Backwards can sometimes take you forwards..
Bless me father, for I have sinned… It has been at least five months since I last as much as looked at or touched a paraglider (in any capacity). Actually the only sin has been the really shit weather in the UK. I know I have mentioned it several times before but I just can’t help it! That never ending winter that teased you with one day where the temperature actually whimpered and crawled above 6 degrees before nose diving us back into yet another mini ice age. It has been the beyond inclement weather that has destroyed any hope of manual flight for the last five months, and I don’t think I was the only one who felt like crawling into a hole and not even considering coming out until spring, that was if springtime was ever to return again. Violins at the ready.
Let’s fast forward shall we, that all seems like a bad dream now and the landscape is abloom with a spectacle of colour and magnificent flora and fauna. The nights are lighter and outdoor playtime hours have been extended significantly. As I fall to my knees to give thanks. The weather has finally come good.
A couple of days ago, I had my first ‘tussle’ with the ground hog this year. I was like a fledgling sparrow, wrestling with the airflow. That is actually painting quite a poetic picture, the reality was that my ground handling could only be described as an off the scale, monumentally proportioned pile of shit. I was just thankful my only spectators were a couple of bemused buzzards soaring over the top of the nearby woodland. After a few attempts at launching the glider, I sighed and could only feel disappointed that I felt like I’d forgotten just about everything I’d learned last year. Not to be defeated, I had another go. Third time lucky perhaps? Along came a mighty gust of wind, which lifted me off my feet and threw me backwards. I actually did a backwards somersault, which was the only impressive thing about the third attempt because I’d never be able to do one of those without being attached to a nylon wing. It’s a good job I don’t mind taking the piss out of myself and even though I did smack my head on the floor as I was going over I found it all quite amusing. I eventually gave up because I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong and I didn’t want to teach myself any more bad habits by getting it right, the wrong way.
Fast-forward a few more days to today. I walked the dogs tonight and on my way back I noted that the evening conditions could be good for ground handling (wrestling with nylon). I plucked a bit of grass from the ground and threw it in the air to see which way the wind was blowing. With the ever present angel on one shoulder and devil on the other, respectively saying ‘get the glider out, it’s good for it’ and ‘nah, bollocks, there’s not enough wind… you’ve got that landing page to design… legs to shave… sky to stare at…’ I wandered back to the farm. By the time I got back I forced myself to get the glider out, march back across the fields and have a go.
What a difference a few days makes. I don’t know what happened in between, but today I completely sussed it out. I got the glider out, had a go and then when it wasn’t really working I sat down and worked out why. I looked around and saw that where I was, there was no consistent wind. But down the hill I saw the leaves on just one tree moving. I looked back towards the woods and the penny dropped. I moved launch position to where there was a gap in the trees and I worked out that the wind direction had moved to being a westerly as the sun was coming down allowing a stream of air to flow just in that one spot. I got that glider up straight away and I was ground flying it for two hours. There I was with the glider up in the air, such an amazing feeling to finally get it right, the right way. I was talking out loud to myself as usual, having colourful conversations… when someone plodded past up the bridal path on a horse. ‘Talking to herself, flying a huge kite, deranged.’ Yep, that’s me. Today is the first time in all the time I have been learning to paraglide that I have actually enjoyed ground handling. I might even push the boat out and say I loved it, because I was buzzing. I’ve never had a problem flying, once I get off the ground! I’m like a happy little songbird once I get up in the air. Last year I managed to soar for a few hours at a time at the height of summer, the thrill was mind-blowing and I just love the whole experience (apart from the ground bit). Ground handling, to me, is like wanting to teach art to kids but being told you have to have maths in your arsenal to qualify. My ground handling is the only thing standing in between me, and me getting my ‘no instructor required’ CP rating. I feel ecstatic after tonight and have fresh hope. Even though I only weigh 47kg, yes I bloody well can handle a bit of nylon and a few strings! I walked back with all my gear wearing my lucky helmet grinning from ear to ear. Not only have I got the coolest helmet on the planet, designed by my friend and amazing artist Craig Thomson, tonight’s practicing was a performance to be proud of, confidence restored… I’m chuffed to bits!
Check out Craig’s work https://craigart.jimdo.com He’s absolutely amazing, he can create anything. Got any mad ideas… get in touch with him…
Look out for more paragliding escapades as the season unfolds… I will not be beaten… We are all born to fly!
Love & Light
Captain Jayneway X