So I went and did day 2 of my paragliding course but this time I took the family with me. They were all very keen to come and see what I had been up to. I though that that would be OK. It would be nice to have some support and I was proud of what I had done and happy to share. But I had enough to think about so I charged my husband with the task of ensuring that the children were fed, watered and entertained for what could be a very long day sitting on a hillside watching their mum.
Paragliding is entirely dependent on the weather. That means that you have to ring at 8 o clock on the appointed day to see if the forecast is looking favourable. Assuming that all is well, then it’s all systems go. There’s just enough time to hop into the car and whizz up the A65 to Kirkby Stephen – which was fine when it was just me but slightly more challenging when it involved four children. They knew that we were hoping to go and had given some thought to packing a few things the day before. But when the chips are down my kids don’t really do fast. They change their minds about what they want to wear, argue over who is going to take which game for the car and which DVD to watch and always remember that they haven’t had a wee when I have already locked the house and set the alarm.
Anyway, despite their best endeavours, we managed to leave the house by 8.30 and then joined the throng of cars making their way towards the Lake District to enjoy the forecasted sunshine. After a slow meander we finally arrived and I met the rest of the group. Three of them were from my previous day and the others had a wider range of experience. I was the only girl.
Having checked the weather we headed for a hill which faced in to the forecasted wind and then to another one which faced the way the wind was actually blowing. The paragliders trudged our way up one side of the hill and my family settled themselves on the opposite side of the valley just near the windsock. I unpacked my wing, fastened my helmet and harness and waited. And waited. The light breeze got stronger and stronger and more and more gusty. It was a beautiful day with barely any clouds. You would think it was perfect unless you were about to launch yourself from a cliff attached to a bit of fabric and then you suddenly become aware of every breath of wind.
It became apparent that we wouldn’t be flying any time soon so I ran down the hill, back up the other side and joined my family for a picnic. It was lovely to be sitting in a field in the Dales with nothing to do and nowhere to go. But I had to go back to the centre for a lecture on lift, drag and the angle of attack and so we left my lot in charge of the kit. I was a bit worried. They had already been on the hill for a couple of hours and now they had to stay there for at least a couple more and couldn’t leave because of their kit guarding responsibilities. But I had no reason to be anxious. When I returned they had flown kites, found a surprisingly large haul of animal bones, played bat and ball and spotted a wide variety of mini beasts. There seemed to be plenty to do on the hill to keep them entertained.
And here was a lesson learned. I tend to suffer from an affliction that I inherited from my mum – the urge to go home before you have actually arrived. We go on a trip and I am always thinking about the next meal or avoiding the traffic or getting back before bedtime. And yet, with a few simple pleasures they were all entertained and completely content.
Finally, around 4.00 we got to fly and they were all there to watch. I could hear them cheering as I listened to the walkie talkie in my harness giving me instructions. Although this whole thing began as something that I needed to do on my own, it was wonderful to have their support. I felt proud of both myself and them. The time ticked on. I did another seven flights and when I was too tired to work out which line was which on my wing, I decided that my day was done. In the meantime, my husband had the children cooking sausages for their tea which the rest of us could smell on the thermals as we flew.
Tired and bruised from the harness banging my arms, I recruited my team to help me pack up my kit and we left the hill. We had had a fabulous day. I had achieved my ambition and the family had spent happy time in the great outdoors.
And now I have plenty of things to think about. Firstly, my future with paragliding. There is no doubt about it – I love it and although I have only done low level and relatively short flights, I know that if I were to take it further it would be something that I would adore. It is all I hoped for and so much more. But as ever, my practical side takes over. Out of six potential flying days I managed about seven hours. I had to be ready to go at 8.00am on six days to achieve this. I had to drive an hour and three quarters to get there and I need to fly for a minimum of ten days to achieve my Club Pilot qualification which would enable me to fly unaccompanied. This is unachievable without some major sacrifices from my whole family and I cannot ask or expect them to do it.
Then there is the importance of my family to me. The paragliding thing was something that I needed to do by myself and I learned things about myself that I didn’t know. But despite my huge sense of independence, I was delighted to have the interest, enthusiasm and support from my nearest and dearest. Whilst I wanted to do it by myself I loved having them with me.
And finally, the children. No electricity for a day and they were totally absorbed and entertained. I am lucky that they generally get along really well together and they rarely have big fights but I would not have believed that they would all be happy with almost nothing to do in a field all day. Perhaps that camping trip that everyone but me is dying to do isn’t that far off.