Plenty of hot air as Vinny pushes the boat out for Valentine’s trip to remember

Instead of the usual Valentine’s reliables Vinny had another idea

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 06:00

A few minutes later, Captain Halton released a rush of propane into the emerald envelope overhead and the balloon began to climb skywards.

Just as Vinny was getting his bearings, and beginning to breathe a little easier, he was conscious of Captain Halton’s presence alongside.

“The gas burner heats the air and we rise, because that’s what hot air does. It’s very simple, really.”

Vinny felt Captain Halton was far too full of hot air and wished he’d return to the controls, but he continued fawning over Angie, who was fluttering her big brown eyes back at him – Angie had always been a sucker for a guy in uniform, even Dublin Bus standard issue.

Eventually, Captain Halton moved aft, to work his unctuous ways on unsuspecting others. It allowed Vinny and Angie to take in the sights below as they cruised serenely on the tail of a gentler westerly.

As they crossed the N2 just below Slane, Vinny spied a dirty grey cloud to the north. He thought little of it until the champagne corks were popped over Knowth, by which time the cloud was taking up far more of the skyline than he liked.

Balloon shook
As Captain Halton was warbling about being “suspended under a twilight canopy”, Vinny felt the balloon shake. So did everyone else.

Suddenly Halton’s happy half-hour was over. “What the blazes?” he said aloud. “The forecast was for clear skies. Where did that bugger appear from?”

Vinny jabbed a fat finger towards Dundalk. “From up there,” he pointed. “While you were busy smooching and serenading, that growler had us in his line of fire. What do we do now?” he barked.

Farrell Halton flinched. “We’ve too much hot air to descend just yet. We may have to ride out the storm.’

What happened next was grim. Within moments, the balloon was entangled in a fierce squall. The wicker basket was pummelled wildly and visibility fell. The pellets of rain turned to shrapnel-like hail and some passengers began screaming as they came under fire.

For what seemed like an age, but was probably no more than 10 minutes, the balloon was buffeted about in the tempest. Gradually, the pitching eased and the skies began to lighten.

Vinny was the first to unclip his safety belt, and pull himself to his feet. He peered through the wispy clouds and looked down. There was nothing but the bright blue briny below and he reckoned the next port of call was the Isle of Man.

“Hey Captain Birdseye, ” he called over to Farrell Halton. “I reckon you’ll be doing well to get us home in time for tea, after all.”

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Vinny’s Bismarck
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