The Pig Yard

April - with last month having a few warm, bright days it lulls us into a false sense that Spring is here and the warmer weather approaches, however April soon dispelled any optimism we may have had. It's been cool to say the least particularly in the evenings since we decided to turn the central heating off and just light the log burner when we thought there might be a chill in the air - this has happened more often than not.

We've kept ourselves busy finishing off odd bits of decorating, gardening and generally getting out and about but no flying at all this month - more on that later. Jane has changed her work hours so that she now has Thursday and Friday off which will be great if we want to steal a long weekend away for any reason - provided Steve can get a Friday off work.

If only we'd got to inflate the balloon...

We did our first crew under the new regime of Mike Gabb flying. As it was it wasn't a proper crew because although we got up at 'sparrows fart' it was obvious the moment we looked out at the misty morning this was not going to be a flyer. We met the punters and learned the new way of doing things, following Mike's instructions to the letter. We even got the envelope out of the bag - not difficult when you leave it on the back of the trailer and just drive down the field with the material unfolding behind you. Having sent the punters home because of the fog that was still not clearing, we were left with the unenviable task of the three of us putting it all back in the bag.

So what did we learn from the exercise? Well Mike is a nice chap but he takes a lot longer to get ready than we've ever experienced before. A full lift off takes about 30 minutes longer than we usually do and if the packing away is equally slow, and we're lead to believe it is, then this is going to add at least another hour to the whole event - time is precious. Still if we don't enjoy it we don't have to do it.

Our own balloon experience is becoming a bureaucratic nightmare. Steve's at long last entered the balloon for the Northampton Festival, so let's hope we're not too late with our entry. The insurance has been reviewed under new European rules that mean the level of insurance is calculated on the mass of the aircraft at the point of take off. Let's face it, a balloon is weightless when it takes off otherwise it would stay on the ground so this is just another stupid piece of European legislation that is going to make the insurance companies more money. How can insurance risk be based on the weight of something? As you can tell we're spitting feathers about this one because it's going to cost us another £213. We've also got to renew the balloon's Certificate of Airworthiness and now that Tony is in Scotland we've the added inconvenience of trailing it down to Aylesbury for Chris Dunkley to give it the once-over.

We went to see Hitch at the cinema for a bit of light entertainment and it met our expectations. Will Smith is a very good comedian and although it's a simple plot it kept us engaged and laughing. At the time Steve was experiencing horrendous stress at work, this stopped him from going over the edge and he was very close.

We're not sure why we went to see Miss Congeniality 2, particularly when we didn't see the first one. It was probably because Martin has a "thing" about Sandra Bullock and he and Kate were going so we though why not?

It was extremely light weight but good fun.

It's unusual for us to be found in a public house (bar to the non British reader) but we made a trip with Sue and Graham to the Malt Shovel in Northampton to see Guy Tortora play his style of blues. Dave & Lucie had raved about him last time he was in this country and we got a copy of his CD which was excellent so we were determined to see him the next time he came.

It was a very memorable night. His bottle-neck guitar is brilliant and we've never seen anyone play the strings above the bottle-neck. We just had to buy his latest CD and Sue & Graham also made sure Dave & Lucie got a copy of the CD to send out to them in Australia. A reminder of good times that Dave has had in the Malt Shovel drinking Frog Island Beer.

Thank goodness Jane had the foresight to book a weekend away in Stratford to see one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Gunpowder plays. These are a series of plays written around the time of Shakespeare by other playwrights.

We stayed at the Meridian, our usual B&B, where we are greeted like old friends and made to feel very much at home - recommend it to anyone who wants a comfortable stay in Stratford. Steve wasn't aware that not only was it St George's Day it was also the celebration of Shakespeare's birth so the town was very busy. We still found somewhere to sit outside and have a cup of coffee by the riverside - OK it wasn't that warm but we enjoyed it all the same.

We enjoyed the weekend and came back more relaxed and with a better perspective on the work/life balance. Steve looks forward to retirement when life can become one long weekend but no point in wishing your life away - it's going fast enough as it is.

"A New Way to Please You" was modern dress but otherwise it was true to the text. A story of a Prince who legislates that all men over 80 and women over 60 must be killed because they've reached the end of their usefulness. Jane thought that with only five years to go this was a bit harsh, Steve doesn't believe he'll live to eighty so no worries for him.

The young off-spring are only too ready to despatch their parents so they can inherit their wealth, all that is but one who values the wisdom of his father and wishes to save his life. This was a black comedy with a moral ending where the despicable "young guns" get their comeuppance. The older members of the audience, and we include ourselves in this, were visibly relieved to see the eventual outcome.