Lady Penelope and the Hovercraft

Picture the scene.
It is mid-summer on the beach at Ryde.
The tide is out. The sun is shining on acres of drying sand.
On the horizon Southsea shimmers in the heat haze separated 
from us by a silent sliver of silver Solent.
Nothing moves.
I have a return ticket in my pocket.

After a sun baked moment or two, off to the left, 
a Shanklin train arrives and disgorges its passengers.
Most into town but a small group heads diagonally across the high tide mark
towards the small hovercraft lingering on the beach.
The train pulls out of the station towards the pier.

At the end of the pier lies Lady Penelope.
Gleaming like a small warship or very rich man's yacht.
Rated at thirty five knots, she hugs the edge of the deep water
fuming as the Piccadilly pensioner begins her 
pedestrian pace across the protesting piles of the century old pier.
Meanwhile the family reach the hovercraft and push chairs are safely
gathered in.
Lady Penelope's twin diesels snort with impatience.
She is eager for Portsmouth.
Slightly more than an eighth of a hour later the train reaches the
pierhead and the timbers cease their chorus
and ready themselves for the tube train's return to land
and so their encore,
as they have done twice every hour for a century or more.
Lady Penelope dances in the haze eager for the sea
but tied until the last of the foot passengers saunter on board.
Then she is cut loose!
For a moment her twin engines pour black soot into the air 
but as power comes on they turn hot and the twin clouds of filth are
left in her wake for the breeze to spread.
Meanwhile she is away!
Turns quickly and is soon end on with only her stern visible above her
white wake.

Still the hovercraft sits on the sand.

Lady Penelope, throttles open, heads for home.

Still the hovercraft sits on the sand.

Lady Penelope shrinks towards the horizon.

Now the hovercraft rapidly stirs itself.
Jet powered.
Skirts fill and it lifts.
Turns on the spot.
Points to Southsea and is off!
Rated as fifty nine knots over sea or sand she has no displacement,
no need for the deep water channel
and passes Lady Penelope before she is halfway and
slides nonchalantly up the Southsea shingle before
Lady Penelope has reached the deep water off Portsmouth harbour.

It is time to use my ticket.

W.B.Langdon 15 March 2020