Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Better than new shoes? I'll get back to you...

Life isn't measured by how many breaths you take, but by how many times life takes your breath away, according to yet another item of clothing which has recently found its way into my wardrobe anyway.

It may be a cliche, but this phrase has had an imminent lasting effect on me over the past week. This may, in fact, have something to do with throwing myself out of a plane last weekend suspended only by a parachute, which I endlessly prayed would open itself successfully.
It might sound bizarre, as I rarely imagined myself succumbing to this sort of activity, but I have learned recently that there is more to a person than meets the eye.

If you'd have asked me a couple of months ago what I would have been doing on the 4 and 5 of April, the answer would most probably not have been "Oh, you know, I thought I'd clamber into a plane and at 3,500 feet jump out of it... just for laughs".
Having done exactly that, it still has not really registered what the hell I did and why I came to do it. Crazy, I know. My new T-shirt is only one of the memoirs remaining from the event.

After a day's worth of training at The Black Knight's Parachute Centre near Lancaster, I was relatively familiar with how to get into the plane, which on first impressions was a pretty sight of green and baby pink stripes, how to jump out of the plane, how to land and most importantly: how to open my reserve parachute, if my main one failed to do the job (gasp!).
I think it is fair to say that at this point, my confidence levels were not high. Truthfully, I was frequently asking myself why I, a girl with a fetish for shoes and all things "girly", was becoming a member of extreme and hazardous sports.

However, as the day went on I psyched myself up as much as possible ready to do my first solo skydive. My first skydive at all.
Weather permitting, my first day at the parachute centre ended with disappointment as the heavy winds meant it wasn't safe to jump. Tired and still nervous, I waited rather patiently till the following day when I would finally do the crazy deed. The weather was much better second time round you'll be pleased to know.

Over the tannoy came my name and I was escorted off to a short refresher training brief to make completely sure that I was ready to take the plunge. My sense of embarrassment and indeed dignity had been lost the previous day after hanging from a not-so-flattering harness and shouting at the top of my voice the safety drills. Modesty lost, I was ready for the off.

Kitted out in a jumpsuit that was more practical than Prada, a parachute that I am sure will have done my back more damage than good, a fetching red helmet and a comfort blanket that came in the form of a radio, which hopefully would have an instructor on the other end, aiding me in directing my parachute, I was as ready as I would ever be.

I was nominated second to jump. The plane took off and within minutes (which seemed more like seconds) it was at its destined height. The door slid open and all I could see was fields, fields and more fields. Buildings were mere specks and the only people I could see were those in the plane with me. The air suction was phenomenal and worryingly I could hardly hear a thing.
It was my turn. I sat on the edge, terrified, swung my feet out of the plane and waited for my command to go.

"GO!". And there I went. I pushed myself off saying goodbye to sanity and fell at more than one hundred miles an hour. Seconds later I looked up and my parachute was beginning to open. I thanked the Gods, took many deep breaths and enjoyed the ride.

My landing was less than graceful, but at this point the fact that I had landed in the designated landing zone and wasn't suspended up a tree was a mere luxury. I had done it. Done one of the most unnatural things known to man and really felt what it was like to live on the edge - no pun intended.

It has now been a few days since I done the unthinkable and I have already started planning my next descent. Amazing isn't the word and at the risk of again sounding too cliche, I will refrain from using it.

I would say I have definitely got the skydiving bug, even possibly found myself a new hobby. I am sure I could spare a few pennies on skydiving instead of a new pair of shoes here and there. Well, maybe not too many, a girl's got to get her priorities straight after all...

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