Saturday, 8 April 2017

Friday 7th April 2017

First day of the cricket season.

Those of you will long memories may remember the morning we woke up to see three hot air balloons being made ready in the field behind the house. Not only was this exciting for us, as we could quickly get dressed and go out to take some shots, then see the balloons rise into the air and disappear over the hills on their way to France. It turned out this was a practice for a world record attempt trying to beat the number of balloons making a crossing of the Channel.

Sio, we waited. Month after month, year in year out, there was no news. Then, out of the blue last week there came news that planning was advanced, and the crossing was pencilled in for Sunday. And then got cancelled, pencilled in for Thursday, and then by Wednesday, it was put back to Friday.

On Thursday the signals coming from the organiser was more and more positive, until at about 6 in the evening, it was "all systems go". So, wanting to see them floating over the cliffs, we put the alarm on for quarter past five, and went to bed dreaming of balloon photographs.

I was awake at ten past five, wondering if we were blessed with clear skies, meaning good shots. I looked out of the window, so high cloud, but looked like it would clear. I went down to feed the cats and make coffee, checking on the event organiser's website just to confirm it was still on. It was,

In a last minute change of plan, I remember reading a comment from a friend that when the last attempt was made in 2011, he took a shot from the edge of Lydden Hill circuit, so I thought I would love to have a shot like that as the balloons are made ready to take off. I suggest a change of plan to Jools, she said we had time, so instead of the cliffs, we drove inland along the A2, turning off just as the dual carriageway started, and finding a place to park just outside the main entrance on the side of the road. All the way along, we thought we would either see balloons in the air, or at least the tops of some of them being inflated, as from the A2 it looked down onto the track. But we saw nothing.

I grabbed my camera bag, and we walked through the gate, and could see over the low wall; in the centre of the track, on the track, on baks beside the track, teams were making balloons ready. Wicker baskets rigged with gas burners were standing ready, and people were checking rigging. Beside each basket was a sturdy car, which also acted as an anchor for the balloon, as a sturdy rope was attached to each vehicle.

Ninety five We were not sure what to do, so we stood there for about 15 minutes, just watching the scene. A whole lot of nothing really was going on, we thought something would be happening. Down at the bottom of the slope, a balloon decked out with the name of the organiser had been inflated, and waited, the gas-filled envelope swaying in what breeze there was.

Dover harbour with added balloons After a while we walked onto the grass slope, looking as teams carried on their checks. But for the most part, preparations were done, and they just waited for the signal. I spoke to a couple of the teams, take off was expected at about six forty five, so we had half an hour. We could see a group of people in high vis tabards near to the race track control room, what could that mean?

Zero minus one hour What it meant was these were to be allocated to each of the teams with their balloon, with last minute instructions, and news when the balloon literally would go up. There was a shout, and they orange army spread out round the site. One by one, teams turned on big fans to blow air into the envelopes, and as time past, balloons began to rise from the ground. The next stage was to switch the burners on to heat up the air, and make the balloon lighter than air, thus floats.

Zero minus one hour And we were in the middle of it all. Around us fans roared, burner burned, and balloons inflated, wrinkled fabric filling out, until we could see underneath the balloons, seeing baskets now being uprighted. As the minutes ticked by, the baskets began to lift, held in place by tether lines. People, pilots and navigators climb in baskets, and all are looking for the first one to rise.

Zero minus one hour The one lifts off, and so starting on the eastern side, one by one, the balloons are left go, and rapidly rise into the sky. he recently risen sun shone golden light onto the scene making it seem even more magical.

Inflation The scene changed second by second, as the balloons left, meaning we could see further down the slope. Balloons of all shape and sizes could be seen, lifting up, and ones that lifted off first, already getting smaller. Some already seemed to be thousands of feet up already, and drifting south east.

Ladies and Gentleman we are floating in space All but a couple of stragglers were now in the air, and already the support teams had packed up, venting the remaining propane gas out of tanks, as they were now heading for the ferry terminal, and would not to carry such dangerous goods, I guess.

Ladies and Gentleman we are floating in space Into the blue Into the blue We walk back to the car, looking back we could see dozens of dots in the sky, each one a brightly coloured balloon, getting more distant as each moment passed. We were going to go home, as work beckoned, but then I had an idea, to go along Reach Road, maybe grabbing a shot of them over the Channel. We turned back along the A2 and the sight of the balloons filling one quarter of the sky was an incredible one.

Into the blue The view from the lay by before the castle was incredible, but all spaces were full, so the plan was then to go to the National Trust place, and despite it being full of people, we manage to find a place to park, quickly grabbing our cameras for more shots. We had partially caught up with them, but now they shrank into the distance, some much be nearing the French coast already.

From the cliffs After taking a few more shots, we go back to the car and drive back home, driving along Reach Road, where every viewing point and parking space was taken by people watching the balloons. We get home at quarter to eight, Jools had permission to go in late, and I have time to long on with my work computer, check mails and no one needed to know, other than when I tell everyone that we had seen 90 balloons take off that morning.

So it is back to the mundane; mails, meeting and phone calls.

From the cliffs For lunch, I say lunch it more like then in the morning, I fry up the cold mashed potato and cold sausage, and along with a brew made a mighty fine meal. Not healthy I grant you, but still nice.

As I am traveling on Sunday, I finish work at midday, or half past, make a brew and set about finishing chores in the garden. I have put up wire for the wisteria to climb up, attaching it with hooks and eyes, then stringing wire between them, then doing a bit of lockwiring and even turning the tails inside so not to be dangerous. I hope the plants will now climb up them and bloom well and provide us with a waterfall of flowers. Maybe in a couple of years.....

Jools comes home, we have coffee sitting in the shelter, looking out on our wonderful bit of England. Plants are growing, there are more insects and birds visiting already. So far since I came back from Denmark, I have seen a Speckled Wood, two Holly Blues, a Brimstone and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth. But only managed to get shots of the Speckled Wood.

As the sun sets on another glorious spring day, temperatures begin to drop. It seems wrong to shut the back door, but it is cold. On with the heating, and I begin to cook chorizo hash, as there is very little left in the fridge, but with some old potatoes, a couple of onions, peppers and two cheap sausages make a mighty fine dinner. Heck, we even have pink fizz too, toasting each other was the weekend starts in earnest.

During the evening there is TOTP, Monty the Don in the Garden and the grand final of the oddest quiz on TV, Only Connect.

So there we are; cracked it.

1 comment:

nztony said...

What a very very cool way to start your day, outstanding, but .... I know you said there were 90 balloons, but are you sure there weren't 99 Luftballons?