Not Air Balloon
I’m a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of girl. Scratch that. I’m a shout-it-in-your-face kind of girl. So when my husband announced he’d booked a perfect surprise for my birthday, I thought well, he knows me better than anyone, it’s probably some kind of plant based adventure. When I say adventure, I mean something spectacular of view. I am not keen on the wild antics some humans get up to - skydiving, bungee jumping, white water rafting. I like to get to the end of the day intact.
You can imagine my dismay when he left on the printer, a receipt for two lucky idiots to ride in a hot air balloon, for the ridiculous price of £270. The date? My birthday.
I immediately texted my friend, in capital letters for emphasis:
MY HUSBAND DOES NOT KNOW ME AT ALL.
I was devo. I mean, he himself had told me of a time he’d been in one that crashed. I don’t like heights, I like vegan restaurants, country walks, handstands and sunsets! Have I not made this clear, loudly, daily?
I wasn’t sure if I should tell Gaz that I found his stupid receipt and I now knew what the surprise was, but I didn’t much fancy pretending I hadn’t seen it and pretending I was excited about the surprise that now was not a surprise and was not fun. So I told him. He could tell from my poker face that I thought his present was not on brand.
‘But you’ve always said you wished you could join me in the skies,’ he said. For these are his legs:
What I meant was I wish I had the balls to join him in the sky, but I do not, so I won’t. This, Gaz thought, was a great way for me to experience the exhilaration of his flights, but with the safety of a basket to sit in. If the man’s going to spend £270 on my birthday, I wish when I’d said ‘I wish I could join you in the skies’ what I’d actually said was ‘I love dresses’.
‘It cost a lot of money and I know you will enjoy it so just try and be excited,’ he lamented. I tried my absolute best to feign excitement. A friend of ours has a toddler so tough that when she broke her leg she walked around on the broken bone announcing: ‘I’m a brave girl!’ I tried to channel that two year old. I’m a brave girl, I’m brave like my grandmother, who flew spitfires in the war with no more than a compass to navigate safe travel, not a coward like my grandmother’s granddaughter, who only flies in planes to get to hot countries for a sun tan and for all her bravado is too chicken to sit in a basket in the sky. I’m sorry Grandma.
I can do this. I’ll probably survive. And the photos will look good on Instagram, so there’s that.
The dreaded birthday arrived. We set off, fear sinking in. I went quiet, trying to psyche myself up for the thing I was terrified to do. At least if I died on my birthday it would be a nice round number.
Eventually, he pulled into a country lane and gave me an envelope to open. We’ve only just discovered TV show People Just Do Nothing, so this card, personalised by my Photoshop whiz of a life partner who doesn’t know me at all, was on point.
Inside, after classic ‘happy birthday’ sentiments, my eyes froze on the next sentence. Quick bit of admin… there is no hot air balloon ride. I know you better than to book you a trip to the sky!
It was all a ruse! A distraction to throw me off the true scent, which was a weekend in a Canopy and Stars log cabin in the woods, with views of a setting sun over Bath, an extremely friendly cat called Jimmy, a bottle of gin and all the yummy food he could think to pack. So me!
After ten years I was seriously questioning my marriage but he knows me so well he knew his elaborate hoax to ‘plant’ the Photoshopped hot air balloon receipt (never trust a man who knows how to use Photoshop) somewhere I’d see it, would work. It’s clever, because I’ve never been more grateful to see a log cabin. It was twice as good for knowing it was not a hot air balloon. Although Gaz says the fact I was going to give it a go is good enough so, fear faced. It took an hour of gin for my brain to relax and stop the fear hormone running through my confused little body.
We went to Beyond the Kale, my favourite cafe in Bath, for breakfast. Then Nourish, my favourite restaurant in Bath, for dinner. We met up with some of my best mates to see one of my favourite comedians, Tim Key, and the next day, had lunch with my family. Right up my street. Normal marital services resumed.
Oh, and thanks to being married to a bloody legend who takes pretty photos, I still got great pics for the ‘gram.