I’m struggling to write today – not for want of a topic but because I am so bloody sleepy. Literally, one 4am get up has completely scuppered me for about 3 days – you wouldn’t think I was in my mid twenties. I’m in the prime of my life for gods sake, how did I end up living like a petulant 90 year old? It’s concerning that I see far more similarities between myself and Molly that between myself and that of anyone under the age of 30. Gone is the party lifestyle (jokes – when did I ever actually have that?), gone is the youthful enthusiasm and sense of adventure (again, I don’t think I ever actually had either of those. I’m still waiting to grow into that kind of person) and gone is the ability to get up early and mot complain about my aching joints. Instead I ricochet from day to day just waiting for the point where I’m able to get into bed and go to sleep. Occasionally I will be motivated by the idea of doing some kind of craft project or the (very) fleeting urge to tidy the bathroom, but by the time I get home all drive has leaked out and I’m left collapsed on the couch making a slight whining sound like balloon with the air escaping.
I am wallowing now though, like a big sad slug and (as all good counselling teaches) that is just not on. Instead, I must embrace the positives and I am lucky enough to have plenty of those. Indeed, though it does not always feel like it, TMM and I are trying our best to fight against our natural proclivity to hibernate and instead embracing being action and spontaneous. Our National Trust Memberships (whilst not helping combat the pensioner image) have been getting us out of the house and all over the country with gay abandon. We’ve seen more manor houses and country estates than strictly necessary, but I’ve enjoyed every one and now have plenty of inspiration of how my mansion will look when I come into money. We’ve also tried to make sure that we’re picking up new positive habits – I’ve written “planked?” on the bathroom mirror in washi tape and TMM has new back exercises to help him limber up and stop slouching about like Quasimodo.
The jewel in our spontaneity crown has to be this weekend though. If you’d have asked us last Wednesday what we had planned, we wouldn’t have been able to say. By Thursday evening though, we had tickets for the International Bristol Balloon Fiesta and a travel lodge booked for the Saturday night. Now that might not seem like the world’s biggest achievement, but for those that know us it’s clear that that’s a pretty big step. Typically, anything we plan has to be at least 2 months in advance, must be seriously discussed at least twice, will go through countless plan revisions (which TMM will repeat to me at least twice a day, subtly rewording sections because he thinks that way I won’t notice that he’s just parroting) and then will end up not going according in any way or shape like how it was supposed to. It’s a rhythm we’ve come to embrace and have settled into rather despondently. However, thanks to Classic FM (I swear to God, it’s like we’re not even trying to deny we’re OAPs) and a rather hysterical WhatsApp exchange, the Balloon Fiesta sucked us in and we went from hearing about it to actually going in less than 3 days.
Now, this isn’t to say there wasn’t the usual amount of panic. Booking everything was mostly done whilst in a flustered haze and then we had to print EVERYTHING out and put it all in sensible plastic wallets. On the way there I was in charge of SatNav (which is always a challenging experience) and TMM had to practice his deep breathing exercises whilst we were driving through the centre of Clifton. Still, we made it in in one piece and had a preliminary wander around the area, which was distressingly lovely (seriously, I didn’t know how much I needed a veranda with a swing chair until I saw about 300 of them). We treated ourselves to tea in a fancy restaurant as well, where I learnt a valuable lesson about myself – the fact that I apparently have a chip on my shoulder about the size of Mexico when it comes to posh people. I mean, I was already a bit anxious about being in such a nice restaurant, regardless of the fact we were sat outside, in a corner, doing our best Lady and the Tramp impression. But then we were settled next to “Charlie” and “Freddie” who were there visiting their parents. They proceeded to pompously discuss “day trips to Lisbon”, how to correctly pronounce Laurence Llewelyn Bowen (with far more phlegm than was strictly necessarily apparently) and the “mostly unknown but truly artistic second album of Shakakhan”. TMM had to give me various warning looks to stop me scoffing in a distasteful northern fashion and making an idiot of myself. However, we didn’t let my grimy working class soapbox ruin tea or run away without paying (even though I tried to convince TMM we totally could and they’d never catch us alive), and we even managed to make it to bed for 11pm in preparation for our early start.
That was another new one (for me, not TMM who is the proverbial early bird) – the joy of a Sunday morning 4am start. It was a bit of a shock to the system I can tell you, but I am nothing if not adaptable. Whilst I complain heavily about mornings and the actions I am required to complete during them, I am actually pretty nifty once I’m out of bed. From the first alarm to getting out of the door, I was ready to go in 30 minutes (and at least half of that was lying in bed and girding my loins). By the time we were in the car though, I think we’d both gone from feeling a bit sick and shell-shocked to overexcited and mildly hysterical. TMM had a slight panic over the directions, but my soothing dulcet tones (and continually shouting of “OMG HOT AIR BALLOONS”) got him through and we were parked up and settled on our picnic blanket with an excellent view with time to spare.
If you look hard enough, you can actually see the madness in my eyes.
I can quite happily say though that the whole thing was most emphatically worth it. We were actually there before some of the balloons were, so we got to watch a couple of them turn up and be unfolded from their trailers. There’s something a bit odd about seeing so many huge balloons all spread out like damp tea towels, but we did enjoy all the tinkering with gas burners that went on (lots of ooh’s and ahh’s from the gently swelling crowd). There was one mildly concerning point (read – heart-stopping fear) when the little man on the tannoy announced that we were waiting for the discussion in the Balloonist’s Pavilion (which is my new favourite place name ever) regarding whether or not the flight would actually be going ahead. Whilst perhaps an obvious concern, I had not even factored on the notion that the whole thing was weather dependant. They had a rather hilarious set up reminiscent of the papal smoke signals – red smoke would indicate a no go, amber would mean a tethered lift and green would be Go Dog Go. Whilst I could appreciate the novelty of the situation, I did get a bit breathless and I think I may have left some nail marks on TMM’s arm whilst waiting for our signal, but thankfully it was a hearty green cloud and I didn’t have to worry about making a spectacle of myself by wailing loudly and throwing myself prostrate across a balloon corpse.
The actual even itself was truly magical – it did exactly what it said on the programme. I even got a bit emotional at one point, but I blame that on the classical music they were piping out and the fact I’m always a bit delicate after an early start. I do have to say though, the whole event most definitely reinforced my desperation to run away in a hot air balloon and become an aeronautical pirate. If Felix “Nadar” Tournachon, the first aerial photographer and inventor of crowd control barriers, could launch a balloon in 1863 that was so big that it could heft a two storey cottage under it (complete with a balcony, working lavatory and wine cellar), I’m pretty sure I can find a way of making a life for myself in the clouds in this day and age. I could travel the seven skies and see the world whilst stealing booty from passing planes. It think it would be an excellent way to survive.
There were a couple of balloonists on Sunday who I think lived by this kind of mind-set too. A couple of nutters who had decided that just strapping a garden chair with a seatbelt to the bottom of a balloon was a great idea had fun bobbing about up and down for a while, and the Royal Navy managed to show of by launching a para-glider and a couple of guys in parachutes all at once.
One of my personal favourites though was a blimp with an engine that was up pretty much before anyone else and proceeded to lap the field, crashing into other balloons with gay abandon and ricocheting between them quite unconcernedly.
I couldn’t help but hear the music from the Baron Bomburst’s blimp in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at this point.
Overall though, it was a spontaneous trip that was a complete success and I am immensely proud of us. With weddings, journeys to visit friends and possibly photography shoots (TMM is deadly serious about his new camera – it’s rather adorable) still to come, this is hopefully a positive sign that we will continue on our upward trajectory into functioning adulthood…Who knows!