Friday, 7 September 2012

Up, up and away

Back in the dim and distant past of 1997, I read one of the best books I've ever read but the first chapter or two have haunted me ever since. Well, I say haunted. Not constantly but in a way that has always been there though not necessarily at the surface. Until last night that is, when we were bouncing along in a land rover looking for our launch site for the long awaited balloon flight and I suddenly had this blinding memory of the scene that has lain semi-dormant in my subconscious for 15 years.

Funnily enough I've always, always wanted to go in a hot air balloon so what better excuse than someone else's birthday. Obviously I didn't want The Boy to have to experience such a generous gift on his own, where's the fun in that? So I martyrishly stepped in and treated myself to one at the same time. It was only about a month after buying the vouchers that it suddenly dawned on me while I was brushing my teeth that I actually have a morbid fear of big drops / sheer drops / massive heights. I'm the girl who burst into tears and handed the keys of my soft-top over to The Boy because I couldn't handle the drive up St Bernards Pass in The Alps. But I tried to overcome that only for the sudden flash of memory from Ian McEwan's "Enduring Love" to take its icy grip in the middle of Dorset. It was an unfortunate moment for this to hit me because it's about a hot air balloon accident where one unlucky victim falls to the ground and is found in a sitting position with his spine sticking out of the top of his skull. Nice. Thank god there was going to be champagne on this flight.

Almost as fascinating looking
up as down
It's a strange feeling to think that there's only a layer of wicker separating you from an absolutely certain and very messy end. But weirdly, as you take off it all melts away. It's so silent up there (apart from the woman next to you threatening to throw her partner out because he got lost en route) that you suddenly feel that, actually, if you fell out, there might be worse ways to go. Until you hit the ground at least.

Anyway, the upshot is that a) I have overcome my fear of big drops/sheer drops/massive heights, b) being a martyr is a wonderful and selfless thing and c) it makes you bloody hungry. Shame then that the KFC in Wincanton that we started fantasising about (I know, a sad existence) 10 minutes in, was closed on the way home on account of not actually being built yet.

Not scary in the slightest.
Not our house though unfortunately
Today is Friday. I know we still have two days of the week left but already that has been the absolute highlight. The rest of it has been pretty pants and a series of firsts (other than the balloon) have been thwarted by far superior powers. After a day of meetings in London on Monday and just as I was due to meet my sis, BIL and dad for the Paralympics Athletics, we got a call summoning us to the hospital 3 hours away - Grandad was critical and not expected to last the night. So we drove like the wind up the M40, made a mess of dad's car with our noodle and doughnut picnic and then spent the entire night in the hospital which also blew our plans for breakfast. As Tuesday was the first anniversary of mum's death we were going to go for a swanky breakfast in London to "celebrate" (in the nicest possible sense, not that she ever really ate breakfast). Instead, Dad and I had a greasy fry-up in the hospital canteen at 7.30 having stared at our watches for at least 4 hours, counting down to the minutes till it opened. It was cheap. So are tattoos in Bangalore but neither of them are recommended by the World Health Organisation.

So mum's anniversary passed almost unnoticed which is tragic considering its enormity (to us). How ironic it would have been if the nurses had been right and Grandad had shuffled off his mortal coil on Tuesday. Now it's Friday and he's still clinging on but it can't be long now.

In a funny way I didn't really miss-out on the anniversary. The Boy pointed out that being 1300 ft over Dorset was 1300 ft closer to her which in its own way was quite comforting.

If you believe in all that......

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