Friday, 25 January 2019

Nature favours the brave

Are you a thrill seeker ? I'm sure I've mentioned before that I vehemently avoid anything approaching dangerous at all. Rollercoasters and fast rides hold absolutely no appeal for me. Anything high speed terrifies me - which is ironic considering how many times I've had speeding tickets. Still it wasn't me who had to go on a speed awareness course was it - looking at no one in particular (stares at Hubbie). However I do surprise myself sometimes. Not in a "how did I find myself in this barrel falling into Niagra Falls ?" way. More a "why exactly am I in a queue to do this thing that is scary ?" It's for this reason I had no desire to do a bungee jump. It strikes me as a ridiculous idea with so little merit. Especially when it's from a scaffold suspended over Brighton Marina. I can understand why people do it in exotic locations abroad (still not doing it myself), but in a car park in Sussex ? Not so much.

I was thinking about the things I've done that have challenged me and made me face my fears and to be fair there are a few.

I went to stay with my lovely friend Fatima when she was living and working in Spain and she took me climbing. As a short person I am not great with heights. However, I got to the top of the climbing wall and even managed to look down and see how far I'd come. It was liberating.

Scuba diving - I booked a flight to Sharm and met my friends out there. They were all far more experienced than me and had been diving for years. I had to be coaxed to jump into the pool to test my diving gear. Jumping into the red sea off the back of a boat was a whole other story. However once I was in the water I absolutely loved it. The peace and tranquility. How blue it all is. Being in nature and silence (apart from the rasping of your own breathing) is just magical.

A zip wire is on my 'do it when I'm 50' list as the longest one in Europe is at the Eden Project. Only I remembered the other day that I had already done a zip wire on board a massive cruise liner. It was very high up and I was bricking it, but actually really enjoyed it and whooped with delight when I was careering was above the decks.

My Mum never allowed me to go skiing with the school - well to be truthful we couldn't afford it anyway. She also said, "you're going to break all your bones if you do," which is a really inspiring and uplifting sentiment I'm sure you'll agree. So when I was earning enough to make the decision to go with friends I did. Again they were all experienced and I was a complete newbie. I booked lessons and instantly started to regret being so reckless as to think I'd be able to ski. Me ? Afraid of heights uncoordinated and clumsy me ? After my first lesson I was completely hooked. I loved it. By the end of the week I was skiing at speed and scaring myself stupid. I still do that when I am lucky enough to go skiing.

Yep that's me - the snow bunny 

For years I thought I wanted to do a parachute jump. My lovely pal Zoe did a wing walk for charity and that looked utterly mad, but she is a genuine thrill seeker doing things like fire walking. Then the chance came to do one of those 'flights' where you are in a tube with updraught to give you the sensation of skydiving without jumping out of a plane. Both me and Brown Bear did it and while it was amazing he did look really shell shocked afterwards.

I have always loved the trapeze and it's my favourite act in the circus. Long before the beautiful sequences in The Greatest Showman I longed to emulate Gina Lollobrigida in the movie Trapeze. However, when I did get the opportunity to learn how to swing on a trapeze I was shaking so much all I could hear was the clanking of the scaffolding as I climbed the ladder to get up there. It was no better once I was moving. I was so scared I didn't dare try and swing or leap off and dropped like a sack of potatoes onto the net. Still the photos make it look like I was a bit more competent than I actually was.


So why am I telling you all this ? Well I said that last week I was going to do something crazy with my gorgeous friend Pippa while I was in Penzance for the weekend. Pippa inspires me to be brave, to take risks and to push myself. Since I've known her I've posted videos online of myself practising yoga. I've shared my radio show with a wider audience and been honest and open about my struggles with mental health and grief. It's not a pretty journey, but it's been one that has made me face my fears.

I knew I was going to be able to go to Cornwall to spend a day in her lovely company and I sent a message to say, "I think I'll come swimming with you if that's ok ?" I practically heard her squeal over the internet. You see Pip doesn't swim in the same way that I do. Living so close to the sea she swims outside all year round. Yes even in the Winter. In a bikini !! Ok, I wasn't prepared to go that far so Hubbie managed to unearth a wetsuit and some scuba boots from the garage and I packed them with me. I wasn't entirely sure it was a wise idea, but I had committed to it and I wasn't going to back out. I often do this. Make a public declaration so I then have to go through with it. I did it with cutting off my hair and the same with running a half marathon. Now I don't consider that to be a distance that I can't manage.

So Sunday morning came and I was meeting Pip at 11.15 (after the Archers omnibus obvs). I stayed in bed late and called the boys to say good morning. I took it easy and went outside to move my car into a parking space close enough to pack later for the journey home. It was sunny outside. The forecast had said it would rain, but it was lovely. I had a message from Pip asking if I was still on and I said I absolutely was. I made a cup of tea and sat at the kitchen table listening to the radio with the laptop open and tapped away - checking work email and responding (I know, I know - shush).

At 11 o'clock I put towels and a waterproof into a big bag and popped my wetsuit and boots at the top. The nerves were starting to kick in, but I was determined to do this and the weather was better than I had expected. As I walked to the seafront to meet Pip I felt a few spatters of rain on my face. It didn't matter. She gave me one of her amazing hugs and we made our way down to the beach. I couldn't get my footing on the pebbles to put on my wetsuit, but after a few attempts and many laughs I was ready to get in. It was pretty shallow where we were - which meant a long walk to get to a depth that made swimming possible. It was cold, but not so much that I couldn't cope. I did get my shoulders under and started to move my legs only to find that I was too buoyant to swim properly. Oh well lying on my back and floating it is then. "Look !" Pip pointed in excitement. It was a seal. An actual honest to goodness seal. Swimming with us in the sea. The previous evening we had spotted dolphins splashing around  in the distance and now here was a cheeky seal. It was just wonderful. I found being in the water invigorating and empowering and I completely see why it is so addictive. As we sat on the prom afterwards drinking tea and watching the waves lapping up to the beach I felt proud that I had done it.

Yes we did just swim in the sea in January !! 

It's not even the end of January and I've done something I never expected to do. I've been for a swim in the sea in January. Yes it was cold and I did wrap up warm and layered to retain body heat for the rest of the day. I like to think the seal was my reward for being brave.


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