Thursday, 2 September 2010

Dizzy Rascal

I wonder why some people have a "head for heights" and some become nauseous when looking out of an upstairs window? Dogs don't have any such problems.

I've been fighting the fear of heights ever since childhood when I once had to be rescued screaming from an oscillating horse on a roundabout. How those drivers on the A2 avoided me I'll never know. In my teens I joined a climbing club and went to a place called "High Rocks" in Kent to practice abseilling down sheer faces and crawling up chimneys - I spent a lot of time quaking with fear and should have noticed the clue in the name of the location. Refusing to give in, at College I went to Tremadog Cliffs in North Wales with a London Climbing Club and was doing OK until I had to be hauled up the last stretch of a "moderate" having frozen with terror on a ledge. Again, I should have noticed the last 5 letters of "Tremadog".

I don't mind sloping heights such as you get on a normal route up Snowdon or Scafell Pike, it's the sheer precipice drops that send me into a dizzy spin. Perhaps it's just an acutely developed sense of self-preservation?

Over the years I've managed to avoid heights where possible. Occasionally, such as the time I booked my son-in-law into "Go Ape" and took his place when he declined to proceed, I've tried to confront the white knuckle terror. In that case I got to the top of the second tree and gave up in blind panic. Or there was the time I went across a Spanish homemade suspension bridge near Granada. Oh the flashbacks!

So it gave me a sense of pride and relief at the weekend to find that my Grandson Finlay who lives in Derbyshire has become a proficient and skilful rock climber, thinking nothing of scaling a 15 foot pitch solo without ropes or protection. Just confidence.

The only trouble is, Finlay was having his 4th birthday party on Monday.

Finlay's house is at the top of a steep rise and the back garden has a rock wall with iron spike railings backing onto the roof of a bus shelter and a 15ft drop. In front of the spiked railings is a garden shed. When I emerged from the back door at Finlay's Garden Party, I saw the children all playing on the lawn in playhouses and a paddling pool, the mothers all drinking tea on the decking and... no Finlay. Glancing up I froze in horror. Finlay was standing on the shed roof waiving a sword with the iron spikes and the 15 ft drop immediately behind him.

Yelling something or other I rushed past the mothers, most of whom appeared to be more concerned to know whether I'd been "cleared" to attend a childeren's party, and sprang into action! I vaulted up the sharp iron railings , clambered over the wall and stood on the roof of the bus shelter where I was able to clutch the unwilling 4 year old and pass him over the fence to his mother.

Pausing briefly to respond to an imaginary round of spontaneous applause from the Mothers and the local people gathered outside the pub and in the streets (none was forthcoming), I started to approach the spiky fence with the sheer 15 ft drop and suddenly went off the idea of returning that way.

Everyone carried on about their business and I was left standing there like a lemon.

"Would you like me to get the ladder round?", enquired my daughter.

"Er, if you wouldn't mind", I lamely replied.

As I eventually made my way gingerly down the ladder, all I could say was "Thank you, Step daughter".

This is what it felt like:


Richard said...

I share your aversion. A couple of years ago working in a warehouse where much of current health and safety legislation had a blind eye turned toward it whenever necessary, some boxes of kitchen roll were needed from above ground and we couldn't get there with the fork lift. I can climb - I'm ok as long as I'm going up. If I look down, the legs go and I'm in a cold sweat. I managed the first level, 6 feet up. The next one, no chance. I was embarrassed. I can't even change a lightbulb on a landing if I have to stand on steps. Then Sharon asked me whether I'd help her next door neighbour to viciously prune the overgrown field maple in her garden last week. I stayed on the ground, pointing.

Dave said...

As I've mentioned at my place, since I had the detached retina a couple of years ago, I've developed vertigo to such an extent that I come out in a cold sweat watching people standing on cliffs on TV.

Sarah said...

What a hero!

I 'did' the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites a while back....I always thought I had a head for heights before that!

Dave said...

Oh yes, I meant to say that you're a hero. I hope they gave you a chocolate biscuit as a reward.

Vicus Scurra said...

I do not share your fears - I have been to the three highest points in Hampshire and suffered no adverse effects.

Nice story.

Rosie said...

I freeze on stepladders after the third step. You deserved a medal at the very least. Especially for someone whose grandchildren were brought up by baskets.

Christopher said...

Boys' Own stuff, pretty heroic. And I believe it's gets worse with age.

Dave is looking for whole bricks. If you find any missing from that wall, you'll know where to look.

Rog said...

Richard: If you'd gone two levels up the kitchen roll would have come in useful.

Dave: I have to nip behind the sofa when I see people standing on Cliffs. It was a scene from "The Young Ones" I think....

Sarah: Via Fearanti? Check THIS!!! out. Watch it all!

Dave: No.

Vicus: You are surely the highest point in Hampshire?

Rosie: You must have looked that fact up on Wickerpedia.

Christopher: There's mortar Dave than meets the eye.

brokenbiro said...

True courage is not freedom from fear - it is being afraid and going on. Brave man!

I don't mind being somewhere high up if I have something solid to hold on to - but I don't like coming down. So I've parascended and ballooned but the only way you'd get me to bungy jump or jump out of a plane is by putting a gun to my head - and probably pulling the trigger!

Geoff said...

I can't watch that video, it makes my legs go funny.

My mum chickened us out from walking up a lighthouse when I was young and I've been terrified of walking in an upward direction ever since. She didn't like being in water, either. My perforated eardrum is my excuse as to why I won't swim.

Tim Footman said...

I feel slightly queasy whenever I get on my high horse.

Annie said...

Holy crap! Can't believe they didn't clap you.

Z said...

Proudly as Lily is balanced, I can't quite work out how she got down either.

I think you are very brave and quick-witted. And nimble.

justin said...

I feel grim going up high buidings, especially where there's a strong wind and very little to hold onto ... and as for looking down over cliff edges ... OMG!
However, when we went up the London Eye ... no problem at all. I felt as safe as houses.
I admire your heroism in rescuing the child ... it's amazing how you can overcome fear in such a situation (and then need to be rescued yourself). :)

Madame DeFarge said...

Very brave in the circumstances. Not good with heights much like you. Fine when attached to big mountains, but don't like the exposure. Avoided much in Slovenia recently because of this. Limestone edges are not like wonderful millstone grit!

Rog said...

Broken Biro: I still admire your wonderful pen name.

Geoff: Thet's why you never liked the Lighthouse Family. Here's my consultancy bill.

Tim: So do the rest of us! :-)

Annie: Don't show their emotions, bluff Northern folk.

Z: Lil was on the very point of free jumping. I'd hoped to catch her in mid air. With the camera.

Justin: I've never been on the London Eye. Not too keen on flying either which is a loss to Queensland and and a gain to Swanage.

Madame de F: You've reminded me about the time our Springer got stuck down a bit of Limestone Pavement. That was worrying!