I was a healthy child, when it came to irrational fears. I was scared of thunder, but this was because thunder (or more specifically lightning) could really kill you to death. I was scared of anything found in my mate Paul's books called the 'Unexplained,' be it the Loch Ness Monster, Poltergeists or Vampires. I was not, however, scared of heights. In fact quite the opposite. I would sit on the edge of my bedroom window in the height of the summer, and watch out over the street behind my house and the backgarden with no fear of falling. I would climb trees in the local woods, and only once did I come a cropper when the local bully shouted he'd "call the old bill" and I jumped from far to high up the tree, landing on the root of the tree and twisting my ankle quite badly. On one occasion, in a thunderstorm, I was so terrified I realised it was quicker to jump down the stairs rather then run down them, and so I took a true leap of faith, landing following a couple of loud bumps in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. I also went up Snowdon when I was 7, with no fear or worry at all, and walking all the way to the top (when I say walking, what I mean is piggy backed on my father most of the way because I was tired!).
Much later in life, and working in my Saturday job for a local sports shop and armoury (yes, I was a gun runner), I had a few months helping out as a labourer for the owner's son, who was building what was to ultimately become my workshop where I could repair air guns that no longer would aim correctly or had broken washers from being fired without pellets. This labouring involved learning to do roofing, and there I was, contentedly walking around on the newly placed rafters, some 3 storeys up with nothing but Newton's physics and a definite trip southwards should I slip. This did not bother me in the slightest at the time. Even the tale of the boss's son falling through a ladder and getting his leg caught so he hung upside for the best part of 3 hours until his wife returned with his lunch didn't scare me into taking a dislike for the higher plains. I even remember, nearly 10 years later, being able to climb up a ladder to break into my own house when my key didn't work without even the slightest of tremors. And then I took a trip on the train up Snowdon.
Snowdon (for those that don't know) is Wales' highest mountain at 3,560 feet (or about a kilometre in Eurobabble). It was my cousin's (aka 'Squeak') wedding, and on the Friday before I'd been notified by my boss that I had had a nice tax rebate. As a treat I decided I'd take my father up Snowdon on the railway. We all boarded the train mid-morning, on what was to be a glorious warm and sunny day, and set up chuff-chuffing up the mountain. The view was most excellent, and I was doing my best TV camera man impression, fliming the view as it became more and more prominent, looking over the lowlands of Llanberis, down the valley to Caernarfon, and across the Menai Strait over to Anglesey. The hour long journey had progressed well, and about 5 minutes from the summit, the ridge narrowed (see above) and the next thing I knew I was looking down the side of a sheer face to a lake some 3,000 feet below.
"Twang," went something inside my head.
"Oh shit, look at the drop," I went to say, but it just came out as "Neep."
"Pucker" went my arse, as the morning's breakfast threatened to evacuate rather inconveniently.
We got off the train at the top, and for the first time ever, I couldn't move. In abject fear (and to be honest most of which I don't remember at all, I was so terrified), I found myself on the concrete patio just below the actual summit. I held onto John, who whilst only 2 had also taken an immense dislike to the altitude, and we both stood there, eyes closed, shaking. I couldn't hope for the call to come to board the train for the return journey soon enough.
I was borked. I have suffered with a fear of heights ever since. No amount of trying to cure my fear by subjection (climbing the belfry in Brugge really was a stupid idea) , or rationalising would help my plight. I still suffer to this day, something Bryn will testify to when he decided it would be 'nice' to show me Sychnant Pass, just outside Conwy in North Wales back in August.
I now avoid anything to do with heights as far as possible. I look straight ahead only when driving over bridges, I won't go up stepladders, and I certainly won't stand on the edge of a cliff.
As my boss's son said to me all those years ago, height won't kill you. Falling from a great height won't kill you either. It's the hitting the ground that'll kill you. I don't wish to find out.
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