Great excitment with balloons the other day.
No, not the Banging sort of balloons. I mean the huge ones that soar over the land during the early evening. Attached to large basket. With people in it.
Carried along on the gentle breeze. Soundless, except for the hugely breathy sound of the balloon filling with hot air.
Saw one recently. We were staying in Essex with my parents. On the farm. We had killed yet more time between lunch and tea by doing things like jumping up and down on a huge pile of sand. Tea time was approaching when...
Saw a Balloon! On the horizon. Very low. Our conversation going rather like...
Ooooh, there it is!
Oh, no, it's not!
Ooooh, yes, it is!
Oh, it's disappeared behind the hedge!
Ooooh, it's come back up from behind the hedge!
Sort of thing.
Well, imagine our excitement when the balloon drifted slowly downwards behind the trees... within what seemed like yards.
Quick! we all yelled at each other. Run!
Children leaped on their bikes and tore off down the track. Parents heaved themselves into Landrover and moved off at less hectic speed.
And me? I ran. After the children, down the track.
Reached the field where we thought the balloon might be. Panting somewhat.
Was far away across several fields. But definitely on our land.
We all watched.
Balloon was definitely Going Down. Would dip down, lurch up, dip again.
And then, all of a sudden, down it Really Went. The big roundness of the balloon deflated slowly and slid onto its side, looking like a curious sort of whale, floundering around on the field.
Huge excitement. We all shouted at Pa, my father, to drive us NOW to see the landing... what was left of it.
Pa drove us, very slowly, across the fields.
Can't go too fast, he explained. Might get a puncture.
Faster! Faster! we yelled. Desperate to get there and See The Balloon.
After an agonisingly slow journey with an awful lot of, PLEASE GO FASTER, PA! finally arrived at the Scene.
Curious, balloons are. Huge and elegant in the sky, where they belong.
Beached whales on the land. Where they don't.
We sat on the gate of the field and watched all the palaver of undoing ropes and unhitching other bits. Not to mention the several square miles of silk.
When all of a sudden arrived a filthy dirty landrover which hurtled its way along the road. I could have sworn the vehicle itself was furious. The driver was. Goodness me. Out he shot. Yelled obsenities at the man in the balloon.
@What the f**??ng hell do you f*??!ing think you're f**??*ng doing with my f*!!?ing animals with that f***ing thing floating in the f*??!ng sky. Kind of words.
And with one more look of loathing he threw himself back in his landrover and drove off.
Stunned, we were. Hoped that Youngest hadn't heard. Judging by stunned look on his face, he had. Would look forward to him repeating that word to me at some later, highly inappropriate moment.
Man in balloon then called over to us,
'Are any of you the farmer of this field?'
Pa, my dad, strolled over to upsidedown balloon and Balloon Man.
Explained that he was actually the father of the farmer, and tut tutted about the state of the field. After the landing.
Balloon Man offered Pa a bottle of whisky.
Pa said, in nice clear tones, that actually he was owed £50 by any balloon that landed on the farm.
Poor old Balloon Man. He didn't stand a chance what with Furious Men in Landrovers (We found out later that he had had his animals severely frightened by Balloon overhead) and Pa, who was insisting, with great courtesy that he paid what he owed.
Balloon Man was a Brick. As they say in Enid Blyton books. Baffingly.
Said he would pay up. Apologised for state of field. Took details of my brother, whose farm it is, and let the children clamber all over the basket of balloon. They had loved the whole drama, getting closer and closer to balloon and basket, trying to listen in on the excitement.
Balloon Man answered all sorts of questions about Balloons.
What happens if you crash?
How do you jump out?
Where do you go to the loo?
Is there food?
Sort of thing.
The basket was Most Strange up close and personal. Sort of hessian looking with neat compartments for everyone to stand up in, so that no one falls on top of anyone else. The children looked rather like knives and forks in an upright knife and fork basket, neatly arranged and in the right place. Rather thought it would be nice to have basket at home in the house to neatly arrange children when desperate for peace and quiet.
As sun sank below the horizon we settled ourselves back into the Landrover and drove home, back across the fields, for tea, chatting madly about rude men in landrovers and balloon baskets. Killed the time nicely before tea.
And so, next time the children see a Balloon, hovering above the sky line, they will be able to say knowingly to each other,
Been in a balloon.
Which won't half impress their friends.
Will save a penny or two as well. They often comment about how much they'd like to go in a balloon. Well, they have now.
Ticked that box.