Monday, 30 April 2007

The Second Love of My Life

Lily showed photos of the Canberra Balloon Festival which bought a lump to my throat and made me feel very nostalgic and a bit "home sick". Many moons ago I was a P.U.T (pilot under training) flying hot air balloons. A great friend of ours got hooked when he learnt to fly with the British School of Ballooning. He bought his lovely Thunder & Colt G-ONCL (not the one in the photos) and the big adventure began! DH and I used to retrieve a lot for him, then DH got fed up of getting up at 5.30 am in the summer months and I continued retrieving, sometimes on my own or with company. I got to know the highways and byways of Surrey and Sussex very well thank you and rarely got lost (unlike DH who once took 3 hours to find us). Eventually NCL gave me PUT lessons in return for retrieving and the second love of my love very nearly became my first. I have flown 3,000 ft above Longleat House, been dragged across fields heading dangerously for an electric fence. Been in a balloon when the envelope had to be carefully untangled from a barbed wire fence. Flown dangerously close to power cables (ooohhh that was scary), got wet feet splashing into lakes (great great fun) and literally stood still 300 feet up over telephone lines when there was no wind. That day it took us 2 hours to fly about a mile down the road! I have flown nearly in a complete circle. Been at the receiving end of angry farmers. Flown on a clear frosty morning, returned to the house, refuelled the gas bottles and flown again. Then I fell pregnant and that was that - I haven't flown since. NCL has, however, gone on to bigger and better things. He now flies two huge balloons for their respective owners and, when I last spoke to him, was commuting between his office in West Sussex and Tuscany and Luxor (ok for some!). So here are some photos for you of the one thing in my life that I wish I had never given up. I'm not to be seen - I was on the other end of the camera.

12 comments:

Connie said...

What a most thrilling (yet a wee bit "scary") type of adventure! The view of down below must be fun to watch.

joyce said...

You are very adventurous! I am so afraid of heights that I'm pretty sure I will never go up in one.

anne bebbington said...

It's on my to do list - to go in one, not train to fly one - I suspect it must be wonderfully peaceful up there

swooze said...

What fun. They have several hot air baloon festivals around town and I love to see the ballons!

Pam said...

What an exiting adventure that must have been. You can always go back and do it again -- you don't have to give it up forever.

I have never been up in a ballon but I can just imagine how glorious it must be.

Craig said...

Hi Clare

Not sure if you've seen this, but a ballooning trip over the Dordogne looks a great way to spend some time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95mHJzSV1Nk

All the best

Craig

Sassenach said...

Well, aren't you something! Perhaps someday you'll pick it up again, with daughter in tow. :-)

Fiona said...

Wow, that's definitely something not many people can lay claim to be able to do! Have you ever thought of making a quilt top with an image of a balloon (nice and scrappy) and the fields laid out below (also nice and scrappy)? It would certainly be a free-piece challenge.

Jane Ann said...

Well, aren't you full of surprises? I've been thinking about just such a trip recently for DH's birthday and our upcoming anniversary--both significant ones and within 3 days of each other in July.

Patti said...

Oh my goodness. "The Secret Life of Clare the Quilter" - that should be the title of your biography. What an amazing and daring thing to do! I never would have guessed this about you in a million years! I'm with Joyce - I dislike heights intensely!

Lily said...

Wow Clare, your time as at PUT sounds incredible! It's a shame that adventures like that go on hold when we have kids. Hopefully you'll get back into it one day.

Love the power station balloon! Not sure it it's politically correct these days, but what fun!

Dawn said...

Hi Clare, just been nosing around your blog and fascinated to find you used to do balooning. How wonderful, you are brave. The rewards up there and the peace must be amazing.