I have always been nervous, a bit of a scaredy cat and a worrier, but NOT today. It’s my birthday. The hairdresser is giving me the full treatment. I want to look beautiful for my celebrations and have taken extra care with my make-up, now pleased with what I see.
One of my birthday presents is a jump out of a plane. Can you imagine it? Me doing a skydive?
A man I met recently convinced me it would be fun. ‘Have a go,’ he said.
‘What about all the horror stories you hear of bad landings with broken bones?’ I asked.
‘The jumps will be filmed,’ he replied.
‘What a relief,’ I said, laughing. ‘At least if it all goes belly up my family will have a record of it!’
The time arrives: it is cloudless with no wind. This is a blessing as I don’t want to be blown into the next area code on the way down. My three friends, also first-time jumpers, look a bit seedy. Perhaps they are as nervous and excited as me. When we jump I’ll make sure that I’m not downwind from them just in case!
‘What a let-down after the effort I went to at the hairdressers this morning,’ I say, donning my parachute and a baggy suit. ‘Most unflattering.’
I am shown how to fold my arms over my chest, hold my arms out to guide me in the correct direction and when to pull the cord...‘God I hope I get that right!’ I say, not wanting to sound as anxious as I feel.
What I am doing here? I wonder as the instructor explains how to roll on impact.
‘Now or never,’ I say as we all head to the plane. It’s too late to back out.
The plane circles slowly, climbing to around 4000 metres. ‘Whose idea was this anyway?’ I mutter quietly as the instructor gives the last briefing.
When it is my turn to jump, the plane spins away from me. I continue to move forward as well as down, wanting desperately to open my eyes. I want to see, to remember this.
My eyes open. Forgetting my fear, I am amazed by the beauty of the countryside below: wide green paddocks, different crop colours, the sun glistening on the sea way off in the distance.
I can sense the broad smile on my face.
Mind you, one of the things the instructor mentioned was that my face would do peculiar things with the 3G to 4G force before the parachute opens. I not only feel the big grin, but the skin on my cheeks flapping in the wind like Dumbo’s ears. My family and friends will get a big laugh out of seeing this on the video. So much for the trouble with my hair and make-up this morning!
At 140 km an hour I can only free-fall for about a minute which seems like an eternity. I must not be distracted. I must ensure that the parachute is opened in time. I reach for the toggle.
The parachute fully inflates at about 800 metres and slows me to around 20 km an hour. This allows me to control my direction and speed by manipulating the toggles on the end of the steering lines.
It is time to land.
To my surprise I am back on the ground.
The four of us made it.
‘That was fantastic!’ I shout. ‘Whoever said eighty was too old?’ I ask, still excited by the jump. I laugh and hug the professional tandem jumpers who made our skydive possible.
‘Time to celebrate,’ I say, grinning widely. ‘Come and join us.’
The party is sandwiches, sponge and patty cakes, candles and all.
‘See you in ten years!’ they cheer, raising their cups of tea.