The History Maintenance Commission have indicated that they are currently very pleased with Donald Campbell’s mission thus far having received a further progress report from his encounter with Florence Nightingale in 1844.
The Hysterical News Agency understands that Professor Delphi has expressed his admiration for what the hologram of land and water speed king Donald Campbell has achieved and has every confidence his mission to put Florence Nightingale back on the historical path with which we associate her will be a success. This confident prediction stems from the latest report received at the History Maintenance Commission HQ in Madison Avenue, NYC from Campbell as he inveigles himself into the world of Nightingale.
Here follows the next report:
REPORT 3 from Donald Campbell
I provided Miss Nightingale with the specifications and what sort of speeds my Bluebirds are capable of. It is never easy in hologram form to convey what great machines they are, especially without the input of the chaps who’ve done all the work and delivered the records and the laurels. The fact I was able to perform at all in these appalling conditions was, to me, a matter of absolute amazement. But perform I did and after initial turbulence in terms of her reception of the jawdropping facts I bombarded her with she was impressed enough to state that it had cemented her resolution to impede the progress of vehicles with her blasted clamps.
I pressed on regardless in the hope she would, by association with the magnificent Bluebirds, be won over to the merits and thrills of speed and dump her clamps. Not a great beginning, but this is the terrible part of trying to beat a record, or accomplish a goal, you see, once you start you’re past the point of no return. Generally, once you start something you have to finish it.
I put it on the line to Florence Nightingale. I was going to set new land and water speed records for 1844. I needed her assistance with the mathematics, setting the measured mile and figuring out how fast I had gone along it. I also required her to find secluded stretches of land and water upon which I could rehearse the thing. I didn’t want the Americans to get wind of it and try to spoil the party. To this end I had to insist that if I was setting my records at night she would need to park her lamp at home otherwise we’d stick out like Bluebird-Proteus CN7 when she’d had a good polish and wax.
I was winning her over to Team Bluebird until I inserted the No Lamp clause. That threw the gearbox into neutral.
‘This isn’t done for public appeal,’ I said. ‘It isn’t done for entertainment. If I was putting on a play and nobody rolled up to watch it I would be very worried. It’s put on to reach a certain goal to see a British boat first past the magic three hundred mark!’ The jingoism worked wonders and I could sense her metaphorically strapping herself in for the ride of a lifetime.
‘Are you not afraid?’
‘Your emotions can vary according to the condition of the craft,’ I responded. ‘If you’re going straight, everything’s behaving well and stability is on the top line that’s one thing. If on the other hand you run into stability troubles and that boat is going haywire at two hundred knots plus, that’s another matter. Let’s make no mistake about it. If you’re not prepared to get your nose punched then don’t go down into the arena. A degree of tension is a necessity. By the same token, of course, if you’re too frightened you will kill yourself rapidly. The same result. There’s a goal worthwhile achieving. Full stop.’
I could detect from her demeanour that Florence didn’t get this sort of small talk from Richard Monckton Milnes as he ambled across the country lanes of Hampshire atop his old nag. Not for the first time I had taken a lady’s breath away. But this was the only time I had done so without ever having drawn the vital first breath myself. That was a good eight decades down the track. Nightingale started breathing again but in short bursts punctuated by some rapping of her chest with her pristine white gloved hands.
‘What about, I am emboldened to ask,’ she eventually managed to say, ‘is the reception of your peers. Is it not a concern to them that you are not employing your time more profitably ugh as composing verse, preaching from the pulpit, broadening the horizon of Christianity with a mission on the African continent or exploiting the poor to increase your bank balance by flogging every vestige of strength from them in your cause? Are you not unduly anxious as to their adverse reactions that I vouchsafe must come your way due to your eccentricities and strange mode of attire?’
‘I wouldn’t know and frankly neither do I care very much,’ I stated emphatically. ‘People will say that I have never grown up. I’m quite prepared to accept that. I’m in no hurry. There’s too much time to grow up and grow old. It’s a sad day when a man loses the enthusiasm of youth.’
Flo was getting back on side so I cranked up the jingoism.
‘To be born British is to have won the best prize in life. We love a challenge. See a mountain and the Frenchie will want to capture it on canvas, the Yankee will want to buy it and the German, or Prussian as you would probably call him, will want to install a mechanical lift. It is only the Brit who will want to climb it. If you’re going to succeed you have to put what you’re attempting to achieve first. Way before your own comfort, pleasure and family. You have got to. We’re all playing for a team, old girl. At the moment our national fortunes are at a fairly low ebb. I believe deeply and profoundly that we must redouble our efforts. Flo, they’re out to take these records back to America. Well, we’re going to do something about it. Flo, are you on board?’n
The Nightingale girl locked into my gaze. She sat herself down upon a garden seat and composed herself, fluffing the furls in her long, cumbersome dress to draw attention away from her noticeable admiration for my spirit. She made it clear that the message was received and understood.
‘Yes,’ she answered. ‘I had intended to press some violets to send to Clarkey in Paris. However, assisting in your endeavours to set speed records seems an even more pressing concern. The violets can wait.’
‘Call me Skipper,’ I announced, welcoming her to the team.
Categories: Florence Nightingale