GORDON URQUHART POSTCARD – The Basket of a Hot Air Balloon

From 3,000 feet up, high over the Hunter Valley, the view is gorgeous. Nancy said it was gorgeous. The pilot Marcel called things gorgeous too. He was French and his English wasn’t spot on, so when I suggested “magnifique” as an alternative he shook me by the hand and said, “Oui. C’est magnifique!” He kept using the phrase for the rest of our romantic dawn flight. I preferred stunning, I have to say. You can see wineries and horse studs and pretend that the suburbs on the outskirts of Newcastle at the very edge of the view really aren’t there at all. Rows of grape vines look like unusually dense clumps of dark green bush as you get higher and the fences on the horse paddocks seem to look neater as you get farther away.

We opened a bottle of Krug – that’s all they had in the Singleton Cellars, where we stopped off quickly for ballooning supplies, and found a deli where we could purchase baba ghanoush and tzatziki and roasted eggplant and sun dried tomatoes and beetroot chips and fresh, piping hot sourdough (Nancy was hurried, so there wasn’t time to overcater, as she usually does). The Krug tasted fresh and clean and the flavours matched the dips and bread beautifully. I took credit for the match, but it wasn’t planned. It was good fortune of a kind; the sort of good fortune you get when two people with a certain refinement find some food and drink options, however limited, and select the best of what is on offer. There’s no such thing as chance when you have taste.

They usually don’t allow drinking or eating in the balloon, but Marcel was content to turn a blind eye after some encouragement. He responded to my most convincing arguments about romance, and he also seemed rather persuaded when I explained the exchange rate of the Australian Dollar when compared with the Euro. He joined us in a glass of bubbly, too, and I think that helped to sway him.

It was our Wedding Anniversary, and it was a big one: our thirty-seventh anniversary to be precise. They’re all big ones, as far as we’re concerned. Some years we find ourselves in Paris or New York or Tokyo on our special day. We went on safari one year, and it was quite exciting when we were briefly under attack. An adolescent Mona monkey, one of the large family which hung around the resort hotel, thought Nancy was trying to steal his banana. She sought refuge in the bathroom of our suite. I saved Nancy by hitting the fellow with a rolled up copy of the Accra Daily Mail. Out in the jeep with Keith the guide we were perfectly safe though, and thoroughly enjoyed all our tours with him. Although we saw all the obvious sleek hunting animals, what we most enjoyed was watching elephants standing around, not doing much.

It was peaceful to be floating above the world. We wore scarves and jackets and thought of the weather as bracing rather than cold. We hugged and decided that it was the most romantic thing we’d done in ages.

It was also possible to have a good look at the Alfred Lyttleton Estate from up there. It’s a winery that a mate of mine is trying to sell, and I just might be interested.

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Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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