A colourful hot air balloon hovered over the hotel buildings. Readers of yesterday’s post will not be surprised that I did not fancy myself in the gondola. They may, however, be surprised at the tale of Hugh Lowther’s microlite. I was. Sometime in the 1990s we stayed with Ali and Steve and James in one of Hugh’s cottages in Cumbria. Hugh, the husband of Jessica’s cousin Angie, was a microlite fanatic. A microlite is a very flimsy looking flying machine designed for two people. Hugh would study his route, fill up with fuel, and set off, like Baron Munchausen, in the direction of the moon, reappearing some hours later. He was quite keen that we should all have a trip. As I watched each member of the family in turn strap themselves in to their seat, tune in their walkie talkie radio, and glide into the firmament, I determined that no way was I going to do the same. Eventually, of course, I was the only person who hadn’t been up. So I had to. I didn’t want to be thought of as chicken. After all, I had seen, and smelt from a great distance the battery chicken farm in Lowther Castle. Lowther Castle had, many years before, lost its roof, as a not uncommon measure to avoid paying a roof tax; it had post-1960, been converted to the rearing of battery hens.
You will have to excuse that little diversion. I didn’t really want to be reminded of my turn in the air. Hugh’s flying machine, in which he did become a remarkable man, was of the type in which the passenger sits above and behind the pilot. There is therefore nothing above the victim but the propeller system. In my case, I didn’t even have the shoulder strap, because it wasn’t long enough for me and had to be secured around my waist. I still have difficulty believing I actually did this. Then came the surprise. Communicating with Hugh by means of the portable radio kit, I had the sense that this rather unusual man was in complete control of his element, which made me feel safe. It is still not an experience I would wish to repeat, but the only slightly queasy moment I remember was when he directed me to look down onto the miniature cattle below. Actually it was rather more than slight queasiness, but subsided somewhat once I refocussed on the top of my driver’s head.
Today I walked the length of the pier and spent some time watching surfers playing with the incoming waves. Several young men in tight wetsuits would stand waist-high in the sea waiting for a suitable wave to approach, set their board on it, sometimes, turning their backs, gliding along it; sometimes head-on, falling into it; always afterwards shaking themselves down like the dogs on the beach; then doing it all again.
After this I walked along the promenade as far as Middle Chine up which I walked, meeting Pip and his owner. Pip was a Chihuahua dog trotting beside a gentleman in a motorised buggie. As we stopped to chat I realised he had what I assumed to be a puppy, like Dobby, peering out of his handlebar basket. Further investigation revealed another inside his coat. Pip, it transpired, was the youngest. What I thought were babies, the man informed me, were Teacups. Teacup Chihuahuas, an even more minature breed.
From the top of the chine I walked down West Overcliff Drive, left along Cherry Tree Walk to the cliff top gravel path from which I descended by steps back to the shore, passing rows of closed up beach huts, back to and past the pier, after a while back-tracking to Harry Ramsden’s where we ate world-famous fish and chips followed by treacle and ginger sponge and custard for me and ice cream for Jackie.