That was 1802 – a decade over two centuries later the following happens: a huge gossamer balloon floats into the nothing of the stratosphere. Beneath it clings the tiny dot of a capsule, and inside it is an Austrian, Felix Baumgartner, aged 43.
When the balloon reaches 128,000 feet (24 miles) above the Earth, he will step out and drop into the deep.
Metal wrenches against metal. Too much time on the trigger. A baby screams. Fingers strain as a wheel slugs into place and a hand chops down to mark job done. The time is unconvincing.
Final chance to slice the margins downwards. The stopwatch flies – slick and precise. In the first blur the wheel nut traps in the gun and the brief scramble to realign surges the time to over 35 seconds. Aspiration deflates … it’s been a coffee and croissants performance suitable only for caravans.
Winter is stuttering into view but the cockles of British hearts are being warmed by perfect turmoil. The three pillars of UK plc – football, cake and the post – are in a state of flex and flux. It has been an exhausting ten days.