THE REAL MCCOY

I’ve been at it again – hurling myself off cliff tops in pursuit of my dream to fly like a bird. This time it was a pretty big hill – Mount Lachat in the French Alps and 2100 metres above sea level.

Regular readers of my blog may remember how I spent two days in the Yorkshire Dales last summer learning how to paraglide. And I was relatively successful. I flew solo, achieved short flights and got about 100 feet up. However, because of the logistical issues, not least the unpredictability of the English weather, I had resigned myself to this diluted version of the sport being as good as it was going to get for me.

Then I went skiing. As I stood on our balcony looking out at the view, I could see the familiar, crescent shaped wings floating in the middle distance. As luck should have it, our host was himself a keen pilot and he arranged for me to have a tandem flight with a friend of his who was both highly experienced and pretty handsome. Excellent!

The agreed time approached and I was excited. No nerves. It’s hard to explain. I am by no means an adrenalin junky. I am not interested in bungee or parachute jumps or even off road cycling. I just want to fly and to me it seems the most natural thing in the world. So as I stood on the mountain waiting for the wind to drop my heart rate barely increased.

And then wind was right and we stepped off the cliff face. Almost at once a thermal swept us up higher and higher. We did a quick flyby so my friends could take a photo and then we were off. I was about 500 metres above the peaks and we sustained our height for about 20 minutes before my pilot brought us gently to the ground on a field in the valley.

So now, with the help of my French friend, I have achieved what I have no hope of doing in England. I have flown higher than the birds and experienced what I dream about night after night. So where next? I had spoken to the club in England about picking up where I left off this summer but I wonder whether that might not be enough now that I have tasted the real McCoy. It might be like scuba diving in a gravel pit when you have experienced the Indian ocean. But then I think that maybe any form of flying, no matter how meagre is better than no flying at all. And who knows? Maybe one day I too will get to qualify and fly the Alps by myself.

What do you think? I'd love to know...