EEC 12, 12th April 2005

The date at the top of these emails, on the line above, is not reliable. I type it in when I start the email, it's the date I think I will get around
to sending out the email. Sometimes it's earlier, sometimes it's later. My last email, EEC 11, was also dated the 12th but I sent it on the 8th. Seems I'm getting in front of myself. Time for some rest.

Actually I think I've been doing that. Resting. Don't seem to have done much at all. I've explored garage plans on the web without much success. I phoned Claude Peres who lives nearby, and organises the balloon meet in Mirande (14th July for 7 days) and arranged to meet Friday. So Friday afternoon found me at Auch airfield, pleasantly wasting more time chatting to Claude. He's been flying balloons almost for ever. Nearly as long as me. Although that's quite a few years, for me 33 years now, don't think I'm that old a pilot, Don Piccard, on my list for these emails, has been flying balloons around 25 years longer. But of course he's way older than me. Way older...... There are others too, on my list, longer time than me. Simon, Tom, Brent. There would have been Arno too, if he hadn't, probably by mistake (?), asked to be taken off my list. Anyway Claude is sending me an invitation for the Mirande meet. Course, I'm a cheapie. Since I will be living there he saves the cost of a hotel.

After parking up in a spot I found 3 years ago I started off in the direction of Toulouse hoping to call back at Michel Lafourcade's house. A
couple of items of mail I need have been sent to me there - a couple of renewed credit cards, and my authority to show I am entitled to the French health service. Daniel Bron has just sent me an architecture design program to Michel's address so I can get to work planning my garage. Actually I already have this exact same program but I have no idea in which box I have put it or in what barn That's why I need a house, so I can arrange my stuff. (Maybe it would be cheaper just to buy new stuff when I need it, rather than spend 80,000 on a house?)

I spoke to Maitie. Michel, and Maitie of course, are away the weekend for a "stage" (a lesson) in building balloons organised by Arnaud Deramecort. They are in the teaching team, Michel is a builder of big balloons, millions of cubic feet volume, but flies a minute Cloudhopper, and the "stage" this weekend is to construct the envelope for a Cloudhopper size balloon. Maitie is an expert seamstress. The interest in home building in France can be measured by the fact that there are 30 people on the course.

This travel account is descending into a blog. Sometime, no doubt, travel info and photos will start again, but meanwhile, if you want out, you only have to tell me and I'll take you off the list.

Paula Dileberto, who rescued Little Cat in Elephant Butte, New Mexico, told me you can buy frozen duck some places in the USA. Yeah, great. Here is a photo of a duck counter in a supermarket here in the Gers, France. All the items in the photo are duck in one form or another.

Actually I got into trouble for taking this photo. A man rushed after me and told me photos were forbidden! I told him why I was taking the photo, he seemed satisfied. Later I parked up in an official free site for camping cars, next to a lake, about half a dozen other campers squeezed in alongside me.

Next day I just messed around. It was cold, I got up late, wandered around the local market, bought more oysters - they were delicious by the way - I found a good internet connection and downloaded lots of stuff. I need to start transferring files onto CD's, I have only 4% free space on my hard disk, that is not enough. I suppose I could start with the 1.5 Gb of my music MP3's, all copied from my own CD's that I left at Daniel's.

Oh, I did manage to send my sister Helen a photo of "her" bedroom. You know how they do it on the TV programmes. Well, here is the "before" picture, I seem to have mislaid the "after" version..........I'll get around to it..............

I worked on the design for my new garage. There will be 2 doors, each 2.4m wide, it will be 5.5m deep, there will be a 2m wide area to the left of the doors to allow for a workshop. Total area inside 37.74m2. The type of building bricks I will be using measure 50 cms long x 20 cms x 20 cms, I need 552. I hope you have convert.exe available. Otherwise take 1m2=10 ft2 and 1m = 3 1/3 ft.

I stopped the night in a little town outside Toulouse, in a another small car park designated for the use of camping cars. It was fine until 6 am when dozens of cars started pulling into the car park. I opened one eye and noticed the car drivers were all getting into a coach. My guess is they all work at Airbus Industries. Well after they had gone trucks kept passing by. I realised I was on the heavy vehicle bypass for the town centre. No more sleep this morning.

I had a look around Toulouse and arrived and Michel and Maite Lafourcade's. Next day while both were at work I fixed my computer, sort of, ran some clothes through Maite's washer, and tried to get a start on planning the garage. Daniel's CD's had not arrived but Michel has
the similar program, I couldn't get to understand it. Daniel's CD's arrived later in the post, I realised they are a slightly different program. I've uninstalled Michel's version, I shall have a go at Daniel's next. Maybe, just maybe, it will be easier to get to grips with.

Turns out Daniel's version, it arrived the next day, had an instructional multimedia program with it. It helped a bit and I made some progress although not as much progress as I planned. When they got back from work the next day, I was still there. We went to hear a meteo lecture by a high flying long distance record breaking lady glider pilot. I didn't understand much of the talk but the photos were interesting. I did understand she had made one glider flight France to Morocco, about 1,500 Km, at an average 140 Km/hr, about 100 mph. Impressive. The restaurant we went to after, specialising in fish, was superb. I had a Tahiti salad to start then moules mariniere with pommes frites (French fries - try a google search on babelfish) to finish. Wonderful.

I worked more on the plans for my garage and finally got it more or less right. So I left. Both Maitie and Michel were at work so I escaped seeing their signs of relief. Here is the ground plan.

Maybe this will give a better idea....

I phoned Jean Massip, a friend, balloon pilot, and most important just now, an architect. He will check through my plans, I faxed them to him. I called in at building supplier, looked at garage doors, phoned my estate agent, he should have called me, I arranged the transfer of some funds to buy the house, and talked to Stephanie Chabbert, she and Nicolas live 6 miles away from my new house and we have yet to meet. Or rather, meet again. I had forgotten, but when I was flying with Leo Burman at Albuquerque in 2003, Nicolas was in the basket too. He's a pilot, has a balloon, and, more importantly almost, has done a lot of rebuilding on his house, so may be able to point me towards some good artisans, builders or carpenters.

I'm parked at another spot I found some years ago, another lovely view over a valley, with beautiful rolling countryside all in front. I think I've said before, photos don't do it justice. Like photos from the balloon, they never reflect the real sensation of being there, seeing all around.

It's now the 14th April. Last year at this time I was on the Caribbean coast in Mexico. It was melting hot and I was swimming in the warm Caribbean seas. Here it is the south of France and I am wearing a sweater and just now it's raining.

I wonder if I made the right choice of area?

Best regards

David Barker

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