I know that the subject of air shows is a little touchy at the moment, but I had an experience at the Bournemouth Air show last week that I just had to share. And, no, thankfully nothing crashed.
I’ve been to a few air shows in my time, and seeing a crowd of spectators looking into the sky at some crazy pilot pulling off a spectacular manoeuvre is nothing new to me.
But this was…
So there we all were, thousands of us standing on Bournemouth beach at exactly 3pm when the Red Arrows were due to emerge over the cliff and begin their display. We even heard the tannoy mumble a vague, “ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome the Red Arrows!”
The Reds are never late, but at 3.05pm there was still no sign of them.
At this point I took a second to pull my expectant gaze away from that hole in the sky and to look around and behind me. And what I saw… no, what I felt, was a collective holding of breath that I’ve not experienced before. The whole beach was still and gripped in a state of suspended anticipation as almost every single person gazed at an empty piece of sky. Some were listing to radios and checking phone apps to confirm that the boys in Red were indeed on their way, whilst others were telling their kids to be patient as this grand entrance was worth putting that sandcastle construction on hold or staying out of the sea for. Along the zig-zig path up to the cliff top ran a wiggly line of expectant onlookers, seemingly motionless as they waited with the rest of us. People were lining the breakwaters that protrude into the water, and the railings of the two piers were chock full of people, all watching that cliff top. You could even feel the eyes and binoculars of the ships and boats far out to sea all looking at this piece of sky with nothing in it.
And we all held our breath together.
I’ve never been on a beach (or anywhere in fact) with such a collective feeling of togetherness. I’ve been to rock concerts, sports matches, etc., but nothing felt like this – not even during an air show. This wasn’t the excitement and awe felt whilst watching a display; this was shared suspense at its most tangible.
Of course, in hindsight, this delay only enhanced the moment the planes did scream into view a few minutes later. Yes, they were late. No, we never found out why. And yes, it was a great display. But it was those moments of waiting that promoted me to get writing.
And this is what we were all waiting for…