Up Up and Away…


A young woman once asked me if I would like to ride in her beautiful balloon. I readily agreed only to discover it wasn’t a euphemism: she actually owned a hot air balloon. Only it wasn’t her’s, but her father’s, and she didn’t have a balloon-flying license. So began a journey of terror – and I speak as someone who took part in a night-time bombing raid over Berlin (albeit not during the war).

I should have realised that something was wrong when I drove her down to the airfield in my Triumph Spitfire and she stood up the whole way – and the roof wasn’t down.

It soon became apparent she had no control over the balloon & we soon found ourselves drifting over the Atlantic. I have nerves of steel, but even a war hero such as I was naturally unnerved by the situation, even moreso when we only narrowly missed Concorde. I could see a gaggle of nouveau-riche staring at us in bewilderment out of their portholes.

She remained unperturbed. In fact, she just giggled. I began to suspect she was a bit tiddly… particularly when she removed her bra, danced to a song only she could hear in her head, and then tried to dive headfirst into the sea. I grabbed onto her, nearly over-balancing the basket. She fell over, kneeing me in the veg. Accidentally? Who can tell..?

At this point a passing seagull pecked a bloody great hole in the balloon. We plummeted towards the inky blackness of the Atlantic. Fortunately, we landed on the deck of a passing Portugese trawler. Not so fortunate for the grizzled fisherman we flattened as he stood on the deck, peering through binoculars for passing anchovies.

We didn’t make landfall for 3 weeks. I rather enjoyed being away from the hubbub. I wrote five novels, and I always could carry off chunky knitwear. The girl married the skipper and they are now billionaire owners of an anchovy empire. I arrived home with a splendidly weather-beaten tan and became the face of St Bruno for a lucrative stint.

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