If you haven't guessed already, the hot air balloon took off from Bristol with us in it, at long last! Mind you, because of the wind direction the pilot had to switch launch sites, otherwise we would have ended up at Bristol airport. So having travelled to the original launch venue, all the passengers were taken in a mini van to another site, south of Bristol.
Once there, the crew managed to get the balloon inflated at the second attempt (gusts of wind having closed the mouth of the "envelope" first time round making it impossible to light the burners which heat up the air inside without setting the fabric on fire!)
Once airborne, the gusts of wind dropped to a gentle breeze as we drifted away from Bristol over the countryside to the Chew Valley, in the Mendip Hills AONB, Somerset.
Because of the launch site change and failed first attempt to inflate the balloon, we didn't get as long in the air as we would have in other circumstances. But it was lovely, floating over the farmland, watching the sheep and cattle below, spotting landmarks and waving back to people looking up....
....As the sun sank slowly in the west, the pilot started looking for a launch site. However, there are extensive areas of woodland in that area, the very large Chew Magna Lake and a lot of fields with crops in when pilots prefer not to land unless it's an emergency. He was also on the look out for a field with a gate next to a road so that the retrieve vehicle could get access to take the balloon, basket, pilot and passengers away at the end of the evening.
With the sun getting close to the horizon and not a lot of choice, the pilot headed for a relatively small triangular field, bounded by hedgerows and trees, with a VERY large tree in the middle and poles with wires along one edge. Hmmmmm - not an easy landing place!
However, with passengers braced in the landing position, the pilot deliberately skimmed the top of one tree in the hedgerow to slow us down then deflated the balloon quickly enough to get the basket safely on the ground and allow two passengers to jump out, catch the main rope and pull the balloon envelope away from the big tree and into the open field, where there was just enough space for it to deflate full length.
If you have ever read about pleasure hot air balloon flights, you will know that most companies celebrate a happy landing with champagne. What they might not tell you is that you have to do a bit of work first - getting the air out of the balloon envelope by sitting on it, then helping to roll it into a long sausage before winding it back into a large bag to be hauled back on to the retrieve vehicle.
It was almost dark as we drank our glass of fizz by torchlight before being given our certificates to say that we had flown, and driven back to the original launch site where everyone had parked their cars. And it was even later by the time we returned to son Jack's house where we were spending the night before traveling back to Oxford on Monday. However, we finally made it...at long last.
Not quite the mass ascent at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta which we had originally booked back in 2011, but wonderful anyway!
Some time in Bristol meant that we could also visit Steve's mum, spend some time with son Jack and do the almost obligatory trip to Ikea, this time to check some measurements before committing ourselves to splashing some cash.
Back to work for me yesterday, drafting a decision, followed by some hard labour in the garden today...anything to keep my mind off tomorrow which is Steve's next hospital assessment. X-ray first, then the agonizing wait to see the doctor, find out what's going on inside and consequently what the next three months or so holds in store.
Unusually for us, we sat down at lunchtime and drew up a list of all the things we want/need to do in the short and medium term. I do hope we have not been tempting fate....
...watch this space for news