We took off from San Francisco at 17.30 local time, with almost an hour’s delay. The pilot expressed the hope that he could make up most of the delay during the flight and he, doubtless aware of where he could pick up a good tail wind, was as good as his word (at least, that’s my explanation for the heavy turbulence we experienced at times). I wonder if Wilbur and Orville Wright, camped out at Kill Devil Hills on 17 December 1903 and gazing on their wood and canvas flyer after its successful flight of 59 seconds carrying one man, could have had any idea – even in their very wildest dreams – that just over one hundred years later man would be regularly piloting planes carrying over five hundred people for ten hours non-stop at speeds of almost one thousand kilometres an hour, from San Francisco on the western American seaboard to London Heathrow in northern Europe. (Wilbur died of food poisoning in 1912 but Orville lived on until 1948, the dawn of the supersonic age, and by then planes were already regularly crossing the American continent.) The icing on the cake came as we neared London. As the plane made its approach run over central London the Scottish chief steward gave a running commentary on what passengers were seeing as we flew above the various Olympic Games sites. He kept going until we were almost at Heathrow (I have never experienced a running commentary on an approach run before). He capped this off with a roguishly witty announcement just after we had touched down and were still braking: ‘Would any volunteers to clean the plane after everybody has left please undo their seatbelts and stand up before the seatbelt signs have gone off?’ We were back in Europe, wit and all.