I will never forget the sheer terror of looking out from a nice secure plane at the very distant ground. There is an innate sense of safety within that says “No! Don’t get out of the plane! Stay in the plane!” Fortunately I was strapped MOST securely to my tandem jumper Andy so there was no chance of me changing my mind! The next 4 seconds were unbelievably unnerving. I did scream! My entire body tried to reject the whole sensation. I was falling. My body said, “No. This is not good. Stop this” Then after the initial full body shock of falling (and I think when Andy launched the stabilising chute) we were then body surfing on the air. On the DVD you only get the tiniest sensation of what it was like but it is there. Only forty seconds later, the chute was opened and it all changed. This produced the second and final scream of distress. There was a battle between the extremely powerful force of gravity which had been pulling us enticingly towards the earth and the lesser but determined force of the drag created by the beautiful purple and black parachute. The radical change from falling to floating was INCREDIBLE. It was gentle and reassuring and beautiful. Then Andy got me to stand on his feet while he slackened off the side loops, first right, then left, so that, instead of being bound tightly together, I was hanging more freely in front of him. I was proud of myself that I didn’t get unnerved by this as he had suggested we might in the briefing. After that it was all plain sailing. Andy let me steer and we did a little bit of looping about. Then we were coming near a cloud and we steered round so that we skirted round the top edges of the cloud. It was the fulfilling of so many childhood daydreams when I was flying with my family on the way to a holiday.
I was walking on a cloud.
It was sheer heaven. I have always loved watching clouds and wanted to walk through them and to get the chance to do that was just superb. It was amazing. The cloud is there and it is tangible. It’s not like some kind of celestial marshmallow as I’d always thought or a floating breath of cotton wool. No, of course not. Physics would tell me that it is a collection of water molecules. A patch of vapour. Well in many ways that is what a cloud is but it is not what a cloud truly is. It is an amazing rush of a renewed perspective on your surroundings. It’s there before you go through it and then something entirely different when you’re in there; a cold brush of silence and a refreshing envelopment of cool vitality.
I had a wonderful view of all the fields and the soon to be setting sun while Andy explained various things to do with wind direction, airspeed, groundspeed and drift. Then he got me to practice the position for landing and after a bit of a turnaround we began our descent. It was gentler than a rollercoaster and yet more invigorating. With a careful bit of steering, Andy got us to land just in front of Chris’s waiting camera for a great cinematic landing of which I am rather proud!
The experience was all the more wonderful for all the waiting. I was put in the last jump of the day. When we arrived at 9 am that seemed like it would be some time around 3 pm which sounded an awfully long time away but in fact, because of cloud levels they had to stop jumps for a while and so I didn’t end up getting in the plane until 5.45. I’m utterly indebted to my dad, my brother Ian and his wife Louise and her parents Richard and Jackie for coming along to support me and sit around for HOURS waiting for those few moments of excitement. It was also thanks to Andy Ford and Chris on camera that I had such a fabulous time in the sky and indeed a great souvenir of the event in the form of a DVD (which can be viewed on request!)
I also want to thank all the people who have donated money so that I have raised (so far – with still a few people wanting to sponsor me) over £900 for Iain Rennie Hospice at Home. Once the costs of the jump have been carried that should mean that Iain Rennie get £700 towards their work.
I know I have said it before but Iain Rennie is a fantastic charity and having 34 people jumping out of the sky yesterday should have raised them a lot of money to celebrate their twenty years, so far, in style. More importantly I hope that the money raised will not only secure the charity for at least another twenty years but also enable the nurses to work in a larger area. Currently Iain Rennie can only serve three counties. I would love to see their fantastic work being spread across the whole country. I don’t know how they do it but Iain Rennie manages to attract some incredible people to work for them including those I’ve worked with before (and even one guy – Paul who was jumping with me yesterday!). The nurses show great skill and gentle care not only of the patients but of those looking after them and living with them at home. Through their dedication, the Iain Rennie nurses enable families to stay together and get the most out of the time they have left together. They also support the bereaved after the death of their loved ones through pastoral care visits and through events such as the Chrysalis club which I am fortunate enough to support. This is the kind of work that you just cannot put a price on in terms of value but of course it does cost. So if you haven’t sponsored me yet, get in touch or just get on to the Iain Rennie website and donate!