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Donald Campbell still persevering with Mission Nightingale in 1844.



5th Report from 1844 from Donald Campbell

This morning the sun was shining. It was like glass out there. A perfect opportunity to set the world’s water speed record. Before I let rip, Flo said that it was transparent my superstitious nature was holding me back and returning to the village again to borrow the whippet was sure to stoke the flames of curiosity, especially as the mutt had come back in a state of shock after breaking the canine land speed record with a hologram of Bluebird Proteus CN7 on its tail. She was probably right, but her use of the word ‘transparent’ struck home. I had neglected to account for the fact that as a hologram I was transparent and unlikely to come to harm. Had the course been transparent also, then danger lurks. Like clashing with like. But the course was real. It had a physical presence, unlike Bluebird and myself.

I felt as though freed from the grasp of a giant brake holding me back. I felt relaxed and entirely confident that I could unleash the tremendous power of Bluebird K7 on the water.

In trials Bluebird finally tucked up her skirts and was reaching speeds way beyond anything Flo had ever envisaged could be reached by man. 150 mph in that boat was quite an experience, believe me. The huge engine vibrating away to the point you felt like the water was going to split asunder link the second coming of Moses. Suddenly, there was the most frightful crash. I got frightened like never before and never want to experience again, quite frankly. I was astounded to discover that Bluebird K7 and myself were intact. I changed down the gears and cruised towards Florence Nightingale at her station. Her expression was more turbulent than the water and I sought from her an explanation for the loud bang. It was soon forthcoming, she pointed to the far bank where four hundred yards downstream a group of villagers had gathered with the whippet, letting off fireworks and firearms in equal measure.

‘The burgers have got wind of my record attempts and are celebrating prematurely,’ I muttered under my breath. It made me feel uncomfortable, quite frankly. You’ll never get used to the atmosphere, no matter how long you are at it. I considered it bad luck to celebrate she I hadn’t even done the official measured mile. I had encountered this sort of interest before. It’s one of the misfortunes that befall you if you follow this unsteady path.

In short, Florence picked up her skirts and made her way to the crowd of unwanted spectators.She was actually giving one hell of an actual row over there and conscious that she might need reinforcements I cruised over in Bluebird K7. They were struck dumb. She’s an impressive machine. Some dropped to their knees and prayed. A first for me. Others downed tools and ran away. It was like they’d never seen anything like Bluebird K7 before, which, quite frankly they hadn’t. One of the few remaining hamlet dwellers discharged his weapon in my direction, drawing audible gasps from himself and his neighbours still on their knees as the projectile passed right through me without causing any damage. My initial reaction was to think, ‘To Hell with the lot of you!’

Flo soon brought me up to speed. The villagers had been following our exploits for a couple of days from concealed positions and had already sent a telegram to the offices of The News of the World. They were convinced that I was a Saint George type of chap, taming rear end fire breathing dragons on land and water. Indeed, after witnessing Bluebird K7 surpassing speeds of 150 mph it had deterred them from ever fishing on the lake ever again lest they hook the thing and be given a ride of Satan’s devising. Of course, that was the end of a chapter. You think you’re doing a wonderful job, in fact you’re five cycles behind the game. You see the crash coming and you think, ‘Too bad ‘.

‘You be Saint George or the Devil hisself,’ shouted one of the flock as he rise to his feet and lifted a large homemade cross towards me. ‘Go take your dragons and be gone from here and leave us humble folk in peace!’

‘Give me a chance to explain, you old bugger,’ I replied. But he turned tail and his flock followed suit, muttering all the while that the newspaper would expose my evil doings and the whole country would rally against me. The poor yokels, evidently, were not playing with a full deck of cards. ‘It’s alright for you chaps stuck on dry land,’ I let rip. ‘Do you think I want to end up in this blasted place with this monster. I hope and pray we shall be back on the Salt Flats next year. What others like to think about it is their business, quite frankly.’

As far as record breaking in 1844, that was it, Full stop.

As for winning Florence Nightingale over to the thrills of speed that appeared to be over too. She was demonstrably embarrassed by her association with my activities and looked, for all the world, like she was intent on heading home and designing another wheel clamp for her armoury.

Mission failed, I’m afraid. Total blasted cock-up. Over.

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