnborough Airshow and Picnic, on Sat 12th September wherein Jester and The Black Chrysanthemum met Werrf and consumed the GNP of a small European country, possibly Finland :-)

Troubled by visions of mighty traffic queues stretching from Hampshire to Cornwall as the entire population of England attempt to get to the Airshow,Jester and I, and Jester's Hat, and the Mighty Picnic decided we should go early so as to be amongst the first to pour through the gates.  Leaping aboard the trusty Proton (car, not both of us perilously balanced on a subatomic particle going at tremendous speed), we drove carefully and responsibly ("Which way do I go, WHICH WAY???" "Left, left, leftleftleftleftleft!!!") towards where we knew Farnborough was located, ignoring the cunning misdirection signs put up by the secret service as part of the "Need to Know" principle.  All went well, until we arrived at the roundabout where, according to the signs and indeed other traffic, we needed to turn right to get into the Public Car Park. 

But this was not to be!  A Policeman, blowing his whistle urgently, sprang from the undergrowth in front of us and pointed us firmly away from our desired route, down another road, and into Gate 3, Exhibitors Only!  What could we do?

  1. run him over
  2. disobey (nooooo)
  3. go to Gate 3 as directed.

NB at this point, the picnic AND the Hat were in the boot of the car, invisible to normal human eyesight.  Upon arrival at Gate 3, we explained desperately that this was not our plan, the full weight of the State has sent us, and WE WERE NOT EXHIBITORS.... For some reason, the man at the gate seemed unconvinced by this, but he did, in the end, let us sneak back to the public car park, hiding amongst other traffic successfully enough to go undetected by the ferocious Guardians of the Law.

Phew!  Parked at last.  Then away with Hat and Picnic Vast to the Show.  We joined a kind of mass migration of people again shepherded by the police, over hill and dale, byway and highway, past the Police Bouncy Castle and on for several hundred miles (or so it seemed), evading a foul plot to part us from our picnic as a toll for going over the footbridge, and at last sped through the gate to the show.

Then it rained.
And rained.
And rained and rained and rained and rained and RAINED!!!! 

Upon inspection, the picnic basket, though large and fine in many ways, was too insubstantial to use as an Ark, so we decided to give the Exhibition Halls the benefit of our presence, and went indoors.

Stealth Jester beside the Apache

Here a very strange thing happened.  I don't know if Jester had been lavish with the old "Stealth Spray" or what, but we became totally invisible!  We tried to speak to the men at the Eurofighter landing gear stand - they just didn't seem to be able to see or hear us!  We tried the In-flight Refuelling stand - again the same curious reaction ("I see no customers, there is no-one there, it's just an optical illusion") and so on and on!  The only people able to penetrate this extremely effective and involuntary camouflage were Matra Marconi Space ("Have another badge!  And a folding model of the Envisat Platform!  You work where? We collaborate with them! Have a couple of leaflets and a jolly waving man badge"), and the German company who made the Eurofighter engine who actually proactively approached us and explained its workings with care and clarity and were really friendly.  Any time I want to commission a new line of fighter aircraft, they will definitely get the contract for the engine.

On the other hand, I will draw a veil over the Rolls-Royce stall with Mr Patronising Pig and his narrow brush with death.... If I'd had a knitting needle with me.......



The Black Chrysanthemum (decloaked)!

We also visited the GEC stand, wherein Major Rigg's map was held.  Yes, we *visited* it, made a special trip to the Ultima Thule of Hall 4, in Greenland's icy (well, wet) wastes.  And we would indeed have asked to see the map - if the stand had been open.  But no, it was closed more tightly than an Oyster seeing a lemon slice approach.

"Foiled!" we cried.  Fortunately for GEC, we discovered that the hour for meeting Werrf was approaching, so we forbore from breaking and entering, or painting slogans on its shuttered door, and sped off outside, where happily the rain had abated, so we ran up to the Chinook, our appointed meeting spot.  As a technical point, this famous helicopter was much slenderer than I had thought, though long, and possessed of shopping trolley wheels.  I speculate as to whether Chinook pilots mutter about getting the one that won't wheel right, or won't go in a straight line, or that insists on going along sideways.  Like shopping trolleys, one would be taxiing towards the hanger when the wheels would line up sideways and one would find oneself zooming off towards the cabbages and potatoes, figuratively speaking.  On the other hand, the Longbow Apache helicopter was small and dainty, in every way a becoming mode of transport so close to Jane Austin's homeland.

Werrf, myself and the B.C. pre-picnic

Suddenly, with a great cry and a swirl of bagpipes, Werrf sprang amongst us! (dramatic licence).  For some reason, possibly connected with the Hat and the enormous picnic basket, he found us easy to identify.... Repairing to a nearby Grassy Knoll, we laid the provisions out and began the important business of tidying away inside us sandwiches, things on sticks (mostly cheese and tomato, cheese and onion, cheese and pineapple, and only occasionally many-tentacled-THINGS-from-another-dimension-on-a-stick). Cookies also were produced, being necessary to sustain Werrf, who had last seen sleep 26 hours ago.  Despite this, he took charge of the important business of identifying the aircraft overhead, since we had foolishly forgotten the BC's "Little Book of Identifying Aircraft from Quite Far Away".  There was a Galaxy, Hunter, diverse planes starting with M and a number e.g. M26, Vampires in red, white and blue, a Spitfire, a Harrier (which hovered, bowing to the audience and presenting its best profile for photographing in the best catwalk style), and then, in a great wave of excitement and the crowd leaping to its collective feet, Concorde came in to land (hooray!) - the shape of the future is 25 years old but nothing surpasses it. Sadly the Eurofighter was broken, so did not fly; however another plane looking like it (probably a mock-up with cardboard and string) did fly and do the appropriate manoeuvres, and we all BELIEVED it was the Eurofighter, and so, as Lennier would say, in the world of the spirit, surely it WAS the Eurofighter (moral: never buy a car from a Minbari). Amid all this technical stuff we found time to consider the really important questions concerning S:AAB, such as Vanssen's lip collagen, and what would happen if a squad of Royal Marines were stationed on the Saratoga alongside the 58th (copyright story idea hee hee).

Aftermath

At length we sat amongst the post-apocapicnic debris, laughing muscles aching from overuse.  A gaggle of tough guys behind us begged for the scraps, and Jester magnanimously handed them over.  They had BEER, we did not, but since driving was to be done, the only way to acquire BEER was to return to our respective homes.  Sadly, we took our leave of one another, and parted, after a merry and joyful meal al fresco (or possibly al fiasco) that will never be forgotten.

The End