Purchasing a balloon has seen my love of hot air reach new heights

I’d flirted with golf, resisted dogging, then this balloon thing came up and it all made sense

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The Independent Online

I’ve only gone and bought a hot-air balloon. I know it’s not your typical impulse-buy, but it made sense to me at the time. A friend of my wife has been ballooning for years and wanted to sell hers to someone who would appreciate the thing as much as she had. So we made a deal, whereby I would buy it from her and she would teach me to fly it.

I live on a farm so the idea of jumping into my balloon and soaring off is most appealing. I imagine the idea is slightly less attractive to anyone living within a 20-mile radius but I promise not to drink and fly, and I shall do my best not to “worry” any animals.

I remember my late father’s partner telling me that my dad didn’t have any hobbies. This, according to her, made life very difficult for him (and her) as he got older. I decided there and then that I should establish a hobby to keep me busy in my golden years.

I had a serious think – stamp collecting, model-aircraft building, train-spotting… all of these “classic” hobbies just didn’t seem to be my bag. I’d flirted with golf, screwed up at painting, resisted dogging and then… the hot-air balloon thing came up and everything suddenly made sense.

There’s something a bit eccentric, a bit Heath Robinson about balloonists that has always appealed. I’m not talking about the show-offy Branson types who want to fly round the world, naked in outer space. I mean the ones who float about beautiful places on lovely days, and seem to always be quaffing champagne and occasionally hit power lines.  

And I love the idea of telling people what I do, when they ask me? “Me… oh, I’m a hot-air balloonist.”

Actually I’m going to go one step better. The French, in their stroppy way, call hot-air balloons “Montgolfiers” after the French brothers that pioneered the activity. Maybe I can be a Montgolfiste?

“Moi … je suis Montgolfiste …” I will say to interested parties. It has a nice ring to it. It certainly beats telling people I’m a comedian only for them to ask me to tell a joke or to tell me that I don’t “seem to be very funny”.

Once I’ve learnt the ropes I can set off on mini adventures. It’s going to open a new avenue of travel to me – fly over the Strait of Gibraltar, soar over the Atlas Mountains, organise water balloon raids over Gloucester.

My new balloon is called Patches and looks like a patchwork quilt. I have told Stacey that I am commissioning a new balloon that will be an exact reproduction of my head and face. Rather sweetly, she believed me and started to plead with me to change my mind. I think she feels that I’m possibly already full of enough hot air for the time being without this monstrosity being used on the school run to pick up two clinically embarrassed kids.

Local papers like nothing more than a story about a balloonist crash-landing into a village or a tree. I have a feeling that the Gloucestershire Echo is going to have a field day with me over the next year or so….