I’ve heard tell that if you admit to a phobia, facing your fears will help to cure them.
Well it didn’t work for spiders, or noisy crowded spaces, and it certainly hasn’t helped me cope with my vertigo, which is why the sight of these two guys at the top of that chimney in York made me feel queasy.
I’m not quite sure what they’re doing up there, or why they’ve got a ladder, or even what they are going to balance it on. I never found out because I had to stop looking.
The first time I realised I had no head for heights was when our children were in primary school and friends had invited the family for lunch on a Dutch boat. It was actually a survey vessel, working on a sea loch close to where we then lived in the Scottish Highlands.
Walking up a gangplank to get on board was quite exciting. Disembarking was a nightmare. You see, during the time we were on board, the tide had come in (as it does) and the boat was now 25 feet higher up in the water. Getting off down that gangplank was not an option.
I honestly didn’t believe it when our friends pointed to the rope ladder. Hubby and kids thought it was a great, exciting end to our afternoon, but a twist of sheer terror was beginning to coil itself around my insides. Until that moment I had no idea I suffered from vertigo.
I still don’t know how I got down that ‘ladder’, except that it involved much undignified handling and a lot of embarrassing squealing on my part.
York Minster was the site of my next terrifying vertigo experience, and again the children were there to find the whole thing hilarious. They had persuaded me to take them up the spiral staircase that led up onto the roof viewpoints. I know! But I’d forgotten about the rope ladder thing by then – and it did sound quite exciting.
Half way up, I knew this was akin to one of the worst decisions of my life. My legs literally felt like jelly, and I was convinced that, like Alice in Wonderland, I was going to go tumbling to the bottom. I didn’t of course, and helped by three giggling children I was assisted back down to terra firma.
More recently, on a shopping expedition to York with my grown up daughter, we decided to take a short cut back to the car park along the city wall. Everything was fine until the railings that stood between me and a sheer drop came to an unexpected end.
I was literally paralysed. I mean PARALYSED. I couldn’t move. I felt ridiculous clinging to the wall, with my back to the drop, all the time feeling I was being dragged back over the edge. Never in my life have I known such panic.
In the past I’d been up Blackpool Tower, and never thought a thing about it. But crucially there had been a barrier between me and the drop, and that is what made the difference.
I’m older and wiser now, and I stay well away from high places.
Have you had any experiences when you were inexplicably struck by terror? If you have, I’d love to know how you dealt with it.
Now for those facts you all wanted to know about that chimney:-
* It’s on the edge of Morrison’s car park in Foss island Road, York.
* It was built in 1899, and is 180 feet high.
* Morrison’s was (thankfully) refused planning permission to use it as an advertising feature.
* Until 50 years ago it was shared by the city’s refuse destructor and the electricity generating station, York Power Station.
* And no, I won’t be climbing it any time soon!