Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Flying without wings*

When flying in a hot air balloon, take a tip from me: no matter how good it is, don't let the excitement force you into making the following, ridiculous comments to any camera:

1. 'I can't believe it: it feels like flying.'
2. 'Gosh, the sky is quite big isn't it.'
3. 'The houses look like teeny tiny houses.'
4. 'Aren't cows small from thousands of feet away.'
5. (On helping to fold up the balloon:) 'It's like trying to get the world's most annoying sleeping-bag back into its pouch.'

Sixty minutes of filming, and I'll be lucky if I can get one sensible comment out of myself.

On the upside, luckily, I think the footage is going to do the work for me. It was, without exception, one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. There aren't many childhood dreams you can honestly claim live up to expectations (the prospect of unlimited pocket money and therefore unlimited doughnuts, for instance), but this is one of them: and I don't care how stupid it sounds, it does feel like flying. It's nothing like being in a plane, and everything like being a bird. Specifically, I think, a kestral. I suddenly understood why they hover in the sky and swoop down to pick up a mouse; on a much larger scale, I was sorely tempted to dive in and pick up a cow between my teeth myself.

You see, obviously, what you expect to see - the local area from a long, long way away, predominantly - but you see it differently: you see it as one piece. The countryside looks like a whole, and not a series of fields behind hedges and huge houses behind even huger fences. Everything links up, as if England is just a huge green duvet that you can shake the ruffles out of. And you kind of want to nestle into it and fall asleep (except that if you did that, you'd definitely die). Without wanting to sound like somebody who waves a flag at the Proms, I've never been so proud to be English. Our fish aren't particularly pretty, but we've got a countryside like nobody else. I even saw somebody sunbathing with a jumper on. And you don't get much more British than that.

The amazing thing is: the ride is absolutely peaceful, and absolutely calm. Apart from the sporadic roar of the fire-thing (umm, I should probably have found out what that was called), and the occasional bark of a few dozen miniscule dogs, it is totally silent. You know how you look at a plane and it looks serene and focused - like a shooting star - and then you get on it and it's a hurtling mass of screaming, baby-spew-covered, furry-tongued horror? A hot-air balloon feels exactly the way it looks from the ground. As if it is simply hanging from a bloody large invisible string in the sky: not in a particular hurry to get anywhere, because the journey is far, far more important than the destination. If transport was The Young Ones, the plane would be Rick, and the hot-air-balloon would be Neil: ambling to the kitchen with a bandana round his head and no shoes on.

And I loved it. I loved it. When I was little, my favourite dream was that my bed could fly out of the window, and I could just lie there and look at the world beneath me. This evening was just like that: except with perhaps slightly fewer cushions, and I had to stand up (I was extremely lazy as a child, clearly). I guess some dreams you just don't grow out of. And tonight I felt five years old all over again. And as blissfully happy as I knew I would be.

So: thankyou, Adventure Balloons (http://www.adventureballoons.co.uk/). I shall try and make a film that does you justice. If you ever decide to branch into the flying-bed market, just let me know.

* Ahah: I made a bet with a friend that I couldn't get a Westlife lyric into my blog. Read it and weep, boyo.