I know a man with a flying Bentley and he’s going to fly it all the way to Sifnos. This is not science fiction: in the world this man lives, a world I travel to sometimes, flying Bentleys are just as possible as any other mode of transport. I have long ceased to be surprised.
We originally thought he should go for the next model up, the all-terrain Bentley, suitable for journeys on land, air and sea. This is not too difficult to achieve: apart from the standard engine (which is anything but standard, obviously, this being a Bentley), the all-terrain model is also equipped with two powerful propellers, suited to both aeronautical and seafaring purposes, and a set of fins that, at the touch of a button, unfold into wings, enabling the vehicle to float on the waves or glide on the clouds, respectively. It really is wonderfully simple. And comes with soft leather seats and a bitching sound system, as standard.
The all-terrain Bentley is a pretty advanced piece of technology, but it’s not the top of the range. That would, of course, be the space model, aimed at the universally minded traveller who doesn’t want to wait until the moon shuttle is ready to take bookings from the general population. It is still in the development stages, and a prototype is available for purchase, for which there is a waiting list. Early adopters are required to sign a disclaimer because the space model is limited in its functions: it is capable of launching into space, like a rocket, and then joining the orbit of one of a number of preselected planets, by killing the engine at the right moment (the car’s sensors pick this up, and a red light flashes on the panel behind the steering wheel to warn the driver), but no provisions have yet been made for further navigation or returning to earth. Very few of these prototypes have been released, but they are out there, circling the planets up above; with a telescope, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of their taillights as they go round.
I’m sure this man could get himself right at the top of the waiting list for the space Bentley if he wanted to; he has a way of getting what he wants, perhaps because he figured out, early on, that it’s essentially just as easy as not, and it’s simply a question of what you put your energy into. He doesn’t need to, however. He lives in a spaceship, and he can take himself up to the stars whenever he feels like it. He does that sometimes. But he comes back, with stories to tell.
We had settled on the all-terrain model, but then we realised we had fallen into the trap of conventional thinking. We were approaching the question in terms of a standard journey from central London to the village of Eleimonas in Sifnos: the drive to the airport, the plane ride to Athens, a cab or train or bus to the port, a journey on the ferry to Sifnos, and then the final stretch of road up to the house. Land, air, sea. But, of course, the beauty of a Bentley is that you can park it right outside your home and take off from there, flying it high above the London skyline and through the clouds, over the seas and mountains and cities and valleys of Europe and all the way down to Sifnos where, guided by the blue dome of the church next door, you can land it directly on my roof. There’s plenty of space up there for a Bentley, and the beams are strong; they can take the weight.
The flying Bentley has been ordered, in black, with tinted windows and heated seats, and a jack for plugging your iPhone directly into the built-in sound system. When it is delivered, he will pack a small bag and throw it into the boot, put some music on, switch the mode from “drive” to “fly”, and he will soar into the sky. He will be spared the traffic on the North Circular, and the discomforts of easyjet, the chaos of Athens, the indignity of the blue plastic seats of the economy lounge on the ferry and the long, cold wait for the off-season bus, and he will arrive in style, uncreased and smiling, in time for dinner.
This is not science fiction, and it isn’t fantasy. It’s just the way it is. There is a world where everything is possible and that’s the world I’d like to live in. Where getting what you want is just as easy as giving up on it. Where a man will fly his Bentley all the way from London to Sifnos and land it on my roof. He will come into the house and unpack the few items he brought in his bag into the space I’ve cleared in the wardrobe, and we will sit together in the warmth, while the engine of the Bentley cools down on the roof above. We might fly it to the beach every now and then, to spend some time looking at the sea, but mostly we will stay at home, together but a few feet apart, in a silence that contains all the words, and I will write stories about the lives we live on earth, while he thinks about his next trip up into the stars.