Today, Class, we're going begin with some geography. Chris can skip the next paragraph if he likes, but for my leftpondian readers, you're getting a short lesson on the English Channel.
This is the sea that separates us from Europe, and which means that although we are part of the European Union, we are not Europeans. It also separates us from a hostile nuclear power (the French), though unfortunately it is alarmingly narrow in places - only 21 miles. A few years ago some clown thought it was a good idea to build a tunnel ("The Chunnel") there, thus driving a tgv through our moat.
Anyway, people have been crossing the Channel in a variety of different ways, since Julius Caesar did it in 55BC. In 1875 an Englishman swam to France. Of course, nowadays if you want to go abroad but don't have a lot of money there are budget airlines.
1875 was also the first year that someone flew across. In a balloon. In 1909 Louis Bleriot did it in a powered aircraft.
Now it's the turn of a Swiss pilot, Yves Rossy to make a pioneering flight. He's going to strap two rocket powered wings to his back. The only way to steer is to move his body in different ways. If he gets cramp, or develops a nervous twitch, he's toast. Live on TV in 120 countries.
Now, I've often said that people who fly in balloons, or hand-gliders are mad, and that I only ever want to go on a powered flight. I've now got to qualify this statement. I only ever want to go on a powered flight where I'm sitting in a seat, and there is steering equipment. Not where a thoughtless movement of your head leads to a sharp left turn and Spain.
Luckily, Monsieur Rossy has been practising. As a pilot, he says that safety is paramount. Though on the Emilia Show last night he also described the feeling of exhilaration when you're hurtling towards the ground and suddenly arch your back and turn, seconds before impact. I sort of know what he means - I went on the Pepsi Max at Blackpool Pleasure Beach once.
Though that's only a 200-foot drop, rather than 7,000 ft, and none of the videos I could find do the rollercoaster experience justice. I hope that Rocket Man takes a camera with him, as it's the only way most of us will get close to experiencing his flight.
I also hope he makes it, but my bet is that it'll be rained off. It is the English Channel, after all.