Every couple of years, St. Michael’s Hospice in Hastings holds a sponsored abseil to raise money for their charity and their partner charity of the Sara Lee Trust. I signed up partly because I like to raise money for this cause and partly because I really wanted to abseil down something larger than 30ft, like the last time I went abseiling. So, I paid the £10 admin fee and set about raising sponsorship, ready for the 10th of May. Alas, when the 10th arrived, so did winds of nearly 40 miles an hour (at ground level, who knows what it was higher up the building) and the abseil was postponed for reasons of safety. I didn’t mind as much as one might suppose; it happened the first time I was going to go skydiving too and actually I wasn’t really feeling up to it that day.
The abseil was moved to the 7th of July. On the day I showed up at my assigned time of 11:15, to be told that there were delays due to strong winds and it would be another hour or so. I signed in, collected my t-shirt (to show which of the two charities I was supporting) and was given my name and number on paper so I could be identified (in photo’s, not in case I fell off. That’s just ghoulish.) I went for a coffee in a nearby cafe and came back an hour later to be told it was still an hour’s wait. Some time later, I was called into the reception of the building to get harnessed up. Here’s a lovely picture of me looking far more worried than I thought I felt.
I waited around in my harness for at least another hour as the wind speed kept picking up and dropping but the organisers and participants were all determined to go ahead with it if it took all day, so we tried to be patient. Eventually, at approximately 3pm, my small group was ushered into the lift and we ascended the building to the top floor. It was full of machinery and insulation and had the definite atmosphere of somewhere prohibited. Walking into the final stretch of corridor, we could see the open door and the last member of the previous group waiting her turn. I asked the people in my group if they would mind if I went first, as Elliot, who had come with me for support (and taking photo’s) was really not feeling very well and had been wishing himself in bed for the last few hours. None of them minded, so when the next person was called, I stepped out onto the scaffolding rig from which I would descend.
Standing up there, with St.Leonard’s spread out beneath me and the wind in my face, I felt my nerves peak. The extended wait had done nothing for the butterflies in my stomach and as hard as I was squashing them down, they were still there. I listened carefully to the instructions I was given as the people up there attached ropes to my harness. Then, I very slowly lowered myself backwards into thin air. It took longer than the first time I had been abseiling; I had thought I would be less scared because I’d done it before but actually it was worse! There is something in it when people say ‘ignorance is bliss’.
After I got a short way down, I heard the photographer on top of the building call my name, so I paused and looked up so she could take my picture. (I’m really looking forward to seeing it and I shall definitely post it on here when I get a copy.) I made my way very slowly down the building. It was hard to keep my feet on the wall because of the wind and after a while I somewhat gave up and just sat in the harness as I lowered myself down. I wish I could say I took advantage of the view but I spent most of my time staring at the brick wall in front of me. It took such a long time for me to get to the bottom (or at least, that’s what it felt like) but eventually I got close enough to hear Elliot yelling encouragement. Finally, my feet touched the ground and the gathered crowd applauded (in that polite British way we have that conveys approval rather than enthusiasm.) We posed for a picture, and then I took poor Elliot home and looked after him because he was really not well.
I’m mildly disappointed that my nervousness didn’t dissipate on the way down, however I did accomplish what I set out to do; namely having a longer go at abseiling as well as raising money for a good cause, so overall, I am happy with my experience.
Quick update, St.Michael’s Hospice doesn’t have my pictures from the top. Nor do they have a bunch of other peoples. They are not sure what happened but it’s obviously very disappointing because it would have given you more of an idea what it was like up there.