So there was I. Sitting, half-lying.
The weather was great. The sun was about to set. The wind had died down. Turbulence was nearly non-existent. Still enough light.

you know where
not the kind to get a rise
there, this... it's just a kind of dare

The previous evening had laid the groundwork. The insects had been romping around in my guts then, too. But I hadn't had much warning. She had just plunged me into it. Silly me. Should have seen it coming.
I'd had my fair share already, so I thought... Well, I didn't think actually. So it was unexpected when it did happen. Luckily I satisfied her. Which gave me a great feeling. Strange... or maybe not.

Now I was alone. Loving and dreading it simultaneously. In fact, I was scared shitless, but anticipating every moment of solitude I was going to get. Which, knowing the tamed down weather, was not going to last long.

Last long... Last long... The previous one had lasted long. A bit too long for inexperienced me. But I'd had support that time. Managed not to completely fuck up, either. Otherwise I wouldn't be facing the prospect of roughly seven minutes of solitude now.

I have a tendency to shiver uncontrollably in some situations. One of those is when my brother has a gig with his band, for some strange reason. The other I know about is when I'm about to kiss the girl I love for the first time. But that's a different first time, and a different node. Or non-node. That's none of your business...

Well, I found another instance of uncontrolled shivering while half-reclining there in northern France. And this was just not the time to start shivering...

I got hooked up
by my friend
not long before thumbs-up
roughly eight minutes till the end

And then, everything blurred with the concentration I forced upon myself. Not the time to fuck up. Not the time to think ahead to rough landing. Not the time, but for the checklist.

Yes, the checklist.

Sigh. Look outside to see the instructor kneeling next to the cockpit. Questioning look on the face.

"Small blue." I say. Single-seater is small blue. God, I'm going to go small blue for the first time! Suddenly I'm back at shivering again.

"OPEN!" I hear. Automatically I reach for the yellow knob and pull it all the way out.
Some noise, then, "CLOSE!". I release the knob and it springs back. Click... Hooked up.

I look around. Left, right, in front, up, and all around. All clear, I guess.
I look left to where the instructor is waiting.
    Bring my left hand up...

    left hand breaks the gesture as the tip of the left wing of the glider is picked up...
and grabs the yellow knob...

tunnel vision
focus on the coil, the slack of rope
that is my mission
soft landing, I hope

After a short moment I shift my attention to the beast parked about a mile away, straight ahead. Then, when I discern a flashing yellow light, back to the coil of rope lying in front.


Then, a jerk. And again nothing... Until, suddenly, with a second jerk, the coil of rope begins to shrink into the distance ahead. Shivering is impossible with white knuckles. But a heart that jumps into your throat is not so easily pushed back in place again. Especially if both your hands are otherwise occupied.

The coil is gone. The rope is taut. The glider nudges a bit forwards. "TAUT!", I hear the instructor yell.

The scene on the truck a mile away is familiar and I can see it in my minds eye. Someone at the controls, notices a shift from flashing headlights to continuous light. Slowly presses down the accelerator until the full power of the big V-8 engine is brought down on the spool wrapped with steel cabling. Steel cabling with a glider attached to the end of it...

Ok, so here goes... The glider starts to roll and when the instructor can't keep up, the wings are free. I'm free. But not quite. The glider rolls a bit farther on the ground, until speed has built up.

Then, I'm free. Pull, you have to pull! That's what my friends told me. Different glider, different behaviour. This one wants you to pull. So after I'm airborne I slowly and steadily bring back the stick. And feel the power of the V-8 hauling this glider up into the air.

Not much to see at this stage... The glider is pointing up at an angle of about 45 degrees, so the view ahead is of the heavens. Left and right I see the ground steadily dropping away. When I sense the altitude to be about 100 metres, I say "hundred metres" out loud. Nobody there to hear me, but protocol is protocol. And it is reassuring to do this like all the previous times I've done it.

Only, this is not like any of the previous times I've done it. This time, I'm alone! Solo! I'm solo...

Not much time yet to enjoy. Still have to finish the take-off.
The glider is at an altitude of about 300 meters, now. Not very satisfying, but that's what you get with tame weather.
I feel the decrease in pull from the V-8 and initiate the disengaging-procedure.

Now I'm free. Adjust the airspeed to about 90 kilometres an hour. Slow left turn, stick left and the tiniest bit back, left foot down, wait for the glider to roll to the left, then, stick back to left of neutral, left foot a bit up.

Satisfied with the new heading, so level out by pressing the stick right and pulling a bit back, right foot down, wait for the roll, then, just before the glider is level again, stick neutral, feet neutral.
Quick check of height. Damn. 250 metres. Time to go on circuit for landing...

That's another story.

North of France, spring 2000