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!