Thirty years ago, on Monday 10th August 1992 to be precise, I was to embark on an adventure that would begin a lifelong fear of rollar-coasters.
The American Adventure Theme Park, situated somewhere in the Midlands, was one of the first theme parks that I had ever been to, and, as a 10-year-old, its vastness was truly awe-inspiring.
Like any theme park worth its salt, this one had a Log Flume. I didn’t particularly want to ride this flume, the height of the drop looked terrifying, plus everyone was coming off it drenched, but my little 4-year-old cousin wanted to go on it, so I was not about to chicken out. Accompanying us were my auntie, my sister and my other, younger cousin. As the log-boat began its slow ascent up through the tin tunnel, I began to get nervous. It was going awfully high and all I could think about was the inevitable fall once we reached the top. The higher we got, the more panicked I became. I began screaming and asking to get off, but there was no way off, I was trapped on this train of terror. My auntie held on to me as we reached the peak, there was an unsettling pause as the boat flirted with the edge of the drop before finally being launched over the edge, taking me and all the air from my lungs with it. I couldn’t breathe, my body had tightened, and my face, whitened. How on Earth was that supposed to be fun?
As the years have passed, I have visited several theme parks and settled very happily for the Dumbo rides, the ‘It’s A Small World’ rides, and the Carousels, anything with a nice cheery song that isn’t drowned out by the screams of tortured souls.
This brings me nicely to last weekend. With memories of that day in 1992 stored safely in the deepest, darkest depths of my mind, I felt a wave of excitement as I pulled into the car park of the ‘iFLY’ building in Milton Keynes. I was there to do an indoor skydive, an experience gifted to me by my husband on my last birthday. I’d seen the videos and thought how wonderfully serene it looked, what a thrill it must be to float so effortlessly in the air!
What I hadn’t factored in was the sheer, frightening force of the wind machine that would be used to launch me ‘serenely’ into the air. As I sat in line, waiting for my turn, the noise was deafening, penetrating with ease through my ear-covering safety helmet and foam earplugs. I began to grow nervous as it neared my turn. At close quarters, I could see the power of the air as it blasted into each flier, and for the first time it dawned on me that this may not be quite my cup of tea. What had I been expecting, I wonder? It was called Indoor Skydiving, after all. Had I imagined that I would be suspended from the ceiling with strings? Or had I thought, perhaps, that I would be lying, faced downwards, on an ironing board, Superman pose at the ready while a screen behind me showed clouds rushing past? Whatever I had expected, it wasn’t this.
As soon as I entered the flying pod my body was hit with such brutality that I thought my arms would be ripped out of their sockets. My face was taking a battering too as I tried to remember the instructor’s instructions, ‘Hold your chin up!’ With all the wind rushing towards me, my mind was taken back to that Log Flume, and I was once again a terrified 10-year-old, panicking because I couldn’t breathe. I desperately signalled with my thumbs down so that my instructor could save me from the torture.
Once I was safely back on firm ground and had recovered away from the iFly building, I was ready to marvel at the experience and feel pride at my achievement. Then I was ready to share my photos on social media, as all good adventurers do, thus giving the impression that my life is full of excitement whilst looking every bit the thrill-seeking daredevil that I am*.