First - confusion. Malcolm kindly gives me a lift up to the car park. As more pilots arrive, the dithering grows stronger: Golden Ball or Milk Hill White Horse? Wind says Horse, direction says Ball - where Lee's already doing tandems. Malcolm and Frazer make up their minds and set off west; I follow Hugh, Kirsty, Roger and Xiaoting to the east. I'm in good company either way. Soon some expert northerners arrive too, including Richard Carter and Helen Gant.
Apprehension. By the time our wings are out, it's windy. Hugh climbs quickly on the tandem, followed by Xiaoting, Roger and Gary Puhl, but even the big cheeses are going further and further down the hill to launch. Looks sporty in the air, too. I take Steve Newcombe's place once he's gone, then realise I'm directly upwind of the big bush, though a long way below it. Beside me a northerer with a skinny blue UP wing has to run smartly up the slope as a gust grabs it.
Commitment. A lull comes, and the northerner gets off. It seems to be lasting. I bring the wing up; my legs fly inelegantly akimbo as I'm picked up, but I turn round and it's done. But now what? A few beats, and I'm climbing. So's the blue UP, but he pushes forward. I'm still low, but I seem to be going up all around the 360, so I stay with it.
Satisfaction. I've chosen right. I climb steadily to well over four thousand feet. On glide I see no sign of the earlier gaggle. But Steve comes to join me, and we take our second climb together. Then he takes a more easterly line. My Oudie is now saying it's SSW, not SSE, so I feel the need to keep pushing west a bit to avoid Brize Norton and Fairford.
Pleasure. West of Swindon lift is plentiful. Steve joins me again for a bit. A light aircraft flies across us - not too close to Steve, I think. Frazer Wilson and Paul Jiggins catch me up, but are well below - I decide not to wait for them, as it's going so well. I'm on course to fly between the Kemble and Fairford ATZs, and won't have to crosswind much for my goal just beyond Cirencester. A gull shows me a climb before South Cerney lakes - I've never flown across them before, but it's easy today. My glide to Cirencester is buoyant.
Disappointment. Now that I've made goal and passed the ATZs (and even stayed out of South Cerney drop zone, just for practice, even though it's not being used today), I can head directly downwind. I zoom out my Oudie - it all looks clear. But the next clouds are far off and look as if they're decaying. My glide is bad, and I'm over the Cotswolds - the ground rises up to meet me, and I land at 750 feet. At that height in some parts of southern England I'd still be optimistic about a low save! But here fields in crop, power lines and farm buildings mean I won't push it.
Acceptance. I'm down in a beautiful strip of set-aside, full of an extraordinary variety of wild flowers, being enjoyed by all sorts of fluttering and buzzing insects. I pack up by a crossroads. There's about one car every ten minutes, but a Yorkshireman exploring the Cotswolds takes me to North Cerney. There's a bus to Cirencester in five minutes! It turns out to be going on to Swindon. Frazer just fails to catch it at Cirencester, but Steve gets on at South Cerney, and buys me coffee and cake at Swindon station before waiting for a lift home from Xiaoting. With no vehicle at the hill, I can take the X5 all the way to Pewsey, where the Chinook taking chalk to freshen up Milk Hill White Horse flies over my garden.
Wistfulness. Hugh has broken our flight-to-goal tandem record, but my name's still on the open distance one!