Festival dinner: more posh than the Oscars

There’s only six sleeps to go until Canberra Festival. This year we’ll be ticking off two firsts. This will be the first time we’ve attended as non-locals and stay in the hotel with the other pilots and crew. And it’ll be the first time we fly without Custard since Gretta became a pilot.

In lieu of our own balloon we have two rigs to choose from depending on the weather and how we feel each morning. This means we’ll be doing the Cambo shuffle. Steve has perfected the art of dispersing his kit to the four ends of the earth and then bringing it all back again, just in time for whichever event he and Amanda are off to next. This year we’ll have to decide each day between flying the Quit balloon or the chariot, and then shuffling the trailers around to suit.

Ten years ago Gretta was a chariot passenger. This year, P1.

Eschewing the traditional wicker basket, I liken the chariot less to Ben Hur and more to a flying park bench. Albeit with seat belts. It takes a little getting used to but does feel more sturdy than a single person hopper which is pretty much held together by split pins. Having one of those pins left over after assembly can be a little disconcerting, especially if you find it in your pocket at 1000ft.

Which is why pilots use check lists. Some more than others. I’m a big fan of lists, both at home and work. I’ll even write a list of things I’ve already done just so I can cross them out. Luckily Gretta is partial to the odd list as well. Which explains why we have four packing lists for a mere ten-day trip. There’s a list of things to take for flying and another for casual and evening wear. One for the final night dinner and one of all the things we can’t get in Moree.  You’d think we were off to Mars.

Should be enough for the first few days.

Somewhere on the list I managed to slide in a request for ANZAC biscuits. A staple for the retrieve crew, i.e. me, the lack of flying this summer has resulted in a corresponding lack of baked goods. Gretta has gone above and beyond to rectify this by making five batches just this afternoon. Four would have done it, but she needed extra because of me pilfering the mix on my many trips past the kitchen.

With two balloons on tap and a boot full of biscuits, things are looking up for next weekend and day one of festival. We just need the weather to hold. If it’s anything like it was this morning in Moree then it will be a cracker. We have gotten so used to not flying this summer that the conditions today took us completely by surprise. It came as a rude shock to realise we don’t check the weather any more.  That will have to change because this Canberra Festival also heralds our first flying season away from home.