I have never loved heights and felt that I should. My father loved them
and would be up a ladder like a rabbit; to be fair I have never seen a
rabbit up a ladder but neither have I seen a rabbit with vertigo, so that
proves precisely nothing.
They have erected 12 floors of scaffolding at school to replace brickwork
and terracotta. I was invited to take photos of the view. As I stood
at the foot of the scaffolding gazing upwards, I was regretting my
bravado. I used to work in Ark in Hammersmith; a fantastic building
designed by Ralph Erskine but crucially for me, a building that would
suddenly present you with sheer drops of 50 or 100 feet onto cold
marble. It regularly made me feel sick and my friend and then
colleague Dirk would try to help my vertigo by leading me to the biggest
drops and then telling me that I wasn’t going to die – I know he enjoyed
Anyway, this time I was in less forgiving company and was trying very
hard to control my fear. I did not look down, I really cannot emphasise
that enough but with a fixed expression, part determination part panic,
I climbed gingerly up the first couple of ladders. My knuckles were white,
gripping each pole with all the strength I had. I tested each ladder, as
though my life depended on it – well it did really.
For the first 9 floors, there was sheeting preventing you from realising
that just to your right was oblivion, the drop off and certain death. One
of the builders told me ‘I don’t like heights neither,’ that’s like a teacher
not liking children, so I guess it could work. For the last three floors, the
sheeting was missing, they waited until I was at the top before telling me
that the wind had taken it down. I took some photos, not great ones but
I did the assignment, camera shake was a problem, on account of my
frayed nerves. Although for one brief moment, I was so involved in my job
that I forgot where I was and took the camera away from my face only
to realise in horror that I was not holding onto at least three things.
Out of guilt I bought Snow White on DVD for the kids; I had to work on
Saturday, so I promised them a treat. Bad parenting, that’s the scientific
name. It was however worth the money, purely for the diverse reactions
in my children. Francesca cowered next to her mum solemnly awaiting
the scary bit, Molly chuckled all the way through it and even laughed
when Snow White dropped down dead, ‘they’re crying,’ she cheerfully
declared of the Dwarves. Benjamin danced solidly through all the
musical numbers giving an impression of a drunken lop sided gibbon.
I know it had a happy ending but demanding a princess’s heart in a box
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is a bit more Hannibal Lecter than Walt Disney.