Coales' Notes: The place where a story ended

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The Independent Culture
WEDNESDAY: If I just had a moment.

Alan is still in plaster. I have managed to keep the assault out of the Herald. Curley tactfully ran it as 'Pedestrian Collision Disables Festival Artist'. And I feel that neither Fiona, Di nor Iz have properly thanked me for covering up for them.

But they're all three now taking turns to wheel Alan around, as he gives interviews to Kaleidoscope and gets televised. So I've had to coordinate the thousands of launch sites, distribution of balloons, wire and gas, ready for lift off. And I also want to get that 30ft high Schlacht promotional bottle removed before the opening ceremony.

I said to Rowena this evening I seemed to have spent a lifetime arranging things for people to come and see. It would be nice if, just once, people came to look at me, and called me incredible. She said I would have my day on Saturday. 'And then, shall we just disappear?' I said I couldn't think about anything until after the Festival.

THURSDAY: I held a small supper this evening. Me, Rowena, poor old Archie Ogg, and the Chairman of the Leisure Committee, (who asked me to call him 'Eric'). Sticky.

Archie spoke eloquently for the death of the arts in Britain (his constant theme, since he lost his Arts Centre three years ago), and 'Eric' I sensed was trying to tell me that they might possibly re- open the Wormwood Centre, and I was trying to stop his saying this in front of Archie - and then Fiona turned up.

And - 'surprise]' - brought in Bob, and Juliet (now with baby), neither of whom I'd seen since the Wormwood closed. It was delightful. And we were just getting down to reminisce, when Di arrived too, plus - 'guess who?' - Rory and Richard Silver, bearing champagne.

Then, almost at once, Iz and Alan - out of plaster and hobbling. It was really too much. I felt I wanted to say something, but couldn't think what. Then Silver said. 'So, a toast.' And Iz said: 'Yes, a toast To . . . to the


Then Rowena said:. 'Oh no. We're 13.' Alan said he 'needed to rest' before the run-through. He fell down on the way out. Juliet's baby woke. Everyone else said they'd better be going too. And went - so fast.

FRIDAY: I suppose I am still in shock. We had the run- through on the forecourt this morning. The idea is to have a cluster of especially large balloons hovering over the Centre, marking it out, but I had not imagined quite how immense they would be. Almost everyone from last night came to watch. Alan was supervising the operation. I asked him if he felt well enough to do this. He said: 'Let's go.'

One by one, the monsters were slowly inflated, and let up on wires, 100ft into the sky. It was truly impressive. Everyone applauded - I mounted the temporary platform.

I said that in 24 hours time, balloons would be hovering all over the city - an incredible sight it would be. And now I would quickly rehearse my speech of welcome. More applause.

I began: 'Welcome.'

I then started to feel a little unsteady. Alan shouted something - Fiona screamed. I suddenly realised that the whole central section of the platform, with me upon it, was gradually rising from the ground. People were crying: 'Jump.'

I gripped the rail. I must have now been about 15ft up. Then the platform swung over violently, and knocked into the Schlacht bottle, and began to scrape up the side. More advice from the ground.

I half-slid to the edge of the platform and, as I got level with the cap of the bottle, managed to lever myself on to it. The whole bottle began to sway terrifyingly - but finally stabilised. I very, very carefully seated myself. I looked down. Di shouted up: 'Don't move.'

I asked, what were they going to do? They went into a huddle. A large crowd was beginning to gather and to point at me. Di shouted: 'Rory's going to find help.' I asked, how? There was another huddle. Di shouted: 'Rory's going to find a photographer. I'm going to find help.'

Several photographers, and a cameraman, arrived almost instantly. The firemen seemed to take forever - and I actually saw Rory trying to hold them back. I hardly remember being taken down the ladder. I do remember someone pointing out the balloon-borne platform, a remote speck in the atmosphere.

And I do remember Alan coming over to me and saying: 'Gordon, I can only say . . . incredible.' And Rory saying he could guarantee I would be 'on page two of all the broadsheets'. And having to hold Juliet's baby while more pictures were taken. And Iz fainted. And Bob kissed me. And Silver and the Chairman of the Leisure Coimmittee were laughing at something. And then Fiona and Di gently led me over to a car, and Archie drove me back to Rowena's, and I have undergone many remedies.

And I said to Alan, he'd better bloody well make sure that everything was properly fixed down by tomorrow, because otherwise somebody was going to have their life cut short, or, at the very least, be left hanging in the air.

That was Coales' last note