Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Black Hole

I am a scaredy cat of the highest order. Or as my darling Spouse puts it, I am the most risk averse person he knows.

To date my neuroses (which get worse with every passing year, and have increased in number since having children) include the following:

Flying. It's not natural. If God had intended us to fly he'd have given us wings.

Dogs. I thought by dint of Spouse forcing me into dog therapy, and me forcing myself into patting the things so the kids won't be scared, I'd got over that one. But... then lots of my friends got dogs and now I'm worse then ever...

Water. This, I know is odd for someone who is training for a triathlon. I am fine in water myself. I like swimming. And I love boats. But... put me anywhere near water and my offspring and I am a complete neurot. Even though the two big ones can swim pretty well now, I can't bear watching them do it...

And as for childhood illnesses. Don't get me started.

Every time they have a temperature, I still check for meningitis.
I'd like to keep chickens but I'm afraid of bird flu.
And though it hasn't been a problem for ages, I STILL stress out when nos 2&4 have colds in case they get a full blown asthma attack (with five hospital visits between them, perhaps that isn't so unnatural...).


I can trace EXACTLY the moment I changed from being mad, bad and dangerous to know and not caring an iota for the dangers inherent in this world, and became Ms Neurot Extraordinaire.

I was ten years old, and I used to go swimming every week at the local pool. Amazingly, when I think about it now, one of my chief pleasures was going to the top board (which was very very high) and jumping off in the deep end, which in those days was properly deep (12ft 6 deep, in fact.). My other party trick was to spend hours in the deep end trying to see if I could touch the bottom. I watch no 1 doing the same in a depth of about 3ft and panic like mad. I cannot now imagine what possessed me to do such a thing. I presume it was because, despite lurid urban myths about the person who belly flopped and split their stomach open, I thought I was invincible. Until the day I merrily climbed to the top of the high board and looked down and suddenly thought, YIKES!!! That is a long way down. A long long long way down.... And I couldn't do it anymore.

Just thinking about it makes me feel a combination of longing to have that fearlessness again ( I can still feel the joy of leaping off into space and having that nanosecond of fear and excitement before I hit the water) and a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I have been a cowardy custard ever since. Which is why I have enjoyed reading my bloggy friend Kate Harrison's book The Self Preservation Society immensely, as her heroine is even more of a scaredy cat then me (until she gets a bang on the head and starts to realise that she can take risks in life).

It was also particularly pertinent that I was reading it while were on holiday.

In Wolfsburg where we stayed in Germany, we visited a fine leisure centre called Bade Land. It puts our crap leisure centres to shame. There is a wave machine, an Olympic size swimming pool, a river thing (the kids love it, I hate it as it makes me stress. There's a surprise), and two very high rides.

No 1 and Spouse tried out the rides on our first visit. They were very enthusiastic about the tyre one, but the other ride, which was called The Black Hole induced a peculiar retinence in both of them.

Do you want a go? Spouse asked. I'll look after the kids.

I looked at the high windy tubes that snaked their way outside the building and remembered a prekids trip to a water park in Majorca where I had gone in similar and hated it.

Not a chance, mate, I said. You know me. I'm ever so brave...

However, on our second visit, I suddenly thought. Come on. Your ELEVEN year old did it. How scary can it be?

So as we were gathering everyone up to go, I said, You know, I will have a go at one of the rides. For some absurd, stupid reason known only to my subconscious, I didn't want to go home thinking I hadn't tried.

Ok, said Spouse, we'll be waiting at the bottom for you.

So I set off up the stairs. On my own. It was a Friday and the place was pretty empty. There were a lot of stairs. And it seemed to take a long long time to reach the top. Oh shit. What was I letting myself in for?

I got there and I saw two openings. One was for the tyre ride, but I hadn't brought my tyre. Besides, Spouse and no 1 had assured me that The Black Hole was great fun. I should have known better. I really should.

The Black Hole looked absolutely terrifying. It was a black hole, or rather a tube, with water running down it. When the light went green, I was meant to climb in, holding onto a bar above my head, and then let go.

I was suddenly transported back to that sodding waterpark in Majorca. There was a ride there which was immensely high. Spouse and I laboured to the top, and I watched in awe as ten year olds threw themselves over the side of it. We tentatively sat down to go, and then.... Spouse went and I lost my nerve and didn't. I stood up there feeling like a total plonker, and he (despite having hated it himself), nobly came up again and made me come down with him. I did it, but I was absolutely terrifed.

I can do this.

Of course I can do this.

My ELEVEN year old did this....

Oh sod it.

I am toooo old to prove anything to anyone. I don't have to do this, and I won't.

Feeling like a child who's having a tantrum I make my way pathetically down the stairs again. It would be nice to recapture that sense of fearlessness....

Spouse roars with laughter when he realises I haven't done it. But then he says, Oh go on. It's great fun. Look, no 1 will come after you.

Now I really can't lose face. I totter back up there with no 1. It's brilliant, Mummy, she assures me (the little liar)...

The Black Hole looks even less inviting second time around. But I have a child looking at me questioningly. I'm her mum. She deludedly thinks I am brave. I can't show her I'm not. Amazing how strong the instinct not to show yourself up in front of your offspring is.

I sit in the tunnel and hold onto the bar. It feels horribly claustrophobic, and all I can see is a black black pit. Which I am about to enter. I must be bloody mental.

I let go.

I scream from the minute I get into the tunnel till the minute I get out.

It is horrible....

I am shooting down a dark tunnel at a frantic speed. I am totally out of control. I am screaming like a banshee and wondering where the fuck the lights that no 1 and Spouse have promised me are. The tube thing I went in in Majorca was at least light. And it wasn't this sodding long.

For a moment I am put out of my misery as I flash briefly through a part of the tunnel which has a few miserable sparkly bits. I stop screaming for a minute, but then next thing I'm flying through the dark again and screaming as loudly as ever.

Another brief respite comes in the shape of some coloured lights, which remind me of a kaleidoscope. I pause for breath, maybe I'm at the end...

... or maybe not. The kaleidoscope drops suddenly away as I whoosh straight down, faster then ever into another black hole. My stomach is hitting the floor, I feel sick, dizzy and am utterly hysterical.

And then I land with a thankful splash into a pool. I struggle out of the water, spluttering and helpless. You bastard, I manage to gabble at Spouse, who not unnaturally is struggling to control his hysteria, That was awful....

To my utter shame I collapse in hysterics. The kids are mystified. I've never seen you cry, says no 2 in awe. No 2 is a mum in the making though. Being a champion cryer herself, she knows that thing to do in these circumstances is give the cryer a hug. Which she does. Oh lord. My humiliation is complete. I've shown myself up utterly in front of my children (no 1 cunningly comes down the stairs having opted not to repeat the experience, and is laughing uproariously at my discomfit). This story is going to go down in the annals of our family forever....

Still. At least I've taught them a lesson.

When I've recovered my composure, I tell them what it is...

In life, you should face your fears , I say. And that's what I did. (I'm so brave.)

What they say to everyone they meet is: Mummy went in The Black Hole and cried.

Oh well...

8 comments:

Kate said...

Well done for doing the Black Hole - but next time, what about the nice Caterpillar ride? Or the Flying Teacups? That's as far as I'll go.

(And thank you for saying nice things about the book: that character is SO based on me. I could give you a run for your money in the scaredycat olympics, except I am also petrified of...dentists - which clearly isn't the case with you!)

Jane Henry said...

ah, dentists. Well, luckily I had a very nice one in childhood. And ahem. An even nicer one as an adult. Also my mother as an ex nurse didn't tolerate scaredycatness in anything medical (so I can handle injections too).

I think my neuroses are mainly about things I can't control like flying and my childrens's lives. And far too much imagination. That isn't good for anyone.

And I'll say it again and very loudly this time. The Self Preservation Society is a really great read. I couldn't put it down and was very sorry when I'd finished it!

rivergirlie said...

bloody good for you! i'm so impressed - and bursting into tears seems entirely appropriate to me. you're a star.
(and kate's book is brill, isn't it? i'm loving it)

Mad Twin said...

Oh Jane, I laughed I cried reading this post. That you let spouse and number 1 bamboozle you into this. But you were VERY brave. Me, I have reached the age where I won't bother (But then I never did do the jumping off the top board thing, so perhaps it was my neuroses that rubbed off on you).
Quite right to have hysterics afterwards, the only thing to do.
Quite right to draw the lesson you did, but lets face it mummy falling apart after going through a children's ride is a much more interesting tale!

CTaylor said...

Oh God that sounds horrific! CLAUSTROPHIC CLAUSTROPHIC horrible tunnel! Aaagh! Sounds horrible. On a slightly different, but similarly claustrophobic topic, you couldn't PAY me to go pot hole-ing...not even a million squid. Even the thought creeps me out.

And back to swimming...I used to love diving until I was ten and then, some how, managed to flip over as I jumped off the side of the pool and landed flat on my back on the water. I was so shocked my the experience I completely lost my ability to dive! Still can't dive and don't want to try...

And... after my near drowning whilst whitewater rafting last year I now can't watch anyone struggling/drowning in deep water without coming out in the hives (the last Bond film nearly finished me off).

I think I'm next in line to get a copy of Kate's book!

Lucy Diamond said...

Oh Jane!! What a great post. Well done for going on that Black Hole and surviving to tell us all about it! You must put that in a novel somewhere...

Jane Henry said...

RG - am not at all brave. Am stupid. And cowardly....

MT - yes was utterly bamboozled. How could I have been so stupid. My family will dine out on that story forever...

CT - nice to see you here. Yes it was horribly claustrophobic. I don't think I could do potholes either. And I was terrified by Spouse going whitewater rafting a couple of years ago, let alone doing it myself....

Lucy. Memo to self. Find book to put story in.....

Dumdad said...

Yes, you are a scaredycat but write a very funny post.

I took my son on the wild river ride or whatever it's called at Centre Parcs when he was quite small, holding on to him between my legs. The damn thing accelerated as we came towards the end and I managed to let go of him as I slammed into the wall bruising myself while he whizzed on ahead of me.

Aaargh. But I retrieved him safe and sound and he wanted to have another go.

I think there's a moral somewhere there but I'm not sure what it is.

Whatever, but I never stop worrying about them being ill, injured, kidnapped etc.