You’re up in a hot air balloon

We took the train to Tullamore last night and set up camp in the yard around the castle (outside the castle itself, but still within the moat, a fact that became important the next morning. It was a cold night; I don’t have the right equipment; my tent kept me dry but not warm. And it was a noisy one: people were arriving all night so as to be ready in the morning. We had a picnic supper of bread and crackers and cheese, pasta and spicy turnip soup and peanuts and chocolate. Someone arrived in the middle of supper with a flat of strawberries (eight pints), and the smell of the strawberries was a lovely sauce.

This morning I woke up to strange hissing noises. Hot air balloons. I could see them through the trees. But getting there was a problem: there’s only one way out across the moat, so I had to go the long way around, then hop a fence to get to the field.

And then I watched about ten balloons launch.

The ones that say “G” are from England; the “EI”s (two that I recall) are Irish.

The grey and black one took forever to inflate. It required about six people fiddling with it and they had to get a different pump.

The proceedure is: you unroll your hot air balloon, then you use a blower to inflate it with air. There’s someone on a guywire at the top pulling it out. Once it’s mostly full, you turn on the burner to heat the air, until the basket tips upright. The guywire is tied off at the basket, people pile in, and the people serving as ballast let go. And they’re off.

I’ve made four friends this morning: the cat that followed me around when I first got up, then jumped, first chance up to purr on my shoulder and rub his cheek against mine; the man watching the hot air balloon launch who explained to me just what was going on; the big black dog who came over and slobbered on my computer as soon as I sat down; and the relative of a yellowjacket that came and perched on my keyboard whilst I was downloading pictures.

All day Saturday, we built a tree fort. It was great. Two lines strung between trees, (brought by Jeff, the lines, not the trees), covered in tarps (brought) and fastened with tape (brought), cable-ties (brought) and nails (found). The two ends were finished with wood gates and pallets (found), and we finished it with a floor (found), a table, and chairs (constructed from found things). Late in the game, we were loaned a gazebo to form our entryway.

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