Our first words in 83 days, and I thought nothing would be more appropriate, because we’re just about to zoooom back onto the radar. (We’ve been in England by the way, in London for a few months). However, that’s not the only reason I wrote


Ever since I got back, I’ve woken up each morning to the sounds of aeroplanes zooooming over the house. What on earth is going on? Are we at war? Did Slovakia invade?

Well... not quite. It’s the Red Bull Air Race, which involves several days of practice, practice, practice, qualifying, race. From the pictures on the Red Bull website, of upside-down, twirling planes in front of the Parliament building, you’d think this is going to be quite a spectacle. That, coupled with the involvement of Péter Besenyei, one of Hungary’s best, and best-known sportsmen was certainly enough to pique my interest.

He seems like quite a character, this Besenyei. I came across a Guardian interview with him the other day, in which he made the quite magnificent claim that n
o-one has ever thrown up in one of his flying machines. (Erm... have me on board, Péter, and I’ll be sick all over you).

Here are the rules for the Red Bull Air Race, in case you were wondering what it’s all about.

"During the first day, pilots run two training rounds then two qualification rounds. The times of the last training session determine flight order for both qualifying rounds, slowest racing first. The best time from either qualifying run counts. Twelve pilots with the fastest times continue on to race the second day. The lowest four who made it through qualifying race for ninth place and one World Series point in the aptly named "Point One" round. The top eight, or "Super Eights" are seeded based on qualification times then race head-to-head. Winners from the Super Eight round race again in the semifinals while losers are ranked 5th through 8th based on their time. From the semifinals, the pilots either head to the final to determine the winner and runner-up, or to the consolation final to settle third and fourth places".

No, I didn't read them either. Anyway, the idea of an air race still got me all hot and excited, so I headed down there yesterday afternoon, images of spiralling, nose-diving aircraft filling my head. The first thing I saw was a helicopter turning upside down, righting itself, turning upside down, righting itself, turning upside down, righting itself, turning upside down, righting itself. Very far away - part of the air show. As I wasn't actually in a helicopter of my own and hadn't had a drop of red bull, the whole experience left me feeling slightly restive. I blinked up into the sky and waited for it to stop. It did, and qualifying started. This involved some brightly coloured aeroplanes zooming down towards the Danube, traversing a few pylons, then flying away, all to the strains of Prodigy's Firestarter. And... that's it! Again and again. Later, I wandered down the bank of the river and found a few stages pumping out bad 50's rock to a handful of onlookers, and a bunch of stalls selling food that nobody was eating because the weather was too hot.

Now, I don't mind races, and red bull serves a purpose, but part of me wonders if it's so necessary for this event to bring the noise in such a spectacular fashion, for such a sustained length of time. Even on Monday, when I went to the river to watch the sun sink behind the hills, I was confronted with some kind of metal fence, beyond which stood a pair of speakers pumping out mundane pop. Aren't people living/working nearby?

As I write this, it's three o'clock on St. Stephen's Day and I'm in
Gozsdu courtyard - all I can hear is the sound of aircraft zooooming overhead. To hell with it. Maybe I'll go down to the river and give Péter some love. It's not like I can take a siesta.

Andy T.



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