As I stood with one foot on top of the scaffold tower platform and my other foot on the first rung of our tallest ladder, for the first time in my life this Friday, I was gripped in the cold funk of paralysing fear.
Even though the ambient February temperature had only risen to +6°, sweat began to bead at my temples and between my shoulder blades while I contemplated the extreme folly of my actions.
What started as a grand plan of action, to erect a WiFi aerial and affix it to the existing bracket on the side of the chimney stack, had quickly degenerated into a middle aged man questioning his own mortality while gazing down from the heady heights of the Tower of Terror to the hard concrete below.
As if the tower itself wasn’t high enough, the sixteen rung ladder was tied with little more than baler twine to the scaffold to enable scaling to even greater heights of stupidity.
It was now at this very moment of self analysis that I experienced the full flow of vertiginous debilitation as my hands refused the order from my brain to be pried from the ladder sides so that I could carry out the necessary work entailed in the desire to gain better reception for what we laughingly refer to here in French France as ‘connectivity’!
The ground being somewhat in excess of 10 metres away, I started to wonder, if I fell, would I reach terminal velocity before hitting it and whether survival would even be an option? Feet first, undoubtedly my legs would punch through my pelvis and into my torso causing irreparable bleeding and damage to internal organs although, should I arrive at terra firma head first, all bets were off regarding my rate of survival.
Never before in the annals of my Life’s Rich Tapestry could I find an answer to this annoying predicament. For every page I turned, the answer came back that ‘Bang is Bad’! Nothing good would come of rapid descent from this height. And it isn’t the descending that would be the intrinsic problem. Far from it. It would be the deceleration from terminal velocity (should that be achieved) to zero instantaneously that was causing this unwanted paralysis.
I pressed on.
Arriving at the top of the ladder posed a new issue as now that I was within close proximity to the bracket and chimney stack, my ability to actually work in this position involved the removal of both hands from the ladder, hoisting the aerial pole above my head and inserting it into the waiting U bolts, removal of an adjustable spanner/wrench from my pocket and actually doing some work. All when any form of movement was as far from my ability to summon as the chances of me flying to the moon! I’m no rocket scientist.
Abject failure saw me scuttling back down the ladder and calling for assistance from Charlotte. My thinking being that if she climbed the scaffolding and passed me the aerial, not only might I be in a better position, but her very presence would inspire and encourage my bravado to not let myself down in front of her. That was the plan.
The plan failed.
Even Charlotte said I was being stupid and was never in the right position to fit it. I should contact an aerial fitter and just pay them to do the job properly.
Charlotte returned into the warmth of our home while I licked her proverbial tongue lashing wounds and at my abject failure to impress.
While I was thinking, I had an idea.
This position the scaffold tower and ladders are in is possibly the highest point of attainment needed to access the vicinity of the chimney. Why do I not simply gain access to the roof from the eaves? That point where the angle of the roof reaches its lowest point. Surely that would be a better option than this present position?
I untied the ladder, lowered it to the ground and then disassembled the scaffolding to move it to a new position of possible easier access.
I raised the superstructure once more and fitted the platform on its top reaches.
That’s a few words that covers another hour of hard labour as the scaffolding, although light in weight, is a challenge to come apart and then reconnect without use of a hammer. I used my fist instead. It causes less damage to the metalwork. Don’t ask about my fist.
With the scaffold tower and platform in its new location I gaily mounted the side ladder and stepped out upon the platform to survey the task ahead.
As the gentle February breeze moved the tower from side to side, I dismissed the motion as similar to being on deck of my friend Robert’s boat. Back and forth we rocked as I gazed over the vast swathes of roof tiles that lay before me.
The height was good. It was now just a simple matter of stepping up from the platform, onto the roof, walking up the tiles to the chimney, with the aerial slung over my shoulder. At the ridge I would straddle both sides giving me firm anchorage and be able to commence the task of finally fitting this simple ‘improvement’ to the waiting bracket.
A trial run might settle the nerves I thought as the swaying continued to keep my feet planted on the platform in a wide stance.
With the platform close to the height of the gutter, it was only another half metre or so for me to step manfully onto the roof. That half metre suddenly seemed quite a step. One giant leap for mankind more like as I planted both feet (and hands I might add) onto the surface of the roof.
I’m sure there are those of you, lovely readers, who will be able to inform me of the rake or pitch of a roof necessary for the shedding of either precipitation in the form of rain or snow, but it is a fact that I seem to have missed in my life’s education. That being said, I am now fully acquainted with just how steep a roof can be, as my love for being as close to that roof as possible suddenly became the most important factor in my life! I’m two metres up the roof on my feet and hands like a demented down dog yoga aficionado, scrabbling for purchase and dislodging moss that has happily grown there over the winter months. The moss that the jackdaws and crows like to pick off and throw in gay abandon to the floor below in search of morsels of nourishment.
I’m not interested in moss. Neither are my trainers. I’ve worn my stickiest running shoes in the hope that they will give me the confidence I so obviously have left somewhere and forgotten where I left it. Instead of inspiring me to run up the tiles with a youthful attitude that belies my actual advancement of years, they seem to be magnetised to the composition of the tiles. My hands also have gained Spider-Man tensility as they stick to the tiles and refuse to move any higher.
Imagine the scene from below. All that’s visible is my rear end pointing skyward as I’m frozen in sheer terror of what I am attempting to achieve. And at this point I don’t even have the aerial slung over my shoulder! How on earth am I going to manage carrying that as well?
Best thing for me is to come on down. I’m going nowhere fast and as the light fades in the western sky, I need to turn round and face the dismounting with the aplomb befitting someone who has at least tried.
All well and good if I could actually move. Once again it is as if I am frozen in time like a stone gargoyle on the flying buttresses of Notre Dame Cathédrale.
‘Move boy’ I shout at my inner demons. ‘You can’t stay up here forever, you have to get down if you’re not going up!’ sort of thing, words to that effect.
Sitting down might be good but I still need to get from the roof back onto the platform. I’m shaking. My muscles have gained a life of their own and are refusing commands in every direction.
At last I inch myself down to the edge and look over. It’s not too far to the platform but, at this moment, I look beyond the tower to the garden below and freeze once more as the welling up sensation is one of encouragement to throw myself off! WHAT?!!! Where has that come from? How soft would my landing be if I hit the lawn? Not too dissimilar to hitting the concrete from this height I surmise.
I throw a leg over the gutter. I’m actually literally miles away from the platform. I’m going to have to turn around again and do this backwards and unsighted.
Like performing a lunge in reverse, I tentatively lower my foot towards the waiting boards. Lower, lower, lower. I’m at full stretch and still not reached safety. Where is the platform? I am at the point of no return. That second when you have to go for it. I know it’s there waiting for me but I can’t see it and just have to have faith that it’s not too much further.
Like missing a bottom step when you’re not expecting it, I made contact.
I lifted my other leg over the gutter and stood shaking for a moment on the swaying platform deck. Anything was better than perching precariously on that roof.
Enough was enough. I went and saw Charlotte.
If I waited until it was totally dark before trying again, did she think that would be a good idea as then I wouldn’t be able to see how far a possible fall would be?
I was unceremoniously informed to not be so stupid and to immediately contact our friendly roofer, Ludovick .
Duly chastised, I complied and Ludovick will be with us Monday morning undoubtedly to positively skip up the roof to fit the aerial for us.
Carry on regardless…
P.S. I’ve just been back up there to take these photos and given meself a right case of the willies! Hahahaha
One thought on “Fear of Heights…Paralysing Funk!”
Been there, done that and felt equally niggled with myself for not being able to do what had previously been a relatively âeasyâ task!
When I was first married, we lived in a typical 1930âs end of terrace. It was I who decorated the exterior, right up to the guttering, without a second thought!
I was up there one summer day, painting away, wearing an old basketball vest of Royâs. I heard a voice call from behind meâ¦.âcome in number 9, your time is upâ!
Thatâs the only moment when I felt unsteady. ð«
Now, I can manage about 3 rungs, 4 if I really have to. Thank goodness there are people we can call on when necessary. ð
Fingers crossed for success on Monday and much improved wifi reception.
See you soon,
Charlotte I will see Wednesday for book club.
Have a great weekend, if your legs have stopped shaking!
Sent from my iPad
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