Sadventure Completed #35: Flying in a giant hairdryer...
Updated: Mar 28
Indoor Skydiving...I'm told it's fun.
If I don't come back, would someone mind looking after the cat? Very attractive cat. Doesn't bite too hard, but he not half does a stinky poo.
Went to bed with an ear worm: "I believe I can fly" by R.Kelly and woke up to discover the cold that has been threatening for days has morphed into a full assault. I am, therefore, officially in a grumpy mood.
Was rather glad that Fierce Fanny is still at the gynaecologists so I could take the car; especially as it was hammering down. The trouble with car driving is that one has climate control, which is always difficult to manage as peri-menopausal hot flashes arrive at any time. Today, cold or hormones I know not, but my hand was constantly on the dial.
I was delighted to discover upon my arrival at Xscape, the home of iFLY Milton Keynes, to see a ski centre. I pressed myself against the firedoors between the ski slope and the lobby in order to cool down until it dawned on me that I probably didn't look like anything parentally-approved, and in the summer holidays this was definitely not cool.
One is expected to arrive at iFLY an hour before one flies - a bit like Ryanair, I guess but with nicer customer service. I headed up to the viewing centre to find out exactly what indoor skydiving entails.
I was surprised to find so many people around the skydiving arena gawping in at the novice skydivers trying to gain some semblance of dignity whilst being blasted at 100mph plus winds. It's a bit like watching a goldfish having an unfortunate encounter with an electric eel. I can get terribly self-conscious when I think people are watching me, that I become all thumbs. Quite how I was going to figure out how to structure my head, arms and legs simultaneously whilst not visualising my crashing into the plastic perspex wall, and at the same time keeping the middle-aged tum sufficiently sucked in was starting to distract me from any feelings of fear.
Each skydive lasts one minute, all the time there's an instructor holding on to either a leg or a handle, which I hoped was firmly stitched in on one's back. Each participant, who range from aged 8 to middle-aged, gets two dives. I noted the wind speed is adjusted according to the size of each participants. I sent up a silent prayer that come my turn, the hairdryer had a turbo charge setting for me. Occasionally a participant with the instructor went flying up above the glass before plopping down again a few moments later. I wondered whether there was padding on the roof.
With that, I headed downstairs to fill in my declaration of risk. I should have come with one of these at birth but happily signed away an acknowledgement that I risked death and serious injury. It also stated one should be reasonably fit. I don't remember ever dislocating a shoulder so that stood me in good stead, nor am I in excess of eighteen stone I don't think.
After a short wait, we met our instructor - Ludo. Ludo is petite. She doesn't look like she could pull a petal off a daisy at first glance. I put on my blue overalls, affixed some very uncomfortable goggles, popped in some ear plugs and strapped on a helmet. With that we were put into a briefing room to get a 'health and safety induction', which was a combination of advertising, how to skydive and the different hand signals we would be shown. The room quietly withdrew their ear plugs and by the end of it we were all somewhat ashen-faced - many of the demonstrations were of people far more sophisticated. They were certainly more agile than me even in a slight breeze.
We were then led back up to the viewing gallery - just in time to see a few more novices, before their an instructor performed a string of acrobatic manoeuvres. Then we were taken to the sit behind the cylinder. This is a slick operation with little lag between events. I was third up. The machine blasted into life and the first child was dragged in.
If you've ever seen someone being manhandled into a prison cell with all four limbs off the ground, then that's how one emerges into the skydiving tunnel: only this entry has invisible prison guards. Just getting through the door is a conundrum of limb logistics. Thereupon, you're wrestled to a mirror in order to strike the pose - straightish legs, spanned hands, and surrendered arms. The instructor uses various hand signals to tell you to relax, adjust one's body parts so one resembles, as well as feels like, a banana. You're then directed at a series of camera shots, which once blinded, allows you to sort of submit. I remember getting very close to the mesh on the floor, before realising the instructor had also removed her feet from the ground and we were now circling around together. Before I knew it, I was then directed to the exit door and thrust through it, discovering gravity for the first time.
The second attempt, the instructor looked at me and pointed up. I nodded yes. It cost me £7 extra but it meant that I'd be able to do a 'high dive', that is go up higher than the glass dome. Once again, Ludo grappled me into a respectable pose, and whoosh we headed upwards, hung around for a little bit before plummeting back towards the metal mesh, whereupon I tried to organise my thoughts into something more coherent than 'That like not I did' I was just halfway through getting the syntax into an appropriate order when I was jettisoned upwards a second time. I lost the command of any English language at that point.
I declined a third go for an additional £12, and noted that where we'd all been anxious-looking before, we were now all happy-smiley people as Ludo demonstrated how to really skydive - making it look like she was bouncing off an invisible trampoline in the Matrix re-make. Fantastic stuff.
It is expensive, but I'm very glad I've done it - it's not something I ever imagined myself doing, and it's a hell of a lot easier than taking a wheelie bin out in a hurricane. I'd recommend doing it, and I would do it again definitely.
The entire 'event' only took thirty minutes from getting dressed to returning the overalls - considerably quicker than how long it took me to find my car afterwards. I have no idea how ubiquitous white cars are until I can't remember where I put mine. I'll be glad to have Fierce Fanny back soon as she's so unmissable.
And as cures for colds go: never have my sinuses been so clear!
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