Monday, 26 March 2012

The day I abseiled off the tallest building in Belfast!

Saturday Night At The Movies – Perfect Day - (From 'Trainspotting')
Not sure I’m going to post this blog – I think I have yammed on enough about my abseil, but I did want to write something for my own memories. After all, it’s not every day I scale off a 289 foot building.  I think I’ll just relive it for myself. So that when I’m old and grey, I’ll remember the day I took the leap of faith.
It was a Sunday morning.  The weather couldn’t have been better.  Clear blue skies, not a wisp of wind in the air, not a drizzle of rain in sight.  Perfect viewing conditions. And that was one of my main reasons for doing it.  The view.  I live on the 12th floor of a 27 floor building. I’ve had a nosey in floor 22 and in 27 briefly, but I did want a chance to take in the view the whole way down.
Let me skip to the best bit.
The top.
I don’t know whether to tell you about the amazing view, or the way that the professional trainers hurriedly took us through our training before we could change our minds, or the fact that there were ropes and scaffolding and men in hard hats everywhere.  There was just this *Gulp* feeling.  As though am I really up here? As though none of it was really real.  And how on earth can you appreciate a view when you know you’re about to chuck yourself off the ledge?
I had woken at three in the morning in a panic.  Prior to this I had been cool as cucumber.  After all, I’ve done a bunjee jump and a zip line, how hard can it be? But why is that the terrors always strike at three a.m.? Suddenly I had visions of the edge of the building having no harnessing around it.  How that my foot could just slip and that would be it, I’d tumble to my death.  You know, dramatic stuff like that.  I had to listen to my relaxation CD three times to get myself back to sleep.
On the lift on the way up, there were four of us.  Two guys and two girls.  The other girl was cacking it.  I even gave her a little hug which is not something I do to strangers.  Perhaps I looked like I was cacking myself too.  The blokes looked nervous also and very kindly told us girls that we could go first.
But it didn’t work out like that.  There was the training, blah-de-blah about ropes in a figure of eight, about what distance to keep your feet apart and a thing about not bouncing and not holding your head too far back and again it was just all noise.  There was just the *gulp* thing. As though I had held my breath and wasn’t it a shame I wasn’t standing there and taking a moment to enjoy the view and point out the Odyssey and the Titanic and Victoria Square.  It was just *gulp*.
Then the next thing I was being guided along a rope after one of the blokes so it seemed I was going second. 
There was a scaffolding, and someone fiddling about with my harness.  A rope was being clipped to me and I thought, I guess this is nearly it then, I guess I am going second. 
There was a bloke and a ledge, and the ledge was thick and for a split second I saw a long way down and I thought, oh god.  My breathing went a bit funny then and I felt a little bit weak, so I said to the guy, ‘can I just sit down for a minute?’  He said ‘of course,’ so I sat down and thought, oh god why do I do these things? Why?  Why can’t I just settle myself with a nice cup of tea and Corrie like normal people?
I said ‘sorry’ to the guy, but he said, ‘that’s okay, it’s quite natural’.  He did however, keep fiddling about with my rope and doing things to my harness as though he was expecting me to get on with it in a minute.  I noticed that the bloke who was going first was flat on his tummy on the ledge, legs spewing out after him and I thought, oh god, he looks terrified.  I had to look away.  But I have to say, this was all very quick and very not real.  I had no real time to feel like I wanted to boke, because the guy who was fiddling with my rope was saying, ‘what’s your name?’  I told him ‘Rose’.  I asked him what his name was. ‘Tom’.  See, even under duress and high pressure, I kept my manners by making conversation.  He said, ‘have you done this before?’  ‘No, have you?’  ‘Oh yes, many times’, he smiled.  Tom then said, ‘you need to take your hand off the scaffolding now and lean your tummy on the ledge’. 
‘Eh? What? You want me to go now?  I thought I was going after that bloke?’
No, you’re going here.  This is your ledge.
Oh jeez.
Right.  Right. Okay. 
So somehow, somehow, I let go off my hand and my tummy ended up on the ledge.  I have no idea how this happened.  It is a black-out.  I actually can’t remember it.  All I can remember is that the girl after me was watching me and the colour was draining from her face and she looked terrified.  
Something took over me then.  Something inside me said, oh dear, this probably looks worse than it actually is, so just as I was sliding my body backwards off the safety of the ledge, I was calling out to her and saying, “Don’t worry Edna! It’s not as bad as it looks! I swear!”
I’m pretty sure Tom was looking at me like I was a nut-job, and then that was that, I was off! Somehow I was hanging in mid-air and I was seeing that view. 
Except I still couldn’t enjoy the view because I was still in *gulp* mode, and I was still supposed to be doing something, right? Oh yes, that’s right, I was supposed to be feeding the rope through my right hand.
Right then, I’m feeding it through, and I’m moving, and I’m seeing the first window, and I’m actually doing it, I am actually abseiling! Oh my god!!
Don’t forget to enjoy the view Rose, remember the view, oh yes, right, right.
God this is hard work.  I am moving like a snail.  This is nothing like a bunjee jump.  Are you fripping kidding me?  I am going to be hanging here forever if I keep moving as slow as this.
Oh look that must be floor 26. Good, that’s progress. 
Floor 25 is ages later.  Oh dear, I better stop counting floors or I’m going to be sick.  The view, just look at the view.  The bridge.  Oh look, there’s the bridge that Teresa and I walked over last night on our way home from the cinema.    Oh look in that window there.  Isn’t their cream sofa nice?  Lovely.  And those flowers are gorgeous too.  Oh, look at all those newspapers stuffed behind their sofa.  Oh my god, am I really noticing papers stuffed behind a sofa? I am mid-air, I can hardly breathe!  Sing.  That would be a good idea. Sing.  ‘Take the shackles from my feet so I can dance, I just wanna praise you.. I just praise you..’
So I sang, and I talked to myself, and I felt grateful that I could do this.  That I was healthy enough to get up on a Sunday morning to abseil down a building, that I was grateful for everyone who had sponsored me, that it was a good charity, all that. This went on for ever.
Then the next thing, I heard cheering! I heard Shauna, it was definitely her cheer, and I looked down, and I saw them all! Clapping their hands off!
And then the rope just seemed to feed through my hand effortlessly, I was practically gliding down.  The two blokes at the bottom were there to catch me.  There was a bit of conversation with them, were I asked them if they had ever done it, and their hesitant reply made me realise they hadn’t.  And that was that! It was done! I was climbing down the ladder, there was a lovely lady from the charity thanking me for doing it and thanking me for raising the money for their charity and there was a certificate put into my hand, my hand that was shaking like a leaf.
And whilst I will never, ever do it again, I have to say, I was in an exceptionally good mood for the rest of the day.  A serotonin high. I treated myself to a guilt-free snickers duo.  I went for a glorious long walk in the sun, I met with friends that night for dinner, it was a perfect day.