Up, up and away! I've always longed to go up in a hot air balloon. What a fabulous final New Thing of 2011, to round off my New Year's Resolution! We are glossing over the fact that Week 51 is unaccountably missing. It was Cooking Quail. But frankly, it was right before Christmas and I couldn't be arsed to write it up. Also, I was aware that rather too many New Things were already of a culinary nature. This is because you can do a new thing in the kitchen fairly cheaply. And it has been the cost of all those fabulous new things that has reined me in on so many occasions. Seeing the Northern Lights, travelling down the Mississippi by paddle steamer, having my own bespoke fragrance created by Creed. And going up in a hot air balloon.
Or so I had assumed until our older son gave the chancellor and me a joint 50th birthday present of a hot air balloon trip. Calloo callay! It has been deferred into 2012 for weather reasons. Freezing your ass off is a bit of a busman's holiday if you live in a listed building and have run out of prayer books to toss on the fire.
For me, there is something magical about the sight of a hot air balloon. That teardrop shape hanging in a flawless sky over English hills. It's part of my childhood. My heart leaps up when I behold, and so on. I've noticed that this thrill isn't shared by the public at large. If you are travelling by bus, for instance, and you suddenly cry out, 'Look! Look! A balloon!' people will eye you strangely.
I grew up with a view across wheat fields towards the Chiltern hills. On summer evenings we would quite often see balloons coming over from the Dunstable Gliding Club. Silent, then the whoosh! of the burner. Sometimes they flew quite low. Once the passengers were offloading sand in attempt to gain height. Some of it landed in Mr Routledge's pristine garden. He danced in rage and shook a fist. The balloonists were too high to interpret this, and waved back benignly from their basket. Mr Routledge was very proud of his garden, as we four girls found out by chucking bits of mortar into it from our garden across the lane. He caught us at it and threw it all back. We cowered giggling in the shed as missiles clanged off the corrugated iron roof. 'Have your bloody rubbish back!' were his words. Some of his words.
Once a balloon landed in the field over near Pitstone windmill. We watched from an upstairs window as it struggled like a wounded bird.
And then there was The Borrowers Aloft. They escaped in a home made balloon, didn't they? And lived happily ever after in Bekonstcot Model Village, or something. All these things, like the unforgettable smells that rocket you straight back to childhood (lime blossom, creosote fences) combine to make a hot air balloon ride impossibly romantic to me. Not forgetting wanting to fly--something I can do in my sleep, with my eyes closed, but unaccountably cannot master while awake. But next year, next year I'll be up, up and away.
About this blog
This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.