I am going to start with a couple of facts about me...
Number one - When I fly, I need Valium. This is because of my sheer fear of heights.
Number two - I cannot go on roller-coasters because I hate heights.
Last November I was sitting watching the opening show of ‘I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!’ the bit where they had to skydive out of a plane, and I had a ‘that looks fun’ moment. I really wanted to do something big in 2017 which was going to prove that I am capable of pushing myself. Then I remembered an incident last year when I had to be slowly hoisted down a large slide at a children’s play centre in front of all my colleagues because I could not let go of the rope. Oh the shame! That made me start to let go of the idea.
The next day in the office, I happened to mention this to my Managing Director. She told me that I could do it through the wonderful charity, St Wilfrid's Hospice, which provides end of life care and support to patients and their families. The charity is on our doorstep and they always need help with funding, so that was that - I decided I was going to do a sky dive with my friend and colleague India! We raised a wonderful amount of money, so many amazing people had pledged to help us - it was overwhelming.
The day of the jump arrived. Half pleased and half not, I set off to Salisbury with my son Freddy. When we arrived there was a white picket fence by the smallest of planes. One side of the fence had the first timers nervously pacing in blue boiler suits like horses about to run the race and on the other side were the instructors, laughing and checking each other’s parachutes. There was a real sense of camaraderie amongst them I really admired.
We were taken into the instruction room and put in blue boiler suits. I did not care at all what I looked like at this point - all I cared about was not passing out when I got up there! Boiler suits and attachments on, we were then put into harnesses hanging from the ceiling and all started practicing landing positions and the ‘banana’ shape you have to make when you are sat on the edge of the plane. Then it was our turn to walk into the picket fence arena...
A guy called George came walking purposefully towards me. He started to adjust my harness...pulling and pushing me all over the place. I realised this was the one time it is ok for someone else to be in charge of my body, after all he was in charge of my life right now! I asked him if anybody had not gone through with it and he told me that two people had come back down in the last plane. I thought ‘number three is imminent George!’ As we got on the plane I realised a lot of people had already got on which meant I was right near the front. The ‘door’ was basically a piece of crinkly plastic with a massive gap at the bottom. The propeller started going and I was literally sat on George’s lap as instructed in the training.
Now the faraway landscape looked like a patchwork and I was in the clouds. I thought this must be time but George said ‘1000 feet now’. I was devastated. There were still 9000 to go! How could this be? Then, the crinkly door flung open and the green light came on. The wind was soaring past and it was loud. George held my head back and said I was third and not to look at others jumping because it can be scary. Naturally, through the corner of my eye, I did.
The next thing I knew I was like a paralysed octopus making my way to the door. I looked across and just saw the sky and the clouds - the ground just a distant memory. The sheer madness was turning into mayhem and then the world stopped. All I can remember is screaming and making the weirdest noises. The best attempt at describing it is it is like an out of body experience and I start to realise how amazing our bodies are! For 30 seconds my body was just firing on all cylinders. Then a massive pop, the chute had opened and it was silence. I screamed to George - he was so sweet telling me I did great. I then burst into tears as we headed down from the huge height. I cried because I could not believe I’d actually jumped!! Once we had landed, George said, ‘Imagine what you are going to do now you have done that!’. It was exhilarating, exhausting, crazy, and many more words rolled up. Now and again it’s good to prove to yourself ‘you can do it’.
March 11th 2017 will always be the day I remember ‘Amazing George’ who managed to get me out of a plane 10,000 feet in the sky and St Wilfrid’s Hospice.
Charity definitely begins at home!