I got kicked out of home when I had just turned 17, 2 weeks before Christmas 2000. Between then and June 2004 my life was a bit of a mess and very much up and down. There were more bad bits than good and I could not see light at the end of the tunnel.
I decided that something had to change, that life had to get better. So I did something completely out of character and completely crazy.
I booked a Sky Dive.
Looking back now it was both a moment of madness but also the best decision I ever made. I did something I never did and bought the Big Issue from a man with homeless man with a dog outside my local supermarket and had a flick through it on my bus home. There, staring at me a few pages in, was a full page ‘we need you’ type advert asking for people to sky dive for the Big Issue. You had to raise £500 for the Big Issue charity and then got to do the Sky Dive with no extra charge. In hindsight, I’m sure a lot of charities do these things – where you get to do something crazy – and free – if you raise enough money for them. Raising money for the Big Issue was never my focus and it definitely wasn’t the driving force behind it – at the time, being 19 and not having that great a view of the world, charity couldn’t have been any further from my mind.
But in the end I raised just short of £1,000, everyone was incredibly generous and I’m sure the Big Issue were appreciative of the money – They didn’t confirm they received it or anything but I got to do the sky dive and back then that is all that mattered.
My sky dive was booked for 9th August 2004. It was my change to say ‘Stuff It’ to the past and to move on with a better future. On 15th July I met a man that would become my Husband. He drove me to my sky dive, all the way from Farnborough in Hampshire to Maidstone in Kent ready for 8am – unfortunately we were late because of road works and it meant I was one of the last to jump – we had to sit all day watching the other skydivers in the baking August heat until 5pm when I was called to get ready for my sky dive.
I had a jumpsuit to wear and a funny hat. The sky dive was tandem and I was going to be attached to a guy called Chris – we were chatting and he was a policeman locally and he had been skydiving for years. That put me slightly more at ease but to be honest, I was bricking it.
I felt absolutely fine until they led me and a few others to a little plane. It was smaller than any other plane I’ve ever been in, benches down either side and having to duck to walk down the middle. I sat near enough on Chris’ lap to get the harness done up and before I knew it we were taking off, the bumpiest take off and the noise so loud in my ears. The whole plane rattled, the noise was deafening and the plane crept higher and higher. We reached 12,000ft in a matter of minutes and the pilot kept the plane as steady as he could as one by one the pairs made their way to the door at the back on the plane and jumped.
First pair at the door. Cameraman filming them climbed out onto the side of the plane. The tandem skydivers swung backwards and forwards as they counted 3…..2…..1…. And they were gone.
Next pair, no cameraman. 3….2….1…. Gone.
Last pair, no cameraman. 3…2….1…. Gone,
Then it was us. Just me, Chris and the cameraman that I’d paid to film and take photos. The last three of us in the plane.
F*ck. F*ck. F*ck.
I’ve never sworn so much in my life. Why was I doing this? 12,000ft in the air, a new boyfriend of just 3 weeks watching on the ground. Why was I jumping from a plane?
Too late to turn back now.
We were near the door hatch. The cameraman was climbing out onto the side of the plane. He was hanging on and facing us, filming us.
We were at the hatch. Chris was holding onto the edge of the door.
I crossed my arms as I’d been told and kicked my legs up behind me between Chris’.
I could only hear the air whooshing past the door and I could see the ground so tiny below. #I could hardly breathe. Why was I hear?!
Too late now.
Chris was counting.
He swung us back by his arms on the door.
Again he swung us back, building momentum.
We were gone.
We weren’t in the plane.
We weren’t on the ground.
At first we were turning, rolling as we came out the plane.
Then we were free falling.
Falling and falling,
The noise was immense. Like white noise, whooshing and rushing past my ears. I couldn’t concentrate. 30 seconds of freefall felt like a lifetime. Falling at 120mph, zooming towards earth.
Before I knew it Chris was giving me a signal to show he was about to pull to parachute cord.
He counted on his fingers for me as there was no point in talking – the words would be lost on the wind.
We were yanked upwards with an almighty force. I’m sure it’s the same feeling on a bungy jump, although I’ve never done one.
Pulled up sharply and when we settled again I was standing up. my head level with Chris’ chest and a huge red parachute above us.
The first thing I noticed – the silence.
I have experienced such peace as I did then.
The whole world was literally at my feet. I could see green fields, roads and towns. I could gradually make out buildings and eventually cars and even animals in the fields.
We were parachuting for 6 minutes and it was heaven. The lack of noise and being able to look at the whole of Kent was absolutely amazing.
For the first time in 4 years I felt free.
Before I knew it we were heading into land. The closer to the ground we got the quicker everything happened.
Chris was telling me to pull my legs up and…
Bang bang bang.
We hit the ground running, or at least Chris running.
We just missed the circle we were aiming for and I was sitting on the floor, completely exhilarated.
Doing a skydive was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I am so glad I did it and experienced it and it is something that will stay with me forever. It definitely marked a turning point in my life. Since then life has actually been incredible – thanks to Dave too.
In a way I would love to do a skydive again but now that I’ve done it once and know the absolute, overpowering fear of jumping from the plane I know that I would never be able to do that again. I also have so much to lose now – back then, other than a fledgling relationship, I had absolutely nothing. If that parachute hadn’t have opened there wouldn’t have been much to lose but now, with two beautiful children, an amazing Husband and a future that is looking incredible I would not be able to risk doing a skydive again.
I have an amazing video of the skydive that I will treasure forever. It also has an awesome soundtrack and when I hear the songs from it the whole experience comes flooding back.
9th August 2004. Headcorn Aerodrome, Maidstone, Kent. Tandem Sky Dive.
One for the memory box that is!