Barely are we back from our holiday when we are off again. Tigger has a courier run to Derby tomorrow and so I am tagging along as I usually do.
At first it looked like a tight schedule. The document was to leave EC1 no earlier than 9 am and reach us at St Pancras station in time for us to board the 9:25 train which, if it arrived on schedule, would give us just under an hour to meet the noon deadline at Derby. However, it seems negotiations have resulted in a later deadline and so the current plan is for us to leave on the 11:25 and deliver the package mid-afternoon.
A late start is more comfortable but it leaves us less time to visit Derby. Swings and roundabouts.
Now onto something different…
Irrational fear of height
There is something interesting about this – to me, at least. This fear of heights developed suddenly, out of the blue, and I remember the circumstances quite clearly. It happened in France some years ago on a day out in the Vosges with my son and two of his cousins. All three lads were young teenagers.
The Vosges, in case you don’t know, are pine-forested mountains in the Alsace-Moselle area of France. It is a beautiful place. There are sandy paths to follow, rocks to climb, high places with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys and of villages of red and white houses clustered around the church with its stork nest on top of the steeple. And castles. The Vosges region is studded with medieval castles, all in various states of ruin, some partially restored, others crumbling and overgrown with weeds.
The boys had a wonderful time running about among the trees, clambering over rocks and piles of tree trunks. The Vosges is a worked forest and every summer trees are cut and the stripped trunks piled in heaps to be carted away on long trailers. The cut areas soon grow up again, filling first with plants and shrubs and then with young trees that years in the future, having frown to maturity, will also be felled. The forest is always changing, old paths disappearing and new ones being made.
Towards evening, we walked down to a forest cafe where we were to meet up with the rest of the family. The cafe stands in the shadow of a ruined castle. Despite their day out, the boys still had plenty of energy and wanted to explore the castle. I followed them up the stone spiral staircase and out onto an open platform. This was a rectangular stone platform and there were no walls and no fences. The boys ran about laughing a jostling one another. Panic washed over me: what if one of them fell over the side and was injured or killed? They seemed unaware of the danger.
As calmly as I could, I called them and said we should go down now and have a drink in the cafe while waiting for the family. They were happy with this and rushed off down the spiral staircase. I followed but found that my legs Had gone weak and were shaking so much that I had difficulty negotiating the steps. I went down trembling like an old man.
The day ended without incident and the boys went home without ever suspecting the terror they had inflicted on me but ever since then, I have had a fear of heights.
When we were last on holiday in Wales, we visited Cilgerran, where I had spent some time as a child. It too has a castle. It was closed to the public when I was first there but is open and tidied up now. Tigger and I went in. While Tigger enjoyed the sun in the grassy courtyard, I climbed up to the battlements. All went well until I encountered a walkway from the tower I was in to the next one. It was only a few yards long and perhaps a yard wide. It had railings either side but they were only knee-high.
I sat on the steps leading up to the walkway, trying to pluck up courage to go across. In the end, I convinced myself that there was no need to take those few steps as I could see the other tower perfectly well from where I was. I never made it across.
I still feel angry with myself but I am sure that if I went there now, it would be the same story. It would take a very urgent need to make me go over the walkway with its low railings. Just how urgent it would have to be, I cannot imagine.