It seems like an eternity since I signed up to do a parachute jump in aid of Marie Curie Care. It has taken me six months and four attempts to get there but this weekend finally saw me place my life into the hands of a professional sky diver as I buckled up to him and jumped from a plane at 13000 feet.
As a teenager I went to watch my Dad parachuting with the Royal Marine Reserves. He was a very determined man and a bit of an adventurer in his own way. He instilled in me a sense of belief that if I really wanted to do something then I would find a way. Well, it took me twenty odd years and a final soul searching session to decide that this was somehting that I really wanted to do. So a quick internet search and fifteen minutes later I was registered and had a Just Giving page set up.
Having a long weekend was also a great excuse to combine my jump with another long held ambition to visit Norfolk as the centre was right on the Norfolk/Suffolk border but more about that later.
Waking up in Hermann to brilliant sunshine brought about a real sense that this was going to happen. And then from nowhere the snow arrived leaving me with an uneasy feeling that this wasnt going to happen again but I remained positive. If it wasnt going to happen then at least I woudl be able to explore Suffolk and Norfolk. Off we tootled to the airfield in a real blizzard.
There were six of us jumping that morning and I chatted to most of them as we sat in the cafe whiling away the time whilst waiting for the go ahead. Of the six only two of us were doing the jump to raise money for charity and everybody else was there for birthday treats. I was really inspired to hear why Mickys@the Garage was raising money for Aspire and the great work that they do supporting people with spinal injuries. One man had bought his own jump for his 26th birthday, well it beats getting a tatoo. The other three had been given the presents for special birthdays ranging from 18th to 60th! Goes to show that you are never too young or too old to follow your dreams.
Suddenly from nowhere the sun came out, the snow stopped and we got the signal that the jump was to go ahead. A quick spring across to the hanger and we were soon sitting cross legged (reminded me of school assemblies) learning all about the positions and the saftety procedures. I started to have that sense of excitement that had, until this point, been doused by the belief that this really wasn’t going to happen. After all, the previous three attempts had been cancelled due to weather and mechanical faults.
After the safety part I heard my named called and I turned to be greeted by my professional sky diver who would be the one that I would be attached to when jumping. Tibby was Romanian, he had been skydiving since he was 17 and had lived in the UK for the last ten years. He came to the UK to follow his dream of being a skydiving professional. As he was talking to me I couldn’t help but be reminded of my Dad and his insistence that if you really want something you can make it happen. It may take some kind of sacrifice but it can be done if you are willing to sacrifice something.
Then we were off, walking towards the plane my heartbeat started to rise, I was so excited I found it hard to breathe. But where did all the snow go?
Climbing to 13000 feet in a small plane with no seats and crammed in with 20 other people was a far cry from the last flight I took with Ryan Air but I did giggle thinking that maybe they are missing a trick here. I opted not to take the offer of filming my experience with a professional skydiving videographer. After all, I was doing this for charity and I felt that the £99 would be better donated to Marie Curie, that would pay for 5 hours of care! I am also a big believer in memories being far more important that physical reminders. I do have a little bit of video footage of me landing and that is enough for me.
Then came the time to go. Shuffling along the floor of the plane to the door with the wind rushing in my face meant that I didn’t have time to really think about the fact that I was hanging out of the door with my feet dangling at 13000 feet and then I found myself freefalling into the clouds. Whirling and swooping for ninety seconds with the wind pummelling my face, taking my breath away. Tap on my shoulder to tell me to open my arms from the crossed position and off we went soaring around the skies turning, falling and yet feeling as if I was hanging in mid air. Suddenly I felt a sharp pull up, my feet fell below me and everything went silent. Looking up I saw the canopy above me and Tibby asked if I was enjoying myself. Yes, we held a conversation as we floated on the wind. The views were magnificent and being close enough to clouds to touch them was surreal. Suffolk and Norfolk are truly beautiful from the ground but my how heavenly it looked from the skies.
The whole experience helped me to understand my Dad just a little bit more. I also realised that I really have to stop putting things off. It took me 27 years to do this. All that time wasted.
If you would like to help somebody who wishes to spend their last days at home with dignity and in comfort, surrounded by their loved ones then please visit my Just Giving page and sponsor me. It costs £20 to provide one hours care by a Marie Curie nurse. Every little helps.
And in celebration, I treated myself to a nice Adnams Southwold bitter. Well, when in Suffolk and all that