the daring (scared) young(ish) man (woman) on the flying trapeze

Last Friday, I had the day off work. Good times. Instead of just relaxing, taking the air, or getting my “jobs” out of the way before the long weekend started proper, I thought I’d take the opportunity to throw myself off a high platform in Regent’s Park.

I should add that I was at all times safely attached with strong wires with a net beneath me, and at all times I was watched over by the experienced people at Gorilla Circus.

The two hour lesson started with a gentle warm up, before heading over to a low practise bar where we were shown the trick we would be learning. In summary, the trick was – hang on for dear life, go upside down and stick your legs over the bar, let go (!!) so you’re hanging by your knees, scream a little, then reach back up, swing your legs back over, then drop down. Then breathe a sigh of relief it’s all over and you can go to the pub safe in the knowledge you can impress your friends with tales of the fancy new trapeze trick you learnt.

But wait.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. We then headed over – some more eagerly than others – to the hactual trapeze. Full size, high up, scare-inducing…

…where Debs proceeded to demostrate (without wires!) what we were about to do. She looked so graceful, so confident, and so… high up in the air.

And that’s when it hit me: I hate heights, I’m scared of jumping off things, and I’m not a particular fan of being upside down. The holy trinity of reasons to get the hell out of there. Luckily, I wasn’t first on the list of people to try this, so I had time to take some deep breaths and see how the others did before having to climb up that very tall ladder to the very tall platform (did I mention it was high?).

Having been safely (I hoped) attached to the ladder, I proceeded to climb, and climb, and climb. About halfway up I realised how much further I had to go and promptly forgot how to climb a ladder. No matter, I made it in the end, safely reaching Sean at the top despite my shaky limbs. After some more safety clipping (which I watched intently, as it was infinitely preferable to the other option of looking down), it was then time to lean out and reach for the bar. And reach some more – with Sean reassuring me that he was strong enough to hold onto my safety belt whilst I leant out – practically horizontally – to stretch my fingers and grab onto the bar. It’s at times like this that I curse my short stature.

Then, Debs on the ground shouted her instructions:

“Ready!” (Bend your knees)
“Hop!” (Hop)

I was off and flying. That was enough, surely? I mean, hello! I’m on a fricking trapeze, people! But no –

“Legs up!”

“Legs up!”

“Legs up!”

Oh I tried, I really did. But I just seemed to hit a ceiling, and my knees wouldn’t obey me and hook over the bar. So then it was, “Bend your knees!” “Let go!” (I know, right? Took me a couple of goes to trust that instruction), and a somersault in the air and down.

The next go was slightly easier to get to the top of the ladder – or at least, that’s what I told Sean, as there was a certain amount of bravado (aka lying) involved, but I still didn’t quite manage the trick.

Third time lucky. This time I spent less of my brain power swearing uncontrollably, and just followed the instructions. And I did it. I even let go and hung upside down – despite one half of my brain frantically asking of the other half “You’re not actually going to let go are you??”

What a feeling. I felt so graceful up there (although I doubt I looked it – am glad there’s no evidence), and surprisingly safe once I decided just to completely trust what I was being told and not try and second guess it (Wait – is this how Hitler was so successful?).

Unfortunately my prowess wasn’t quite enough to try the catch (something about not being very good at following instructions?), but I did have a fourth and final go at the trick, and left with a spring in my step, a grin on my face, and aches where I wasn’t even sure I had muscles.

(If you want to have a go, Gorilla Circus will be holding lessons in their full-size open air trapeze in Regent’s Park until September. They also do courses, if you fancy more than just a taster.)

Oh, he floats through the air
With the greatest of ease,
This daring young man
On the flying trapeze;
His actions are graceful,
All girls he does please,
My love he has purloined away.

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