Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A maiden drops in for a drink.....nearly

Time back way back, at the mouth of the river when the world was young, I did this for a while.....

I wasn't a pilot, ooh no, but I did crew for some wonderful friends of mine who I met at drama school.

A word about them: Kirk S. Thomas and Jacques W. Soukup....

Kirk was a very rich American man in his early thirties who was paying his own way through drama school. His partner Jacques was similarly paying his way through a course at the LSE so he could be with Kirk.

I first got chatting to Kirk in the bar of the Drayton Arms, a pub theatre our school used to put on productions and hold classes. I offered him a drink, as you do.... He was quite taken aback as I recall, as loads of other people were always trying to tap him for money; (the fact that he was wealthy was well known..). We became really good friends, and he helped me through some of the most difficult times I had at Webber D., all the time being completely respectful of me, my beliefs, and my heterosexuality.

Remember, this was the early eighties: homophobia was rife, no, it was the norm....

Bad old days......

Anyway, these guys were great: we hung out together, ate together at Frank's Caff. and boosted each other's non-existent morale after one of the faculties notoriously savage 'Note sessions' which could leave you feeling utterly eviscerated.... Webber was a tough school....

One weekend in the summer term, Kirk asked me if I was up to anything. 'Nope' was the reply.... Did I want to come ballooning at the Longleat Balloon Fiesta? I told him to consider the Catholicism of the Pope and Ursine toilet habits in woodland!

Thus it was I spent a most fabulous weekend crewing for Chici-Boom, their Cameron special shape balloon which was Carmen miranda's head with all the fruit as self supporting outwork. As I was heard to remark at the time, she was hardly camp at all.... :-)

Winds over Wales was the other ballon we took: a small three man gondola and the envelope was the Welsh flag.

Both looked fantastic.

I crewed for both balloons, learning the art of the inflation fan and the crown line (my favourite) in the process.

I also got to go up, first in Chici, then on Sunday in Winds over Wales.

You know, I could rabbit on all day about what fun it was, but a picture is worth a thousand words....

Trouble is, all the photos I took were on a borrowed Kodak Instamatic and are printed on paper. Next time I'm down home, where these things are archived, I'll dig them out and see if we can scan them onto the computer and upload on to blogger.

If so, stand by for some pictures of a much younger, slimmer John, (complete with very dodgy eighties hair), having the time of his life!!

Thankyou, Kirk and Jacques.

You were wonderful friends.


  1. Had a bit of a Google for your friends and came up with this: a Youtibe video interviewing Jacques in 2011. If I'm not mistaken, there are some shots of Chici-Boom in there!


    It was an amazing sight, wasn't it?

  2. Replies
    1. Amy! Thank you so much! That is brilliant!x

  3. Whatt a great post! The anecdote about your two friends and their Carmen Miranda balloon reminds me of my friend Chrisi Kincaid back in Pullman, WA. She runs relay marathons with a group of high spirited chicks who have a large blow-up doll blown up, wearing LARGE syn glasses and strapped to the roof of their team van! We are NEVER to old to have fun, eh??

    1. Jaq, at my funeral, they are going to ask 'What did he die of?'

      I am working on the answer being 'Far too much fun!'.