So, we had to make our way to the top of the bridge and, just as I’d feared, there were staircases to climb. I’ll be honest with you, I was so exhausted just getting to the first set of steps that I thought that was it. Over. I had to keep stopping to rest, but the guys from ACE were (once again) extremely patient and didn’t rush me at all. They gave me time to catch my breath, and by the time we’d got to the bridge, my sister and her friend, Scorey (the stand-in) were already over the edge and ready to go. I had wanted to go first, to get it over with, but was in no state to do so. A last minute kiss off my mam and Lyndsey was on her way. Her mouth never stopped all the way down…or when she got to the bottom, for that matter! Scorey, despite being well-hungover, went down like he’d done it a million times. Maybe it was the lure of the hot dog van at the bottom?
What did everyone tell me not to do? Look down. What was the first thing I did? Peer over the top of the bridge. What kind of idiot am I? That was rhetorical – don’t answer. At that time, I knew I definitely couldn’t go through with it. Then, down went my mam, like a pro! Sarah went next. As she was going over, I was asking the poor instructor twenty questions. I told him that I didn’t think I could do the bit where you have to lean over the edge, backwards (god, I feel dizzy just thinking about it). He got me to practise at the other side of the bridge. It was even harder than I’d anticipated, and the bloomin harness dug, painfully, into my ribs. I can’t do this, I thought. As I was telling him I couldn’t do it, he was telling me the best way to get over the railing. I numbly followed his instructions, my brain having lost the ability for independent thought due to fear. If you are able to access the video footage, or watch the dvd, you will quite clearly see me say, “I really can’t do this,” as I’m lying on the railing, high above the Tyne.
Once I was over the edge, I kept having to ask for a minute. Pausing for calm, I call it. Procrastination, others would say. My legs were shaking so much – it wasn’t just fear, but also the physical exertion. As you know, I call getting up off the settee exercise. The instructor was fabulous, and managed to convince me that I wouldn’t plummet to my death if I leaned backwards. I vaguely recall asking if I was safe, and he said that the bridge would fall down before I fell (cue memories of that TV programme I watched the other day…about the bridge falling down). Sarah was beside me and had slipped – fortunately, I hadn’t seen that, so focussed was I on my own shaking legs. After the initial fall, she sailed down.
Then it was me. There were no more minutes to get myself together. I remember leaning back and the harness digging into my bony little ribs. I leaned back as far as was comfortable and stepped off. Then…I slipped! I don’t remember being scared or any kind of thought going through my head at all. The instructor was ready to pull me back up and my brain snapped in to self-preservation mode! “No, I just want to go down. Down, down, down!” I remember shouting. “Faster, faster,” I yelled, but it was my own lack of ability that was slowing things down – my gloves were caught in the metal thingy the rope went through. I can’t remember much about the actual descent, but can remember how jelly-legged I was when I got to the bottom. I honestly thought I’d never go through with it – even when I was teetering on the edge of the bridge.
I wouldn’t have done this for myself, but am happy to have done this for two great charities and for all the people who’ve supported me. Would I do it again? NEVER! Would I recommend other people having a go? Certainly, particularly if Adventure Challenge Events are involved – if they could get me off a bridge, they could convince anyone!!!