Sunday, 28 October 2007


This is me trying to look confident.

I've now had a bit of time (OK, more like a month) to get my jumbled impressions of the parachute jump sorted out in my mind, examine my feelings and clarify my thoughts, and I can safely say that jumping out of a plane at 3,500ft is a thoroughly interesting experience.
When we drove up to the Black Knights Parachute Centre on Saturday morning, I thought my chances of taking the jump were about 50/50. The weather was good, but it's been so changeable lately that I wasn't taking anything for granted. I'd taken the precaution of only having a very light breakfast – a small bowl of cereal. I also took the precaution of bringing along a spare pair of underpants and jeans, just in case. We got there in good time, about 8.30 I think, and reported to the Manifest (the office that everything seems to be run from). The briefing was about 9.30, there was just me and one other guy there. Adam said he'd done something like a dozen jumps already, but had decided to go for a briefing to keep his memory refreshed. The briefing was held in the hangar, and was basically a condensed version of the training I'd had a couple of weeks previously. Basically, you're supposed to exit the aircraft and adopt a star formation, with your arms and legs spread out, looking up and your back arched to form a sort of shuttlecock shape. You're also supposed to be facing as near as possible to straight forward. At the same time, you're supposed to shout: “One thousand, two thousand, three thousand. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand. Check canopy!” This is to allow the parachute time to open before you start panicking. Having satisfied yourself that the canopy's opened OK, (ie, it's big, square and controllable) you then make sure the lines aren't twisted, take the controls and (keeping an eye out for other parachutists etc) guide yourself down to Earth. That's the theory, anyway. If there's anything wrong with the canopy, there's also an emergency drill, which is both simple and scary (get rid of the main canopy and then deploy your reserve chute). One interesting fact I learned from this briefing that wasn't mentioned in training is that I would have a radio in my helmet – one-way, so a qualified instructor could talk me down from the ground. Slightly re-assuring, but it's still just you up there when you make the jump.
Briefing finished, I was then hanging around for a couple of hours until they called my name. I'm assuming they were waiting to see if any more students turned up. I wasn't bored, a parachute centre's a good place to pass the time because they were taking up experienced people all the time and dropping them. This is good for morale when you're waiting for your first ever parachute jump, as you can watch people parachuting down, obviously enjoying themselves and not getting killed! I noticed that they weren't landing in the usual field that they use to land in, but the one next door, which is closer to the club buildings and viewing area. This is because that particular field had been full of cows previously, and they'd left the usual deposits there. First-timers were to land in the regular place, though – not that landing in a cow pat was at the top of my list of things to worry about!

Comes 12.30, and there's a tannoy announcement telling me to report to the Manifest. I reported in, and was told to wait in the hangar till called. I took the opportunity to practice my exits a bit more, figuring that was what I needed to concentrate on most. I was very aware that the greatest problem I would have with this jump would be my own fear, so I concentrated on visualising myself at the door, looking up and inside the plane, and ready to jump, and then jumping when the jumpmaster shouted “Go!”. At this point I was starting to get mildly nervous, but it still didn't seem completely real. After maybe 20-30 minutes, another tannoy announcement – report to the changing room to get kitted out. There was a selection of jump suits available to borrow, various sizes and any colour you like as long as it's black. I got sorted out with a fetching black number with red stripes down the sleeves, so at least I knew that if I died I would die reasonably well dressed. I don't think the red crash helmet with the radio stuck on the side really matched it though, but it's what I was given. My brother said I looked like a Roboman from “Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD”.

Roboman ready for action.

And then the instructor helped me on with the parachute. Those things are heavier than they look, despite being fairly compact. An altimeter was then attached to the front strap of the parachute. Then outside to a little coral area, where the me and the other jumpers on that lift waited for a few minutes. Final checks were made on my parachute, then we walked off to the plane (the parachute straps giving us all a bit of a bow-legged gait). By this time I was getting distinctly edgy.

Dead men walking.

We approached the plane (a French Pilates Porter, specially designed for this kind of work) from behind and to the right and boarded it in reverse order of who would jump. I was Number One (first to jump) so was last in. Most of the jumpers were on a bench facing the door, but as Number One I didn't get a seat. I was sat on the floor, next to the door and with my back to the pilot. Yes, I admit I was scared getting into the plane. As soon as the plane got moving the fear level drastically increased and I had my eyes shut while I focused on trying to relax through breathing control. As the plane climbed, I felt myself slide forward a bit, but still kept my eyes shut – there's a really big window built into the door, and I didn't need reminding of the predicament I'd put myself into. The jumpmaster could see I was terrified and tried to cheer me up: “There's a nice view. You can see Blackpool Tower from here.” “I'll take your word for it,” says me. All too soon comes the most terrifying sound I could imagine at this point – the sound of the engine throttling back as the plane reduces speed to the correct one for parachuting. The jumpmaster reaches over me to slide the door back and I hear the sound of the wind rushing past. This was the moment of maximum fear for me. Being Number One, I was first to be given the instruction to get ready. I had to move into the right position, facing forward and up, sitting on the edge with my feet dangling over the side, and absolutely not thinking about the terrible void outside. This was where all my previous practice and visualisation paid off – I was able to empty my mind and completely focus on the position I had to adopt in the door. I think it's also a good thing that I was the first out of the door - it gave me less time to be scared. I honestly don't know if my nerve would have held if I'd had to watch other people jumping first.

The jumpmaster didn't waste any time: “Go!”, and like a robot I was out of the door. Just for those few precious seconds, I had managed to clear my mind of the fear and focus single-mindedly on what I had to do.

My impressions of the first few seconds after “went EVA” are fragmentary and confused. I felt a blast of cold air as the slipstream caught me. I caught a glimpse of the plane flying away from me and the yellow static line. Most of all, I felt like I was falling too far and should hit the ground any moment. I definitely made a bad exit, I think instead of going into the approved starfish/shuttlecock shape, I instinctively went into a semi-fetal position. I probably spun around a bit too. I think I saw the canopy begin to deploy, and the next thing I knew I was being jerked around as the parachute slowed my descent. I felt like a sack of potatoes that had just been dropped out of a plane. In all the confusion I'd also forgotten to count. Never mind, I looked up and the canopy was reassuringly big and square. It wasn't controllable though, as the lines were twisted. This wasn't unexpected, the trainer said it happens a lot, and I knew what to do. I kicked my legs to try and spin myself to untwist the lines. Didn't work. I tried again, still no result. Then I get “CapCom's” voice in my radio: “Number One, turn right.” Thinking he's giving me instructions for untwisting the lines, I continue kicking, still no result. I kick the other way, and the lines start to untwist, while CapCom repeats the instruction and I realise that he's instructing me to turn in the air, which I can't do until I reach the control lines – and I can't do that until I've untwisted the main lines. Finally the lines untwist, and I take the controls. At this point, I start to have a bit of a look round, which is when my anxiety level starts to drastically increase again!

I have to admit, I had my eyes closed most of the time for the first couple of minutes after the canopy opened, and the rest of the time I was mostly staring straight upwards. I flew through a cloud at one point, I could tell by the feel of the cool moisture particles on my face. Fortunately, I had CapCom's voice on the radio to guide me, which is just as well, because turning either right or left in a square canopy parachute involves a bank so steep that I couldn't keep my eyes open! Eventually, my courage restored itself to a level where I could start to look around a bit more, and the view was, in retrospect, glorious. I had a clear view of Morcambe Bay and the surrounding countryside, which is very flat (one of the things that area a good dropzone is the relative lack of potential aerial hazards, such as mountains, barrage balloons and pterodactyls). I didn't see Blackpool Tower though, but I've seen it before anyway – just not from that angle. The view seemed strangely unreal to me, as if I was watching it on an IMAX screen. In retrospect I think that was because there was nothing to give the scene a sense of depth, and maybe also because my mind was a little stunned. Once or twice I caught sight of Number Two higher in the sky than me and a good distance off, but mostly I concentrated on following CapCom's directions.

Who is Number One?

I am Number One!

As time went on I got less and less nervous, but it was only when I was in the landing approach that I finally started enjoying myself. Nice steady approach past the parachute centre and into the landing field – feet together – and about 10 feet in the air, I get the instruction to pull down on the control lines to break the parachute, and I come down to a nice gentle landing on my feet, with the canopy collapsing in front of me. I then fell over, but I still managed to avoid any cow pats!

Frankly I think I must have been a bit dazed. It took me a while to gather my parachute together and one or two people came up to lend me a hand. Back at the parachute centre, I got rid of the chute and the jumpsuit (no change of underwear required) and it was at that point that I realisede that I hadn't looked at the altimeter once – I'd forgotten I had it! I waited to be summoned back to the Manifest, where I was given a nice, embossed jump certificate, the instructor signed my Jump Record Card with the comment “More effort on exit but well done.” I definitely made a bad exit, but I'm quietly pleased with myself that I did it at all, even though I admit that I could have done better. They also gave me a magazine called “Skydive Startup”, which had a useful-looking article in it about coping with fear- thanks a bunch, guys!

Seriously, many thanks to the people at Black Knights Parachute Centre for getting me through this – I must have seriously tried their patience at times. Thanks also to everyone who sponsored me, I didn't reach my target but I hope I've raised enough to make a difference. I've been trying to think of something else I can do to raise money for cancer research, preferably not as extreme. I'm sure I'll think of something.

One question this experience has left me with is, could I do it again? Would I have the guts to do another parachute jump, knowing what to expect this time? Would it be harder or easier? I don't know, but I'm curious. There's space for one more jump on that record card. I'm not at a point in my life where I can afford to go on another jump right now, it would have to be next year or the year after, which means I'd have to take the course all over again. So I've got plenty of time to think about it. It's an interesting idea, though.

Overall, it's an experience I'd recommend to almost anyone, either to prove to yourself that you can overcome your fears or to raise a bit of money for charity – or both. To conclude, here's a promotional video for the Black Knights Parachute Centre:

If you're interested in trying a parachute jump and you live in the North West, I can't imagine you'll find a better place - and the canteen food's good!

Sunday, 30 September 2007


Astonishingly, I actually did it! At roughly 1.00pm yesterday, 29 September 2007, I defied my fear of heights and performed a parachute jump from 3,500ft! I was absolutely terrified in the plane going up - to the extent that I had my eyes tightly shut most of the time until I actually jumped - but I did it! I'm still trying to sort out my fragmentary impressions of the jump, and I'll do a proper write up (with pictures) in the next couple of days, but in the meantime if you want to see my ugly mug go along to the Black Knights Parachute Centre website at and go to the "Hall of Fame".

Immediately after the jump, someone asked me how it felt. I said it was about 75% scary and 25% fun. It got more fun the closer I got to the ground, and I was actually starting to enjoy myself by the time I was coming in to land! More about that in my next entry.

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me, I'm sure the North West Cancer Research Fund will make good use of the money. My JustGiving site will remain online till about mid-November, so if anyone else wants to chip in just click on the widget to the left.

For now, here's a little something off YouTube which sums up how I feel about myself right now:

Thursday, 27 September 2007


The weather was looking decidedly doubtful last Sunday, so I didn't even bother driving up the the parachute centre. This weekend's looking about 50/50. Fortunately, a sudden (but not unexpected) change in my employment status (sacked on Monday, unemployed on Tuesday, temping since Wednesday) means I've now got Saturdays free as well as Sundays. Unless the weather's looking totally horrible on Saturday morning, I'll drive up there and at least have a briefing (which I need to do fairly regularly until I take my jump, just to refresh my memory). Hopefully I'll jump Saturday. If not, maybe Sunday - but if it's Sunday, I'll have to make an excuse to my parents, who I normally visit on Sundays and don't actually know yet what I'm doing.

The sooner the better - psychologically I'm "Go for EVA", but the weather's only going to get worse from now on.

Sunday, 16 September 2007


What a weekend. The training was fun (quite a lot to pack into 6 hours) and I passed the course with no problems (it's easy to pay attention to lessons when they're all about how to avoid getting killed) but the weather turned a bit bad about the middle of yesterday afternoon - bright sunny day, good for hill walking and suchlike, but the wind was blowing too fast for inexperienced people on their first jump. We could have ended up being blown about all over the place - into woods, roads, pylons, the sea etc. So they said come back anytime to do the jump.

I went back this morning and the weather was even worse - cloudy, windy and cold. So bad that no-one at all, no matter how experienced, went up. On top of that, I think I've caught a cold. I'll have to see what the weather's like next Sunday now - I will take the jump, but it's a bit of a mither having to wait till the weather conditions are good enough and I've got a day off work. I could end up making several trips up there before I get to jump. No point complaining though, there's nothing anyone can do about the weather.

Saturday, 15 September 2007


The weather's been good today - good for anything except taking your first parachute jump, as it turns out. I got to the parachute centre nice and early, and took the intensive six hour course along with about a dozen other students. Then we waited for the wind to die down to the correct speed - the parachute centre likes first-timers to jump in wind speeds of about 20mph, for reasons of control and safety. The wind was a little to fearce today. We waited several hours to see if it would change, but no luck. I was the last of the group to go home, I think, at about 7.00pm. Now I'll have to go back tomorrow and see if the weather's right - and if not tomorrow, next Sunday, or the Sunday after. Very frustrating. Today I felt as ready as I'm likely to get to take the jump - tomorrow, who knows?

Friday, 14 September 2007

I'M WORTH £100,000 - DEAD!

This is it, the last few hours. I need to be at the airfield by 8.30 in the morning, preferably a bit sooner - a full day's training followed (weather permitting) by the jump. I hope the weather's good enough to jump on the same day, I'd hate to have to go back at a later date, when the training's not as fresh in my mind and I've had more time to lose my nerve.

Everything's now ready. I took the sponsorship money out of my savings account in the form of a banker's draft the other day. I've got the doctor's certificate. I got paid today, so I've got the jump fee. And these evening I took out parachute jump insurance online - £100,000 if I die or am permanently disabled on this jump, for a fee of £20. All that remains is for me to scrape myself out of bed first thing in the morning and get to the parachute centre.

Hopefully by this time tomorrow I'll be a bit of a hero - either that or everyone will consider me the coward of the county! Or I might snuff it, but I'm happy to say the odds are against that.

Monday, 10 September 2007


I expect my parachute jump to be a bit less eventful than this!

This song's been going through my head for the last couple of days. It seems you can find just about anything on YouTube.

Saturday, 8 September 2007


Almost time now. This time next week I should be either in the plane already, or making final preperations for the jump (I don't have a timetable, but it's a day of training with the jump taking place at the end of the day). Strangely, I don't feel nervous about the jump. It's the money side I still need to take care of. About half of the money I've raised has been in cash - this is currently resting in my savings account. I have to hand that over at the airfield. They won't accept cash, and they'll only accept a cheque with a cheque guarantee card, which I don't have. So I'll have to give them a banker's draft, which will cost £15. Very annoying, but I've checked with the bank and there shouldn't be a problem with me collecting the draft on Tuesday, which is my day off. I also have to pay my jump fee on Saturday (£160). One problem, due to me having to have the brakes on my car fixed last week, I don't currently have that money. Fortunately Friday is payday, so I should be able to collect it then. Finally I still haven't taken out my jump insurance (£100,000 of life insurance for a fee of £20). That's something else that will need to wait till Friday, I'm hoping I can book the insurance online then. So I'm basically depending on the bank not messing me about, and getting paid on time. Strange that I'm currently more nervous about money than I am about steppin out into a 3,000ft void. I expect that will change next Saturday.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


I got down to the doctor's surgery this morning to get my "Declaration of Fitness to Parachute" signed. This was necessary because I'm ever so slightly over 40 and the guys organising the jump can't just take my word for it that I don't have any health problems that would compromise safety when jumping out of a plane with only a piece of silk to save me from death. The doctor had a quick look through the form, tested my blood pressure - told me to relax and tested my blood pressure again, checked my weight and height, put me through a couple of balance tests and signed the form. Quick and easy. This means there are now no obstacles standing in my way - I've got the jump fee, raised a reasonable amount of money for the charity, and transportation to and from the airstrip is organised. Not long now!

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Not long to go now. Strangely enough, I'm currently feeling fairly positive about this parachute jump. I just hope I don't have the problems this guy had!

That's the trouble with living in Britain, you just can't rely on the weather. I also thought the jump training looked a bit... basic, shall we say? I suppose I was expecting people jumping off towers and stuff, like in old WW2 paratroop training films.

The amount of sponsorship money I've raised is just nosing up towards £300 now, about 30% of my target, but at least it's an amount worth jumping for. With Gift Aid, you can add nearly a third onto that, and I've still got time to raise some more money for cancer research.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


I have to admit my morale's been a bit low lately, what with pressures at work (I haven't sold a thing all week) and the fundraising having dried up for several days. But, it only takes a moment for something to turn my mood around sometimes. I went along to my local gun club after work last night (I do a bit of target shooting, although I'll never exactly be Olympic class). The last time I'd been there was the week before last, and I'd left a few home-printed leaflets asking for sponsorship money through my JustGiving page, as well as getting a couple of donations from committeee members - I didn't have any luck with the other members at the time, so I wasn't expecting anything last night. However, while I'm in the range reloading my carbine, one of the members came up to me and said: "Are you still doing that parachute jump?" Me having answered in the affirmative, he immediately offered to sponsor me to the tune of a tenner - very nice of him, especially as we don't even know each other that well. You never know, it just goes to show it pays to keep trying. Then when I logged on to the internet this afternoon (today being my day off from work), I found that there had been two separate donations through JustGiving, one for £25 (thanks Sis) and one for £50 (thanks a lot Shirley), meaning that the amount of sponsorship money I've collected is suddenly edging towards £300 - still a way short of my £1,000 target, but at least it's now a worthwhile amount to be risking my neck for, and the more money I raise the less likely it is that I'll chicken out at the last minute. I don't want to have to pay all that money back!

Meanwhile, my physical and mental training seems to be going a bit more slowly. I seem to be getting flabbier if anything, despite eating tons of diet food, and I still need to get more acclimatised to heights - I did mean to take a trip up Blackpool Tower a couple of weeks ago, but finances prevented me - hopefully next week, after I've been paid.

Meanwhile, anyone who's reading this, any donations would be welcome, even a couple of quid. Please click on the JustGiving widget to the left.

Saturday, 4 August 2007


Only six weeks to go now before my 3,000 foot parachute jump, and I've still got a long way to go with both my fundraising and my psychological preparations. To me 3,000 ft seems high - eight times the height of a Saturn V rocket for instance - but what would it feel like to do a free-fall skydive from 20 miles up? As it happens, someone once did just that.

In the late 50s and early 60s, the US Air Force was involved in a lot of exotic high altitude flight research, partly related to the dawning Space Age. Some of this research involved sending men up to extreme altitudes in balloons to carry out various experiments. One of these pre-astronauts was Colonel Joseph Kittinger. On 16 August 1960, as part of Project Excelsior he was required to jump out of an open balloon gondola at a height of 102,800 ft (31,334 meters) - above most of the sensible atmosphere - free fall for several minutes, then deploy his parachute and land safely in the New Mexico desert. He was so high that the sky above him was black and he needed to wear a pressure suit for the occasion. During the free-fall phase of his descent, he is also believed to be the first - and so far only - man to exceed the speed of sound without being in a vehicle at the time. Certainly he achieved a world altitude parachute jump which still stands today.

Here's a video of his historic jump:

I can't imagine how it must have felt to do that.

Sunday, 29 July 2007


Looking for a bit of reassurance about the risk level of this parachute jump, I did an internet search and stumbled across the British Parachuting Association's ironically-named "How safe is it" page, to find that the solo static line jump from 3,000 feet which I'm going on - and which I selected partly because I thought it would be the safest option - is in fact more dangerous than a tandem skydive from 10,000 feet. It seems I've got a 1 in 33,000 chance of snuffing it and a 1 in 200 chance of being injured. That might not sound like too much of a risk, but I'm sure I'll feel differently when I'm stood in the door of the plane looking down. And people buy lottery tickets with much worse odds.

I must get round to taking out insurance...

Saturday, 28 July 2007


When I was passing the sponsorship form round at work, as a joke one of the girls wrote "naked" next to the description of the parachute jump I'm doing. I crossed it out of course, because there's no way I would ever do a parachute jump in the nude - and certainly not in the climate of the North of England. Not everyone's as sensible as me, though. I found this video of some crazy Germans doing a mass nude skydive on YouTube:

I don't know why people think Germans are humourless, they'll obviously do anything for a laugh!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007


When I told the people I work with that I was going on a parachute jump, they were surprised. When I told them I suffer from a pretty serious fear of heights, they were stunned. Naturally the conversation turned to the different phobias people suffer from. A Nigerian guy in our group once went on a bungee jump. What scared him wasn't the fall but the fact that the bungee cord was suspended over a lake - he has a fear of large bodies of water. A lady of Pakistani extraction who is also a member of our team has a general fear of animals - she puts this down to the fact that her culture discourages the keeping of pets in the house (they're thought to be unhygenic) together with the fact that a neighbour's dog used to chase her when she was a kid. This particular lady also recently gained a degree in psychology, so she knows a fair amount about this kind of thing - it seems people are scared of all kinds of weird things, including metal - I wonder how someone with such a fear would cope? Other more common phobias inclued fear of crowds, fear of being alone, fear of the dark, fear of time passing, fear of specific animals like spiders, snakes etc.

According to my brainy colleague, and the University of Cambridge counselling page on phobias, the way to overcome a phobia is to confront it in a controlled way, starting off with something that only scares you a bit (eg standing on a chair) and gradually building up to the main event (3,000 feet straight down with only a bit of silk to slow your fall). Makes sense to me. So far I've got to the point where I can stand on a chair and balance on one foot without any major problems - of course I'll have to accelerate the programme a bit if I'm going to be able to make that jump in less than eight weeks. Maybe I'll take a trip to Blackpool next week - all those roller coaster rides, not to mention Blackpool Tower...

Sunday, 22 July 2007


I thought it might be a good idea to post an article about how I arranged this jump and what it'll involve. Getting on for a couple of months ago, after days of indecision, I made a snap decision to do a parachute jump for cancer research (it's the way my mind works, I spend ages fretting about things then just decide to do them).

I was vaguely aware that there are people who organise parachute jumps for charity, so I did an internet search and came up with several options. The one I picked - mostly on the grounds of the ease of use of their website - was an outfit called Skyline who offer parachute jumps to beginners, including charity jumps. One of the charities they have a relation with is the North West Cancer Research Fund, which sounded like exactly the kind of outfit I was looking to support.

Skyline offered a range of options as far as the jump is concerned, from static line jumps to solo skydives. I went for a static line jump because that was the cheapest option, and also because it struck me as the least dangerous. The actual jump, along with the training, will take place at the Black Knights Parachute Centre, which is a few miles outside Lancaster. They've got a nice-looking website, I just hope the training's as good!

What will actually be happening on Saturday 15th September is that I will arrive at the airfield at the crack of dawn (no later than 8.30am) and spend the day being trained. I imagine the training will mostly be about how to avoid being killed or injured. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to stay awake! At the end of the day, if weather permits and my instructors are satisfied I'm ready, I'll be taken up in a plane to a height of 3,000 feet to do the jump. As I said, it's a static line jump - like when you see films about paratroops in World War 2, there'll be a line connecting my parachute pack to the ceiling of the plane, and when I go out of the door, the line will pull my parachute open - hopefully. Instead of being the traditional circular type, it'll be a square 'chute, so I should be able to steer it down - although I reckon I'll be a lot more bothered about my speed of descent than exactly where I touch down!

Saturday, 21 July 2007


Exactly eight weeks from now I'll be at the Black Knights Parachute Centre just outside Lancaster, training for my parachute jump - and hopefully carrying out the jump at the end of that day (assuming the weather's slightly less horrible than it is at the moment).

I still get nervous thinking about it, and I expect I'll be terrified when the moment to jump comes, but it's either that or go into work...

Still, at least it's in a good cause - Cancer Research, so please give generously. Just click the button on the left of the screen, and don't forget to Gift Aid the donation if you're a UK tax payer. Cheers.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


OK, I was back in work today and got the official word from my boss that I can take Saturday 15th September off to do the parachute jump. I took that as a sign to start fundraising around the call centre. Today's been a pretty bad day for me, actually. I woke up with a splitting headache that lasted all morning, then got stuck in a traffic jam going into work (something really needs doing about the Mancunian Way). Getting out of the car and rushing into work (no parking on the premises unless you're carsharing) I suddenly realised I'd left my work ID card at home. This meant I got delayed at the front desk, then couldn't buy anything for lunch (because the canteen doesn't take cash, you have to put the money on your card). On top of that, I was late for all my breaks (due to the general public being a bunch of idiots, or at least that portion which was talking to me). However, I did manage to corner about half the team, plus a couple of floorwalkers and my manager, and altogether I've extracted £28.50 from them so far. Small beginnings, but I'll do the other half of the team tomorrow. Three of the ladies on my team were particularly generous (considering we're not that well paid and we've all got financial commitments) so hopefully that will encourage the blokes to open their wallets. Not too bad for a single day - and I've still got a lot of my social network to work on, so maybe I will achieve my target of raising at least £1,000.

Of course any donations, no matter how small, will help. Feel free to click the JustGiving box on the left hand side of the screen ;-)

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


I just found this on YouTube. If it chills my blood just watching it, what'll it be like when I'm actually doing the exact same thing in a few weeks?

It's going to take all my nerve to do this parachute jump. I suppose the best way to motivate myself will be to raise as much sponsorship money as possible (hint, hint).

Sunday, 15 July 2007


OK, I've got to admit that there hasn't been an awful lot of progress so far, either as far as my preparations for the parachute jump goes, or fundraising. Fundraising's the biggest concern - I'm aiming to raise £1,000 (if I'm throwing myself out of a plane I want it to be for a worthwhile amount) and so far I've raise £60 through my Justgiving page and £70 in person. Having said that, I've just started a new job and this weekend marked the first payday for me and my workmates - I've already got commitments from some of them, so I'll hopefully be able to tap them for funds tomorrow.

One other possible problem is getting the time off work. At the moment, the training day is set for Saturda 15th September, with the jump being either at the end of that day or the following morning. The shift I'm on in my new job (a callcentre job working for a utility company) has me working on Saturdays. So I asked the team manager if I could have that Saturday off, and she said OK. Unfortunately, last thing on Friday she said that her boss had told her there was no availability that day, which was obviously an annoyance for me, but she is going to talk to him again tomorrow and see if anything can be done. If worst comes to worst, I may have to contact the parachute centre and ask them to change the date of my jump - but if it's a later date, not only will the weather be worse (most likely), but I'll have more time to lose my nerve.

Oh well, one way or the other I plan to do the jump - any obstacles will be overcome, by hook or by crook.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


Welcome to the first post in what I expect to be a fairly short-lived blog - in fact I only expect to be running it until mid-September.

For reasons which seem good to me, I've decided to jump out of a plane at approximately 3,000 ft, with only a piece of silk to slow me down to a survivable landing speed. I expect to be doing this on Sunday 16 September, after spending Saturday training for the event.

The catch is, I suffer from acrophobia - fear of heights. To the extent that standing on a chair makes me nervous and sitting in the upper circle of a theatre can be downright terrifying.

So why am I going for a parachute jump? Two reasons:

One, I hope this will help me conquer my fear of heights - shock treatment, you could say. I think it's a good thing to identify your weaknesses and try to eliminate them.

Second, and much more importantly, I'm doing this jump to raise funds for the North West Cancer Research Fund. I have good personal reasons for supporting cancer research. Not long before Easter (and a few days before her 51st birthday), a friend of mine died of cancer after spending most of the last couple of years of her life in hospital. It's a terrible way to die, and something like one in eight of the population end up dying of some form of cancer. I myself had an anxious couple of weeks a few years ago when the doctor said I might have cancer, but thankfully the tests came back all clear - but next time, who knows? Anyone can get cancer, it sneaks up on you, and by the time you're feeling unwell enough to go to the doctor it could be too late.

So I decided that going for a sponsored parachute jump for the North West Cancer Research Fund would be a good way of overcoming my fear of heights while also paying tribute to my late friend and making a contribution towards maybe avoiding a similar fate for me and other people in the future.

I plan on using this blog to record my training for this jump, both physical and mental - especially mental, which is exactly what I must be for embarking on this venture. Also of course to try to raise some extra sponsorship money. I'll be tapping friends and people at work for contributions of course, but I also plan to raise money online, in aid of which I've opened an account with an outfit called Justgiving, who are hosting a fundraising page for me here:

It's really easy to use a payment card to make a contribution through Justgiving, and if you happen to be a UK taxpayer, Justgiving will automatically reclaim 28% Gift Aid on your behalf - so if you contribute £10 (just as an example, any amount will help), £12.80 will end up going to the charity.

So please give generously - I hope to raise at least £1,000 for cancer research this way - and frankly the more money I can raise, the more motivated I will be to chuck myself out of that plane!