Monday, 11 October 2010

Terra Firma..

What a weekend.. it's going to take something pretty amazing to beat it any time soon, of that I'm pretty certain!.
Saturday was family day, Callum is 1 in on the 13th October and so we had a party for him.. nothing major, just the grandparents and Kates brother with his wife and their little one.
It was a great evening and the star of the show was on fine form.. as he normally he is when there is an audience to entertain. The first lot of present opening saw him get a ride on Thomas train and a 'my first tool-box'.. he's quite obviously following Kates family in his practical nature and is constantly inspecting anything that moves, turns and opens.
Sunday was the day I had been dreading and anticipating in equal measures. Kate bought me a tandem sky-dive for my birthday, it's something I've wanted to do for years but have never done. She did one for her 21st and it was clear how much she enjoyed it.
We turned up at the airfield at the right time for our briefing and the weather, although forecast to be fantastic, wasn't. It was then that I found out that a UK sky-divers biggest attribute isn't bravery, but patience.
The initial brieing drummed into us the importance of body position, keeping your head back, your feet up behind you in the classic free fall position and the utter utter necessity of having your feet straight out in front of you on landing, unless you wanted to pitch forward, have an instructor land on you and then plough a rather impressive furrow on the landing zone with your nose.
Once that was done it was down to practicing the sky divers attribute big time, all the while harrassing the impressive tea bar on site.
Satellite images showed the cloud that was hanging over us would be clear by 1pm and, true to form by quarter past blue sky was fighting off the greyness and the sun was warming us.
I was on the first plane of the day and my instructor came over to do the final briefing, Rick was the veteran of the club, having over 4000 jumps to his name, 2000 of them as a tandem instructor. As is usually the way with people who are top of their game he exuded an air of utter self confidence, obviously feeling it unnecessary to try and prove how good he was through bravado or bragging. His quietly spoken instructions offered undertones of 'Don't worry' and we were soon walking to the plane.
Sitting in the plane as we climbed to 12,000 I was intoxicated by the views, the roar of the engine and the smell of the fuel. We were soon at the point of no return and, as the door opened the wind rushed in, filling my ears and emptying my lungs.
As a tandem jumper you sit in the instructors lap, as you come to leave the plane, they sit on the edge, leaving the student to dangle in space.. looking down I realised that all that was between me and the ground was 12,000 feet of air.. amazing.
Two rocks and we're out.. head back onto Ricks shoulder, hands braced across my chest holding onto the straps intended to keep hands out of the way of the bloke who's job is to get us stable in the air. I let out an involuntary adrenalin filled yell as we tumble away from the plane, for a second we topple and then Rick works his magic, I get a tap on the shoulder and put my hands out in front as instructed.
A second later Jay's face appears in front of me.. the guy is incredible, he's filming the jump and manages to get clearer images whilst dropping at 120mph then I do stood on the ground.. Thumbs up, I want to show I'm doing good and enjoying every precious moment.
35 seconds later and we're at 5000 feet Rick deploys the chute and bam, we go from 120mph to 0. I watch Jay drop away from us before deploying his own chute.
The final drop to earth takes about 4 minutes and Rick throws in some steep turns, apart from those seconds of g-force the parachute is still and serene.. coming into land Rick gives the instruction to bring my legs and feet up and then brings us in for landing.
Emotions flood through me, what a buzz.. I thank a rather embarrassed Rick with a huge hug and then I'm off to thank the best wife in the world for the best birthday present ever.