I’ve had a nightmare.
Last Friday, I had the afternoon off from the day job. It was all for child care requirements, but since Laura would rather spend the afternoon out playing with her pals rather than staying in and listening to me, I got the rest of the day as writing time.
Or so I thought.
The urgency to get the wireless network fixed on Gail’s laptop became urgent, so I set about fixing the problem. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I had been forced into emptying the tropical fish tank in order to fix the broadband.
I’ll repeat that in another way: in order to fix the high speed wireless network on our home, I had to empty the tropical fish tank.
It was a terrible chain of events that saw my home office turned upside down; drawers were emptied, shelves tore down, cabinets emptied, my PC dismantled, and several tropical fish found themselves swimming in a bucket.
I’m not going to explain what happened as it makes my blood boil from the stress I found myself under. I went to bed on Friday night tired, with a sore head, a home office that looked as though a heard of cattle had run through it, and no internet connections to any of the PCs in the house at all – two home business unable to function; I’m surprised I could sleep.
However, overnight I had a brain wave and I got Gail to run me out to PC World at Ford Kinnaird for an emergency part. It was a long shot, this idea, but I bought the part, rushed, home and got to installing it. It took me the best part of the day, but finally I got there.
The result is Gail has wireless again. I, too, have access again but I have it on a fully rebuilt PC and new network layout.
And so you see why there has been no blogging of any nature at all. There’s been no writing at all, in fact, which has been one of the major sources of frustration for me over this weekend.
Today, all thoughts of this technological disaster were put to the side as I undertook my challenge to abseil 156 foot off the Forth Rail Bridge at South Queensferry. As you will see from the pictures below we got a cracking day for it, providing some awesome views of the Forth estuary and far beyond.
My scheduled time for the abseil was 11am, but when we arrived shortly after 10am I went into the Hawes Inn to register and discovered they were running “well ahead” of schedule. This meant I was kitten up with my harness, helmet and gloves within quarter of an hour after arriving!
My group was taken up to the bridge around 10:20am; a short walk through the trees at the back of Hawes Inn, up the road, through a security portakabin, and up a few flights of scaffolding stairs. At the top where the platform meets with the gantry that runs along the underside of the bridge, we paused to have our photographs taken, before being attached to a length of rope to keep as safe as we would out into the bridge to where the abseil was taking place.
The views as one emerges from the trees above the road, with the estuary spanning out and Fife in the distance, were remarkable, and given the clearness of the day, one could see for miles. I didn’t feel the cold, though I think adrenalin played a small part in that, but I did surprise myself in my level of confidence general relaxed feel up to this point; I was expecting to be bricking myself by this point, but I found I was quite enjoying it.
I reached the spot ready to go and actually quite enjoying myself. I looked down, and way down below I made out Gail with Laura, and Gail’s pal Sam, who had driven us down this morning. After a quick wave and thumbs up, it was time to get into position.
Looking down from that height while on the gantry is not hard for me to do, even when a passing Scotrail train thunders over right above one’s head, but as soon as you put your first leg up and over the safety fence, things start to change. No longer do you have the safety of reinforced steel preventing you from falling to your death, now you have the strength of your arms, some rope, and a Royal Marine telling kidding you on that the metal looks worn on the safety ring. Funny guy.
Balancing on the edge of the girder at that height is pretty scary. You’re aware the entire time that you’re safe, and nothing could happen at that point, but the fact is you’re balancing out on a ledge at 165 feet with nothing but thin air underneath you.
Left hand on the safety ring in front of you, and right hand on the abseil rope by your hip – that’s your perfect freefall abseil position apparently, with the only thing left to do now being to lean back out into abyss, and let your weight do the rest.
Once clear of the bridge it’s actually quite easy. The ledge and getting past all that metal is awkward, but once in the air, it’s pretty plain sailing. I looked down at that point, but didn’t do it again. It’s fine from the gantry, not while hanging by a rope. I started letting myself down and it seemed to take forever. I concentrated a lot on the speed I was going at and on looking out ahead of me, which became harder because I got into a spin and could smell burning (no joke) from the gloves of my hands where the rope was racing through them. I had to stop twice to adjust them so they were cooler.
On landing on the beach 165 feet later, my legs were somewhat wobbly. At the same time, I was exhilarated from the experience. However, I hadn’t noticed my jacket riding up until I saw the pictures later, and I never realised I had split my jeans at the crotch until I got back in the car. Goodness only knows when that happened and who saw it, but what can you do?
And so, the deed was done. If you sponsored me, thanks a million, I know the recipients of the cash are delighted with the amount raised, which stands at the moment at £317.30. It’s not too late to send some, cash, simply click on the link and make a donation. I’ll leave the sponsorship site open for another week or so then tie it all up.
As I write this, Gail and I just got back from a long walk/photography expedition along the beach at Cramond (photos will follow another day), and the live results show to announce the winners of the PSH Poetry Contest 2008 is about to begin. In the meantime, here’s some pictures from today.
Forth Rail Bridge Abseil
In aid of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
(Click on an image to enlarge)