They say that fresh air can tire you out, I believe that the saying could be true. I got in last night and had a quick bath in which I fell asleep, and then went straight to bo bo`s. After a massive lay in this morning, I thought it best to crack on with my Blog which should have been done last night, so here goes.
Up at 05.30 after our household had all been in bed at 21.00 the previous night, the alarm went off and my wife woke the children…..well, almost, `Pickle` was not having a bar of it and could not be woken at all so we left her while we all got dressed. The kids got themselves some breakfast and made me a cup of tea bless them. “Big day today Daddy!” My son said, I was looking forward to it as was the rest of the family. We had to arrive at 09.00 and had arranged for my Mother in Law and Brother in Law to come round to the bungalow and we would leave from there. They arrived as we were loading in to the Chucklebus, `Pickle` was still asleep and did not even stir when taken from bed in to her car seat. We would simply give her a wash with wet wipes and dress her when we arrived at the airfield. And so we locked up the bungalow, ensured I was strapped in, checked that we had everything and departed for Netheravon. I called my Brother to check he was ready and that we would meet them at the roundabout as previously arranged to which he said that they were just leaving and should meet us their on time. Sure enough, as we approached the meeting point we saw them pull up, this was great timing as it meant no waiting, we could continue and the two vehicles carrying my Brother and his tribe and our friend and her tribe could simply slot in behind us and we could all arrive at the airfield at the same time.
The journey did not take as long as we had expected despite a turning one too early resulting in driving through a narrow roaded housing estate. When we arrived the vehicles were booked in to the guardroom and we drove through the camp to find the parachute building. We found the Royal Artillery Parachute Display Team building and parked up. We “walked” towards the area where the aircraft were parked and then noticed the large building where the “jump school” was and headed towards it. We found the reception area and booked ourselves in. It was then that the decision was made that our friend was going to jump as well, she was a standby jumper for if I was unable or unwell to jump, I found out that she had asked my Sister in Law if I was feeling ok the night before and when the reply was “Yes, he seems fine”, she was gutted that she would not be jumping although happy that I was feeling fine. The excitement from her was immediate, I noticed how she went a little quiet when the three of us went to have our instruction, but very soon came back after it had finished.
Due to my lack of ability to lift my legs during the instruction, the guy I would be jumping/falling with, Mikee, decided he would postpone our skydive until he had located a special harness. It was a pair of trousers which had a series of webbing straps which went around my feet and was sewn to the legs, on the legs were two tiny pockets which two straps with carabiner type clips were stowed. What would happen is after the parachute was deployed, I would take each of the two straps in turn and hand them to Mikee, he would then clip them to his harness. Once this was done, I would pull up on the straps and he would pull down on them where they had been clipped to him and this would lock my legs up out of the way to ensure that when we landed they were up out of the way. He came to find us outside and kept us updated on the timescale of the harness arriving. Eventually, after only an hour, it arrived and Mikee called me in to have it fitted. My Brother in Law accompanied me in to have it fitted as I would need to be out of my chair to do it. It took probably half an hour to get it on and tightened with me rolling about the floor like a beached whale to allow the various straps to be pulled and clipped and pulled again until after a lot of sweating from Mikee, it was fitted. Two more instructors came across to assist as I had to be stood up for the final check. Once all was good, I was put back in to my chair and I wheeled outside until my two fellow nutcases were also suited and ready to go. As soon as they had been fitted in to their harnesses, we all met outside and then we were led to our waiting areas and introduced to our cameramen.
Once the introductions were done, we headed over to the aeroplane, the excitement, certainly for me was building, and not just for the skydive. Mikee was most insistent that I was not to propel myself in my chair. “Today is all about you” he said, “I do all of the work, you just enjoy the experience and the view”. A really nice thing to say.
Once we were at the waiting area, my family and friends came over for a group photo, it was nice that that so many had come to support and watch.
The family and friends dispersed ready for us to load on to the aeroplane but `Pickle` wanted another cuddle before I went, so that was another photo!
Then the aeroplane arrived, time to load up. I felt so sorry for the guys who had to get me up in to the plane!
Once loaded, the door was shut down and we bounced of down the green `runway` on our way to 13,000 odd feet. I mentioned earlier that I was excited for more than just the skydive. I was talking to Mikee on the way up in the plane, and I said to him that I didn’t actually think that I would get to experience the whole being up in the air next to an open door again as obviously I won’t be allowed on the Hercules and Chinooks anymore as I won’t be on exercise any more. It was so good to be up there, brought back so many memories of different places I’ve been flying on exercise and when we used to do Yeovilton air day. Now though, I know that in the future I could do another tandem dive. I was taking in the views on the way up to our jump height, the cloud was light the views were amazing and the excitement was growing and growing and the altitude was getting higher and higher, the time to fall was getting nearer and nearer.
Mikee got us ready to exit the plane, for this I had to put my hands on his knees and lift myself while he pulled me on to his lap and pulled all the straps tight. A very short time later the door opened as we had finally reached the 13.000 feet altitude we had flown to for our skydive. Trev the cameraman climbed on to the side of the aircraft while Mikee shuffled us to the edge with the help of another of the camera guys pushing my legs. Suddenly I was perched on the edge of the plane with my legs outside.
The noise of the wind was pretty loud, the view was spectacular and the drop, the distance from the ground was BLOODY HIGH. The ground did appear to be a very long way away. Mikee pulled my head back on to his right shoulder, I grasped my harness and pulled my elbows in and then…..
We fell from the plane, the noise, the buzz, the view, the almost impossible task of breathing while falling at 120mph. The single most incredible thing I have ever done.
And so we were falling through the sky, Mikee tapped me which was my cue to put my arms in to the free fall position.
Then I watched the cameraman close in on us, it was such a task to try to show how much of an amazing time I was having while trying to control my breathing. How in the hell a dog can stick it’s head out of a car window at 80mph is beyond me. Despite the particularly strange look on my face with my chubby cheeks flapping around, I was having an absolute blast.
After what seemed like an eternity of free fall, it was time for Mikee to pull the main parachute. This was nothing like what I thought it would be, I had seen it in films where they appear to stop dead when pulling the ‘chute, however it was so smooth. And once the parachute had deployed, the noise instantly stopped.
Mikee now told me to hand him the clips and we would get my legs strapped up out of the way.
Once the legs were strapped up it was all about the views. I was chatting to Mikee on the way down, which was mostly me saying about how amazing it was and that I could totally understand why he had done 5000 plus jumps. While looking at the view Mikee said, “I know that in the hospital they told you that you would never walk again but up here that simply isn’t true, we are going to walk across that cloud below us”. This was a really thoughtful thing to say, he pulled on his steering and guided us to the cloud and we glided effortlessly across the top of it, giving the impression of me walking across it.
Then the ground got closer and closer and my parachute fall was coming to an end.
Almost immediately Hev came running over really excited, another photo.
The ground crew came over with a landrover and lifted me in to it and took me back to the hard standing where the people who had come to support and watch joined us for another photo.
We went off and got de-kitted and then rejoined the group. Mikee came over a short while later and handed me a certificate. he told me that his name and jump number was on the certificate and that if I wanted to jump another time, to call and quote his name and jump number and he would take me again, something that I think will happen as it was an amazing day.
The group said it’s goodbyes to each other and went it’s different ways. A few of us went for some food in Amesbury which was great, time to talk some more and also a good opportunity to catch up with some very special friends. One guy was in the bed next to me in Frenchay, I was worried I would not recognise him and seem ignorant, luckily this was not an issue. Talking to him and his `better half` (sorry mate) was brilliant. It had been over a year since we had been in hospital together, but had been like it was only days before. I also got a chance to have drinks with a guy from the spinal unit who I had not seen for ages also. The day was amazing, bringing back memories and giving new experiences. Thanks to all those who sponsored this event and if you have not had a chance, the donation page is continuing for another three months. Aside from helping me, it will be helping other military families in need, a very worthy cause.
Thankyou so much to everyone who came to watch and support…
Chris, Sarah, Carly, Kaitlin, Nina & Chase.
Emma, Dana, Carl and Piper.
Darren, Tabatha, Olivia & Lilley-Anne.
Lynn & Norman.
Lynn and Tom.
Pauline, Mark & Lucy.
Hev, Paul, Nadine, Caleb & Malacki.
Danielle & Jo.
Tony & Kirsty.
Mike & Kerry.
Simon & Mark.
and my OC Major `Johnny` Webber.
Thanks for giving up a lot of your day, it meant a great deal to me that you came. Maybe you would like to do a skydive yourself one day!
Thanks for reading everybody, and sorry it’s a little late.