Falling from new heights
In the spirit of embracing new things and creating a more exciting and glamorous Flapper-esque lifestyle for myself, I agreed to do a flying trapeze class on Monday.
I was meant to stay in on Sunday night and read something edifying and clean my flat, but instead my flatmate and I went out and drank the whole of Shoreditch dry. We were on a kamikaze mission that ended with us stumbling home at 2am whilst eating Twix bars and ranting loudly about the lack of attractive men in our area. So I wasn’t exactly in the best state of mind for swinging.
The trapeze was set up in a corner of Regent’s Park. It was much, much taller than I’d expected and the safety net lacked sides. I could already envision myself pinging off it and being impaled on the nearby fence. My friend squeezed my hand and let out a little squeal of excitement laced with terror. I’m fairly sure my face was the colour of paste.
The instructors demonstrated what we were meant to do in what I can only describe as a nonchalant manner:
“So you just flip your knees over the bar and let go with your hands so you’re swinging upside down. And to dismount, you’ll just do three quick kicks and flip off onto the net below.”
As my head was filled with marshmallow, my ability to pay attention and follow directions was pretty much nil. Still, as people started launching themselves off the platform and swinging about gleefully, I felt quietly confident.
“My upper-body strength isn’t bad these days! I could possibly be described as lithe! I used to excel on the swingset as a child! This will be fine.”
As I started to ascend the rickety ladder to the platform twenty-five feet above the ground, I suddenly remembered something: I’m scared of heights. By the time I got to the top and the two instructors strapped me into the harness, I was shaking like a leaf. I gripped the bar with sweaty palms and leaned out over the net 20 feet below (which, from that height, was looking surprisingly flimsy).
I leapt out into thin air and immediately plummeted to the ground. The trapeze didn’t even make a cameo appearance; it was more a walking-of-the-plank than a display of aerial gymnastics. I even managed to skin my toe on the net as I fell (surely I am the first person to skin a toe on a trapeze, which I suppose is an accomplishment of sorts). On my second go, I managed to hang on for an even shorter amount of time and landed on the net in the splits. After that performance, I decided on early retirement.
To add insult to (minor) injury, everyone else was flying through the air with the greatest of bloody ease. Even my friend, after a disastrous first go in which she launched herself across the net like she’d been fired from a trebuchet, was beginning to get the hang of it.
So it looks like I’m going to have to cross “trapeze artist” off my list of enticing Vaudeville-era skills. Very dispiriting.
I wonder if I could still wear the costume…