Sunday, October 02, 2011

Memories - Balloons.....

I have flown in a hot air balloon. Yes. Me. Up there in a basket under a balloon. In the sky. 
This is the balloon. Getting in it was a trifle complicated because, in my 50th year (at the time), hurdling great heights was not on the list of talents or accomplishments. But I got in. My friend, Nicky was a little more graceful, but just wait till you hear re the landing......

Just before we climbed in for lift off
 How I came to fly is a story in itself. When we lived in Cape Town, as I was growing up, we had lovely neighbours who remain great friends. Isobel, Mum's friend, now lives in the UK too, and she adores entering competitions. She wins a fair few too, let me tell you, and both she and Mum LOVE doing word puzzles. So one day, I had a call from her, asking if I wanted to go in a hot air balloon. Me? It was on The List. So I said of course I would love to.

Isobel had won a deluxe balloon flight for 2, but she was over 90 and (believe me, she would NEVER have managed the hurdling) did not think it was a great idea. And her family had no desire to fly either. So I was next on the list.


I asked all my friends who wanted to go, and then drew a name out of the hat, and so Nicky and I set off at dawn one spring morning. It was overcast, but clear and you could see for miles. The first surprise was how fast you rise up into the skies. The second was the silence, apart from the burner and our chatter, of course. Movement with no sound takes a little getting used to.
The chase vehicles down there like toy cars
 The chase cars follow the balloon, and are there when you land, to help with the packing up and transport home too. The flight was followed by an amazing breakfast at the hotel from where we left, by the way - all included in the deluxe package. Champagne and all. The "high" life!
Milton Keynes - the concrete cows.
 It was such fun when we came in to land south of Milton Keynes - flying over gardens and watching people stop and look up. We waved. So did they. Some in their pjs! I love watching balloons fly over my house. In the spring/summer, they are a regular sight. We used to have a big balloon festival here in the county, but no more. That is such a shame because we used to chase the balloons in the cars, and had many an adventure, discovering villages we had not visited before. The kids loved that. The shapes and colours were fantastic. Mickey Mouse, cars, bears, ducks.......
An English village from the skies
 It looks like Toyland, doesn't it? The motorway looked even more like a toy road mat - with little ant-like cars whizzing up and down it. We flew over my daughter's old school, and over familiar landmarks which looked so different from the skies. Because you do not know which way the wind will be taking you until the actual flight, it is all a huge surprise. I quite wanted to fly over our village, but we went south instead. We went where the wind took us - such an awesome sense of being a leaf, in a way. Floating through the sky. I loved every minute of it all....... (apart from the landing, that is!)
Moi - LOVING the silence and sense of drifting through the skies!
 The silence was wonderful, especially when the burner was off. In a strange quirk of fate, I discovered that the pilot was someone I had worked with before when invigilating at the local college, so that was fun too. He was quite a tiny man. Remember that......
Salcey Forest
Looking up into the balloon
 And then we came in to land in a field. Well. For the previous 5 minutes, the pilot had been telling us what to do - bend the knees etc. Hang on to the sides. Hah. And then we landed with a fairly large thud, and the basket tipped over and we were being dragged along the field, and the poor man ended up under Nicky, and I was on top of both of them. And I was the largest in the basket. They both lived to tell the tale, but the worst was trying to get off them when upside down and legs in the air and nothing to give leverage. You have no idea. Thank heavens the cameras were away at that point. I would not have wanted the moment recorded for posterity!
We survived and lived to tell the tale
Actually, I think we were sort of propping each other up and bordering on hysteria at this point. We had actually survived and lived to tell the tale!
And then we had to help pack the balloon and gear
 Thankfully the chase cars arrived almost immediately and we got the balloon packed up and piled into the cars and off we went back to the hotel. Nicky didn't tell me until we were eating breakfast, that she was scared of heights and didn't know how she would cope. She was a STAR. And we are both so pleased we had the opportunity to do something so different. And it was great to cross something else off the "to do before I die" list.
With our pilot in the centre and some of the chase crew. And our certificates.
Yes, the grass in the field was wet. That is why I have wet trousers.

So there we have memory #2. Why the balloon? And why today? Well, this morning, I was up very early to let my friend's dogs out, and as I walked round the garden, there, up in the skies above me, was a beautiful balloon, drifting along. I remembered, you see, and I heard the burner in the silence of the dawn, and I knew that today's memory would be the balloon. A friend asked if I had a list. No. I don't. I am letting events of each day trigger memories, and we will see where they go. Heaven knows I have lived long enough to have a whole bunch of memories just clambering over each other in my head!

So tomorrow, who knows which decade I will be wandering through. We will have to wait and see.........


Vee said...

We have an annual balloon fest and it's been a desire of mine to ride in a balloon. I'd have done it long ago except for the landing stories I've heard. Guess that I'll just enjoy your story and call it good. If I landed on top of anyone, I'd kill the poor soul. ☺

I do love the sound of the burner burst, but had not considered how odd it would be to move without sound. The closest I can imagine is swimming underwater.

Isabelle said...

Well, I very much enjoyed the vicarious version of your flight but you wouldn't get me up in one of those. Good for you, though! I am a wimp...

Lu said...

My husband had a ballon trip to celebrate a birthday a few years ago and I went too. Being 5ft and having a bad hip i couldn't climp in so was told to crawl in to the basket as it lay on its side, they righted it and everyone else got in. When the ride was over we were asked to look for a field with out any crops or animals, we finally found one and landed as we got out and the ballon was let down, we discovered that cows that had just returned from milking, were now coming into the field. not only that but they were accumpanied by a bull, luckly he had other things on is mind!!

Becky said...

I've never been in one, but I do enjoy the festival that goes on in Boise each year. The balloons are amazing!

Stripeyspots said...

I think that was a wonderful experience. I love the majesty of the hot air balloons. Like elephants floating!

boysmum2 said...

I would love to do this ...but have a few feelings of not so sure. Would love it if you could be tied into the basket! then I know you won't fall out!