A very, very warm hello to you and thanks for visiting. We are still looking after the airworthiness of hot air balloons and lucky enough to be doing all sorts of exciting and interesting things. Although the year has started slowly it isn’t unexpected but despite that we have had some really nice visits that have turned into mini socials. One way or another we have had a few sadnesses including the loss of Dotty on 27th January after it was discovered she had cancer that had trollied her lungs, then we lost our friend Gary Submarine (aka Thorne), Paul Dolbs mum and then Harry the Swan's real pub dog. Not good. Dotty went downhill exceedingly fast and it came as a bit of a blow as she was my mate and went pretty much everywhere with me. She came from the Chiltern Dog Rescue aged six months and would have been 11 in February. She just enjoyed life to the full and was the most sociable dog and well loved by many especially in the pub! Despite that she was a great ratter and had a respectable number of kills, including pigeons and glis-glis, to her credit. I wasn’t going to get another for a while but after a couple of weeks I was deemed unbearable so we trotted off to the Border Collie Spot rescue centre in Binfield near Reading (just to see like) where I met Polly, a grubby, very smelly, dog reportedly 10 months old, but now reckoned to be about eight months, that had come from a farm in Wales. She has been with us for three weeks now and is really lovely. Considering she was not domesticated she has settled in like she’s been here forever. I have to say I am extremely fond of her and she likes rugby. Unlike Dotty she doesn’t mind her picture being taken but like Dots she’s very sociable and great with the kids and other dogs and isn’t in the slightest phased by balloons or burners and, very uncollie-like, doesn’t bark at everything. We did toy with other names for her but as she now recognises Polly it’ll have to do. Please take care when arriving in the yard as she isn’t too clever with cars and trailers yet but is getting the hang of it.
In the news is a rake of stuff EASA and CAA mixed with some lighter completely non-balloony stuff (as usual). We reckon the new CAA Skywise safety solution is really not brilliant by a long way. Having signed up for it I now find loads of unrelated stuff coming in and despite two requests so far on how you modify or cancel the wretched thing it seems that the CAA don’t know, or are inundated, with mails! The weather meant that we have little chance of flying so far as its been either too windy and wet or perfect winds but sodden ground. Thankfully its now drying out here and we even had the opportunity to inflate a couple of shapes on the extra day. It was a lovely day as it turned out and even Pete Bish managed to add the day to his ‘done that’s’ and as bonus Peter Dowlen’s Leap Year Meet managed a couple of flights in Wales including the day itself. Well done. We have a couple of little projects on the go, more when we are allowed to reveal all. We had hoped to have a bit about the new Ultramagic burner but despite a number of requests no information has been forthcoming from the Spanish factory so no idea if its any good. Likewise Lindstrands have not sent any updates about their impending return to the fray. Meanwhile, down in Bristol, Camerons website has announced the appointment of Jacob Vaillancourt as their new representative in Canada and a Maintenance Course to be run in April. More in the current news. There are a couple of articles to go up one about our visit to Hendon and finally the one about Lindstrand Hopper burners that we have been writing forever. These should be up in the next few days. I’m in the middle of doing a large pub sign for Ian the Butcher’s Man Cave which was going well until daughter Mary and I agreed the background was the wrong colour so that has set us back a bit. Thing is it is in honour of Gary Submarine and researching it as turned up some fascinating stuff which will make a good read later, I reckon. Oh, there are also a couple of sponsorship packages we have got wind off that may be of interest.
The dark barn is now sort of filling up with stuff as one would expect. Barry is giving some tlc to his Moto Guzzi California and I have set about a really neat 1948 BSA B31. We have plans to enter the Gentleman’s Bike Ride in September. This is a worldwide event in support of Prostate Cancer Research. It is a real hoot, the idea being that one dresses for the occasion over smartly and rides an older machine. Now there’s a challenge. The only cars left now are ARO, my original Standard 8 and a Standard Companion. Once Pete Brown moves his horsebox to Scotland we’ll get them out and they’ll go back on the road. I’ll probably flog the Companion eventually. It will also give us the opportunity to get the bike lift down from the loft! Had a bit of a whoops the other day when I managed to fill one of the Corsas with petrol rather than the recommended diesel. It made it up the farm and thanks to Farmer Jay’s lift it is now all drained out and sort of running again. The underside is well rusty so it will have to go. We now have a new Old and Rusty in Mr Gooch who rocked and rolled up in his 2CV and very awful it is. Dreadful though they are they do make one laugh out loud so all is fine. He took all round Ireland last year (without a fridge) and reckoned that it got more interest than landing his balloon in a convent and used about 4 gallons of anything that ignited in a flash. Well that’s covered most of it so thanks again for visiting please have a wander round and if you are passing give us a call and the kettle will be on. All the best from John, Jane, Polly and Chris.