Every year we were in the habit of driving down into France camping as a family. This year, August 2010, I managed to convince Theresa that Laragne had a good camping place and that it would be a great place for us to have this years trip. I think the novelty of me actually thinking of somewhere to go, as normally I would not even know until hours after we started driving, lulled her into agreeing… but there you go – you live and learn.
My timing was not great, I had thought to travel also with others from the Southern Club but as the British Nationals were soon they chose then and not when i was there to go so it really was a family affair.
Its a beautiful part of France, really very, seen from the eyes of a pilot with only 30 hours – what did I know at all of what this place means really. I knew nothing.
John and Ozzie had arranged for me to be looked after a little by some others they knew, Clive, and I found that there were others there who over the time also helped me get up the hill and know what to do when I got there. I loved the relaxed feeling of community and the happy sharing of our time. It was great to watch other pilots and to see what they managed in the same air I almost fell through to the bottom field.
I found the flying to be an eye opener, even simply getting rigged and ready was new and strange. Each day I would take the navette up the hill and in a sense be alone among all the others. I would rig and make me ready, then wait and look at what others were doing and saying. Then when it felt ok, I’d clip in and have a go.
First flight was interesting. I saw a thermal scooping people up on the south side as did others, there was a queue to get off, so I followed others onto the ramp and just as I was about to run off some french blokes shouted to stop !!! as the wind had switched. I waited for 20 minutes and to see what happened but it was established now from the north. I was able to walk over and take off that way which was all fine. My plan then was to simply fly back to camping, which is what I did. That was the easiest flight of the whole time I was there.
Other landing were not so, err, deliberate, I in fact landed all over the french countryside, much to the amusment of Fergus. I was not aware really how normal this was or how good experience it was, I look back on it now feeling that I took on too much too early and was lucky to get away with it but at the same time I think it was fantastic as I saw what was possible, it was inspiring, hugely.
I think that the mix of flying and family was a good one, they were less happy but in the end it was lovely to be in france, really very. My flying meant that there were never many miles to travel to pick me up and the duration of my flights meant that there was always time to do family things. Yes, I think that things worked out really well.