Too many updates but I just realised that I’d left sad and ranting all over my blog. Then I realised I hadn’t written about my skypirate adventures, so I shall rectify that immediately.
After months and months and months of being thwarted by gales, blizzards and fuck knows what else, a week or so ago, I finally managed to get my hot air balloon flight. And, oh, it was completely worth the wait. It was wonderful – better than I could ever have dreamed. I could have drifted in that endless blue horizon forever, I think.
A couple of people said they thought I was brave when I mentioned that I was going for a hot air balloon ride. This made me slightly anxious because I’d not previously considered that bravery might be required, and, truthfully, I’m not over-endowed in the stuff. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t at all. It’s far more pleasant than flying in a plane and, even though you’re hanging there in a basket, you don’t feel exposed. I think looking down is only stomach-churning when it’s relational – you see your own feet and then you see how far it is to fall, and then you freak the fuck out (or I do). But in a balloon, since you’re sort of looking past yourself, into the distance and down at the world, you don’t ever get that vertiginous “oh shit I could die and that would be bad” reaction.
I didn’t take many photographs in the end. I made an executive decision not to take my camera because carrying a camera massively changes how you interact with the world. It’s a distancing act, steeped in looking. And sometimes you don’t want to merely be looking, you want to be experiencing. I do, however, have a hasty snap of a balloon interior mid-way through inflation because it looks amazing:
Ever since I’ve been returned to earth, I’ve dreamed, and daydreamed, about that damn balloon. I really miss being up there. I think I’m probably quite a neurotic person (no shit, Sherlock) so I’m deeply attracted to activities that are wholly and encompassingly themselves. Does that make any sense at all? I think there’s quite a lot pressure/expectation that life is a multi-tasking business, and I am not really a multi-tasking dude. I juggle flaming bananas perfectly competently but sometimes, just sometimes, it is blissful to be doing one thing, and for that to be the ONLY thing you can be doing. Cooking, for example, is one such activity. I am not great at it, and usually I don’t have time enough to do it, but when you’re goofing around in the kitchen nobody expects you to be doing anything else. Having a bath, I guess, also fits this category, although I haven’t had a bath in years (I have, uh, washed, obviously). Running, too, is its own private peace. Or rowing. Being in a punt. And being in a hot air balloon. There’s just endless space and time to be and think. The clamour of the world is silenced.
I wonder how you get into hot air ballooning. It didn’t look that difficult, to be honest. Pull a string when you want to go up, pull a string when you want to go down. Well within even my somewhat limited capabilities. And, to be honest, our pilot didn’t seem what you might call … actively good at it. When it was time to land, he found what looked like a promising field, missed it entirely and instead brought us thumping spectacularly into a field of oil seed rape. Since this sort of behaviour tends to make farmers (entirely legitimately) angry, his solution was for me to get out and push and for us to sneak into the next field over.
Sneak? In a giant red hot air balloon. Right.
So, yes, I did – in fact – get out and push, running through like an absolute idiot through this field and hurling myself back into the basket just in time for a mini-takeoff, a collision with some trees, and a second landing in the next fallow field across.
Hot air balloons. They do not make good getaway vehicles. True fact.
Also it was about the least subtle thing I think I’ve ever experienced. I mean, I couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, when the farmer saw the enormous balloon shaped furrow in the middle of his crop and the enormous red balloon one field over, he might be inclined to, y’know, suspect something. Just sayin.