Alex Hart

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Flying Red Tomatoes

When the surgeon asked me if there was anything I wanted to know before my operation in March, I think he was a little disconcerted when I asked only “how soon will I be able to sky dive?”

As it turned out, the sky dive to raise money for children in Añatuya  Argentina  took a little longer to organise than planned – mainly due to cancellations because of the weather. However  I  finally did the deed last Saturday.

The prospect of jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet up was for me quite simply terrifying. So instead of focussing on the actual jump, before the day  I worried about other random things such as would I be able to do the suit up over my chest? Would they shout my weight out to all present? Would I scream like a banshee on the way down only to fall in an awkward heap on the ground? What would it be like being strapped to a complete stranger (being British, this was a real concern for me)? Oh and finally, dear god, please don’t let the suit be red………

You might think a red flying suit would be the last thing to worry about. Well perhaps it helps if I explain. Several years ago, not long after I had met my husband, he organised a skiing weekend as a surprise. I had not skied much (and not for many years) so was lacking in the necessary gear for our planned weekend in the Scottish highlands (as was my 6 year old son). “Not to worry” said my beloved, “I will go and organise everything”.  Fabulous! How thoughtful! I happily told my colleagues all about my man’s plans. One of my friends asked if I was not the teeniest bit concerned about my new man purchasing an important item of clothing – sowing a tint seed of doubt in my mind – but really, what could possibly go wrong?

Arriving home that evening my beloved presented me with my ski gear – a lovely tomato red “onesie” and even better – a matching mini red onesie for my son. Ah. The offending item (unfortunately) fitted so there was nothing for it but to wear the outfit in the snow. To this day, I shudder in horror at the memory of the photograph of me hurtling down the mountain, arms outstretched, like a giant beef tomato, mini cherry tomato following swiftly behind……. Suffice it to say that the onesie was quietly disposed of to charity soon after!

So last Saturday, on the actual day of the sky dive all my fears were reduced to nothing. The (blue) suit did up, there was no stressing about having my weight declared and the instructor, T, was experienced and kind. Plus the weather was clear and sunny.  So far so good! As the plane took off I contented myself with looking out of the window at the marvellous scenery while trying to remember the instructions I had been given.

So far so good!

At 13,000 feet, T opened the door of the Cessna and instructed me to swing my legs out and perch them on the little ledge outside. At this point the sheer shock of the blast of wind in my face not to mention dangling in the air sent a wave of extreme panic through me and I struggled to breathe. T asked if I was ok ) but by now full on panic attack had taken hold and I was turning blue in the face. Eventually I crawled back into the safety of the cabin and the pilot turned the plane back to ground.

At this point I pictured all of the people on the ground waiting for me, the people who had generously sponsored my dive and the embarrassment of admitting failure and handing back the funds. I tapped T on the shoulder and said ¨Please, I really need to do this¨.

The second time the door opened I felt calmer, my breathing was under control and before I knew it we had tipped out of the plane and were freefalling.

Strangely, despite my fear of heights I wasn’t concerned about how high up we were and instead  I focussed only on breathing in and out and after almost a minute the chute was pulled, the noise stopped and we were floating above the ground – fantastic!

We glided to a graceful stop a few minutes later – it was all over.

yippee made it!

Now I know some people rave about sky diving but I have to confess it’s not for me. It was intended to be a challenge – for me to conquer my fear and do something that scared me silly for the sake of somebody else. In that sense it was very successful and I would very much like to thank all involved who helped me achieve my goal. Would I do it again? Well you just have to see the video to see how terrified I was – and frankly I would only jump out of a plane again if my very life depended on it.

Speaking of lives depending on it, just a mere 3 hours later the very same Cessna plane lost power above the airfield and crash landed into some trees. Nobody was hurt thank goodness – but that could very easily have been me……..

If you want to know more about my fundraising project you can see it here: