Up, Down, Turn Around, Please Don’t Let Me Hit The Ground

Sunday, dawn, and I awake, sweaty and shaky. The vivid imagery of my legs concertina-ing, fragments of shattered bone exploding outwards as my feet make contact with my buttocks remains embedded in my mind.

Today is the day. I’m joining two of my club mates and around 20 parents from my kids’ school in dangling 100ft above the floor of the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre. It’s Aerial Assault day.

After watching from air-conditioned comfort as the first batch of parents, and a sprinkling of 12-year-old kids, successfully complete the course, it’s our turn. Up the spiral staircase to the launch platform, the ‘banter’ becoming ever more strained as we attempt to divert our minds from the task at hand. It’s difficult to envision just how high 100ft is, when you are looking down. Suffice to say, it’s far enough.

On with the harness, then the helmet and get that attached to the harness. All watches removed and shoes tightened. The consequences of an item falling from that height onto a head below wouldn’t be pleasant. And it’s time to hook up, much like a stick of paratroopers on a DC-10 we stand in line awaiting the green light. Well, except for me. There are 11 in our group and only harnesses. I have to wait until the leadoff dangler has returned to the eyrie.

Soon, people are off and it’s the cricketers’ turn. Tricky is up first. He’s chosen now to reveal he has a real issue with heights, and for a while it looks like he may not make it. We stand, waiting mostly in silence, offering the odd word of encouragement and watching the back of his neck get redder as he battles with his inner demons. Suddenly, with a deep breath he’s gone. Lamby waits until he reaches the first platform before he is released, and it’s my turn. The nice young lady at the turnstile gives my nuts a last check (not difficult, given how snug these harnesses are), adjusts the ropes and with a last little nudge, sends me on my way.

Out over the arena, on a leisurely slide across to the first platform, nothing to do but sneak a quick peak at the ground. Nothing but thin air between me and a couple of large scrambling boulders. Very thin air! Victoria Beckham thin air. The kind of thin air that makes it very clear it won’t be doing anything to counteract gravity.

Soon the landing platform is in reach and after a short scramble up, it’s out onto the obstacles. Log bridges, rope ladders, scramble nets and various other things to go over or round, swing from the roof. The disconnect between the knowledge that the harness and pulley system is safe for 3 to 4 times my bodyweight and the fact that everything is wobbling and unsteady is on occasion a tough thing to bridge. It proves so for Tricky up ahead as the three of us are now bunched up in the middle. Lamby and I hold back giving him the room to sort himself out and he’s off again.

The toughest section of the course involves traversing the climbing wall at one side and involves a four-foot leap over nothing. Again, psychology comes into play, getting your brain to trust in what it can’t see!

The last leg is fairly straight forward and the course ends with a speedier zip slide style run back to the starting point, the signal for much relief, large smiles and handshakes. Adrenaline still coursing through the veins gives everyone a case of the shakes, the last word belonging to Lamby. “I’d do it again, but I don’t know if I’d do it without a harness!”

I’d like to thank Tricky and Lamby for turning up and doing this, and on behalf of each of them thanks to everyone who sponsored us and helped raise a few more pounds for our coaching funds.

—————

It seems to be a week for manufactured controversy, and it’s only bloody Tuesday! We’ve had various talking heads on TV and radio this morning queuing up to condemn ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ as sick, depraved and a grave threat to our very well-being. None of these people it should be added have actually seen the game. I haven’t either I hasten to add, hence the reason I won’t comment on the game itself.

The thrust of the argument revolves around a section of the game that involves the player taking on the role of a terrorist in an airport, dispatching civilians. Yes, I can see how that may be disquieting to some. However, given the average of gamers is 33, given that it has an 18 certificate (plus an extra warning about this section, with an option to skip it) it would seem that the makers have done everything they can to make it clear to people what the content is like.

“Oh, but we all know kids will get their hands on it” – yes, yes they will, just like they’ll get their hands on 18 certificate movies, and drama’s like 24. Did you see the last series of 24? It contained a scene with terrorists running around gunning people down in an airport, amongst other gory scenes including ‘our hero’ torturing people. My point? Sounds like this game is no worse than any other media available to us today. Jumping on the bandwagon and whipping up a frenzy of condemnation serves no purpose other than to create publicity and demand for the very thing they have an issue with. Grand Theft Auto is the most infamous example of this. The cycle of publicity gained thanks to “outraged of Tunbridge Wells” led to these games selling far more copies than the actual quality of the game deserved.

It’s a similar tale for Grodon Brown (did you see what I did there?). The Sun have taken it upon themselves to act for the entire British electorate and hound the man from office. His latest faux pas is to be a poor writer. Christ, thank fuck it’s not me then, I’ve got two good (well half decent) eyes and still can’t get much more than a spidery scrawl. OK, the lady in question is upset. Which parent wouldn’t be? Which parent wouldn’t be looking to lash out and find someone or something to blame? OK, maybe he should have taken a bit more time to edit the thing to at least make it presentable, but to be frank, I’d be more angry to receive a pro-forma standard template letter from a computer printer.

And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, I recall,
In the form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.

The whole things smacks of finding a stick with which to beat a man who is already down. How convenient that they were able to get a recording of a surprise phone conversation. Speaking only for myself, but I admit, I always have the recording device ready lest a random world leader phone me up of an evening.

The guy can’t do anything right, or rather; The Sun will always find something to blow up into a ‘national disgrace’. I’m not particularly a Labour voter or a Gordon Brown fan but, I’m starting to have some sympathy for the guy. It would be mildly amusing for at least a couple of hours if, in their zeal to have another ‘It Was The Sun Wot Won It’ post election front page, Murdoch’s gutter journalists actually engendered enough sympathy for Brown to cling to power.

—————–

And so to a meeting in Edinburgh tonight….it was short, and bitter…seems I now have a 1 in 7 chance of being redundant this time next week…..yay me!

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