Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy Landings

I know you're all (both?) desperate to find out how the balloon flight ended. Hey, you at the back, wake up I tell you! Well, after drifting for about an hour over the Perthshire countryside our expert pilot brought us down in a grassy field. Our flight had been a source of high anxiety to some of the creatures below: a herd of cows was seen to move in a very peculiar way, and a deer let out the most blood-curdling scream. A pheasant emerged from a hedge, looked up at us and dived out of sight into a field full of crops creating a frenetic rippling effect in the process.

Andre radioed his assistant to ask him if he could see where we had landed, but unfortunately the reply was that he couldn't. Andre decided it was best to take off again, and this time we alighted in a field that had been harvested. The prominent stubble in the field seemed to bring the basket to a more abrupt halt than the first time. We noticed that a herd of cattle in a field slightly further on seemed more than a little spooked by the appearance of a huge bizarre red object in their vicinity. The farmer who owned the beasts was on site within minutes in his four-wheel-drive rather forcibly "requesting" that Andre deflate the balloon. Although the pilot would rather have kept the balloon inflated for a bit longer to help his assistant see where we were, the farmer made it clear that this was not an option.

The farmer claimed that some of the animals were pregnant, and said that he was worried that the fright of seeing the balloon would induce premature labour. While this may have been true, I believe farmers have been know to tell a few fibs to get the balloonists to do what they want. Some, when they see the Virgin logo, simply demand that the pilot gets his cheque book out.

Finally, Andre's assistant arrived, we all helped pack the balloon back in its bag, and we then toasted the flight with champagne----very civilised indeed! The landrover took us back to Perth, ending an evening that I don't think any of us will forget.