The Pig Yard

July 08 - This proved to be a busy month with a celebration for Jane and our first balloon flight this year. We were also preparing for our trip to San Francisco to be part of Clive's (Steve's brother) wedding. Originally we were going to travel out just for the wedding but we decided that if we were going to go then we needed to make a holiday of it.

The first weekend of the month Jane had an invite to a surprise Sunday lunch for her friend Maria's birthday. The venue was the Harlestone Golf Club restaurant, somewhere she had never been to before, well that is not exactly correct, Steve had landed on the golf course one evening but she never saw the interior of the club rooms.

A very pleasant lunch was had by all, it was not particularly a special birthday (44) but I think her boyfriend wanted to thank Maria for helping him through a very difficult time. He paid for all the meals , ten in all, as well as drinks, a very generous and enjoyable surprise.

Village life doesn't get more rural than this. Mr Dickens who has farmed in the village probably forever has a collection of traction engines and will go to local shows with his pride and joy, in this case a steam roller.

It seems he has been passing on his driving skills to a younger man and we assume one needs a special driving license to take one of these massive machines on the road. It will be interesting to know what the insurance might cost on this slow moving but very heavy vehicle.

If it ever failed to stop and hit something or maybe even roll over it then it isn't difficult to imagine who would come off worse.

Our first flight and one long awaited with some trepidation. Our last flight was in September 2007 and we had, no doubt, missed some flyable slots but it seems the weekends this year the weather has delivered a series of tight lows which bring in high winds and/or rain.

We took off in the early evening from Kislingbury playing fields alongside Colin who also hadn't flown this year. On the prevailing westerly wind we floated towards Northampton and crossed the centre of the town. Luckily we had sufficient speed, about ten knots, to clear town and make our landing in some very long grass near to Ecton.

Despite a lack of practice, the crew - Jane and Val were with us very quickly and although the grass was extremely high we managed to get packed up and away before it got dark. So it was back to the refuelling before Colin and his crew arrived because they made the decision to stop off in a pub on the return journey.

Next month we need to be ready for the Northampton Balloon Festival (15, 16, & 17 August).

And so to San Francisco. Steve's brother Clive was getting married and we had a debate as to whether it was worthwhile travelling 5,300 miles for what would be a matter of hours but family ties overcame logic and so we decided to make a bit of a holiday of it.

Travelling abroad has lost a lot of its excitement because of the airport experience, however the start of our journey wasn't too bad. We travelled down very early in the morning and arrived at Heathrow 3 hours ahead of our flight. The check-in was virtually empty, security was a walk through (minus shoes of course) and sitting in departures is just boring unless you have a good book to read which thankfully we did have.

So, stuck in a tin can (747) for ten and a half hours with the video projected onto a screen in the far distance - this was so twentieth century. Whatever happened to the screens in the back of the seat in front and the choice of what film to watch. For more on our California holiday click here...