A great turnout at the Dalwhinnie hill. A genuine 5 star day, nonetheless, the climb out was tricky and downwind was the Cairngorm wilderness, all the way to Braemar. Great flights were had by all including an effort, from Tony, with a slightly more northerly launch, from the south side of Loch Ness.
AND TOTALLY UNRELATED.
Addiction and Bastards.
Earlier this year, a mate declared the he had been given "the" ultimatum by his wife. Paragliding or her, one or t'other. What a flight he had that day. He is having the season of his life.
It puts me in mind of a conversation I oft-times repeated with Bren about the nature of our attachment to the sport. I usually summed up my feelings by lamenting " if only I had taken to cocaine".
I have been flying for around 17 years and have suffered a fairly extended Scottish XC apprenticeship. In a country where often, on the day, there is only one chance to climb out, it can be a fairly frustrating sport. The most miserable days of my life have been spent paragliding, whether it be at the bottom of the hill having bombed, just before the "climb-out thermal" arrives or directly over the back having failed to find a second thermal. Always soaked in sweat, leg weary and totally and utterly desolate at the sight of paragliders at cloud base overhead, mocking me with demonstrations of the potential for the day.
I can't count the number of days spent feeling totally bereft. Days where pilots have PB'd and broken national records and I have only managed to flop at a couple kilometres. You might well ask, why don't you stop?
Well the flip side is that I have never had a season without at least one flight that made me grin like a Cheshire cat, for weeks on end. It seems that for me, the high doesn't need to be particularly frequent or lengthy, for the addiction to be as ferocious as ever.
One thing worth remembering is, that while you are euphoric at the end of a great days flying, there is every chance that on launch you were chatting, in heady anticipation, to a fellow pilot who is now deep in depression, in the midst of the worst day of his life.
My advice to friends who enquire about starting in the sport is as follows: - Only if you enjoy strenuous physical exercise, only if you are prepared to suffer lots of frustration in the process of learning the skill and only if you are prepared to wave your marriage goodbye.
For those who have made the "mistake" of advancing past a "Taster weekend". All is now lost, you may as well embrace it. Cuddle the tiger as it attempts to devour you.
There are three stages in the life of a freeflier.
Larval - In a stable relationship, little interest in meteorology, holidaying based on the needs of your significant other. You will also have a wide group of friends who share your interests and pastimes.
Pupal - Tanned not to say weather-beaten, ever skyward gaze, holidaying based on a complex calculation: - (Flying potential abroad / Significant Other's mood) - Flying potential at home.
At this point you will also be out of favour at work or indeed out work or at the very least, questioning your choice of career. Yes you should have been a postman.
On the eve of 5 star days you will be in knots, thinking of how to tell your significant other that the day you planned to spend with her was now such a distant 2nd place on your priorities list, that it was indeed, no longer on the list.
All of this will be true for you and yes you will still be experiencing some of the the most miserable days of your life, in a field attached to a plastic sheet by dental floss while gossamer winged gods float overhead at cloud-base.
XC hound - Very similar to pupal, but enjoying a better ratio of successful XC flights to life sapping sweat-festivals / bomb outs. You will now be either divorced or struggling in a successful marriage. You will have no concept of life without a wing. You will have developed a large circle of like minded brothers. Be assured, each and every one of them is cuddling a tiger, just like you are.
It is such a selfish sport, but don't think for a minute, when you are having your worst day ever, that the skygods in goal aren't thinking of you. At the very least they will be thanking god that they are not with you. The Bastards that they are.