Please by reassured that no lycra was harmed (or, indeed, worn) in the making of this post.
Recently, my working life has required me to take to the skies and visit foreign parts – and there will be at least one further such occasion later this month. Given the failure of mother nature to provide me with my own pair of functional wings (or any other way to overcome the surly bonds of gravitational attraction), I am forced to use that modern mechanical contrivance: the aeroplane.
I am, at best, a nervous flyer. I do realise that my life is far more likely to be brought to a premature conclusion on my journey to the airport than it is in the air, but being trapped in a packed, metal box high above the ground still makes me decidedly twitchy. I have come to suspect that airlines – and/or their staff – share my anxiety about the whole process. Faced with these fears, they have – as generations of fearful humans have before them – fallen back on observing a series of rituals. These seem entirely arbitrary and vary somewhat from airline to airline, but are fiercely adhered to with all the fervent commitment of the religious fundamentalist. I am particularly amused by the insistence by all UK-based airlines that in the event that we land on water, our life-jacket should be secured using a double-bow. I feel this would be a fairly challenging call when relaxed and in a wide-open space, but will be well-nigh impossible when under significant stress in the very cramped confines of a modern aircraft. I do wonder if it is an attempt to forestall panic, as the passengers will be far too busy trying to tie a double-bow to worry about the potential for their imminent, very damp demise.
I also wonder why, if it does not inflate, my yellow plastic oxygen mask is supplied with a limp, dangling plastic bag. What purpose does it serve? Other than to extend the safety demonstration by an additional sentence. Is the plastic bag, perhaps, lucky? Or does it permit the passenger to indulge in a little auto-erotic asphyxiation as he (or she) plummets to their fiery doom?
As a nervous flyer, the first thing I do on reaching my seat – after my seat belt has been safely fastened (“like this”) – is to check out the safety card. This identifies the location of the exits on the plane (in a way that the mime used by all cabin crews worldwide does not) and how they are operated – which I feel may become important information. This card is free of words and instead relies on pictures and pictograms to convey its various messages. Those are normally cryptic in the extreme – frankly I think I’d have more chance if the card were printed entirely in Chinese – but those used by FlyBe on my flight to Dublin last Thursday were in a league of their own. So far as I could tell, in order to exit the Dash 8 aircraft one needs to do something with some nearby, geometrically patterned wallpaper – though I was unable to locate this wallpaper or determine what to do with it once found. On the Embraer 190 which delivered me home, one pictogram showed the front and rear top surface of the plane burning merrily, but no nearby pictograms seemed in anyway to relate to this image. Was this a serving suggestion? Would Monsieur Mangetout recommend that the Embraer be eaten flambéed? I am willing to make myself available to review flight safety cards (for my usual fee) in an attempt to make them a little more readily understood by a typical passenger (or failing that, by me). I shall await the call from IATA.
I feel some of you may be feeling short-changed by the title, as the only flying covered so far has been the rather prosaic form which relies on a commercial airliner. Fear not, this post has also been crafted to cover a more personal form of flying achieved by the author only yesterday.
The regular reader will know that I am aiming to represent TeamGB in Rio as a gymnast. As part of the intensive training required, I am attempting to master the back lever. This is challenging and a series of progressions are used to reach the objective. This last week, a giant rubber-band was delivered to the good people at Brightside PT to assist in this process – and yesterday I had my first chance to try it out. As well as helping me achieve the back lever, it also offers help towards a number of other ring-based activities which I hadn’t previously considered, but which now look to lie within the realms of possibility (or at least share a land-border with them).
With the aid of the rubber band, I was almost immediately able to manoeuvre myself into the correct position for the back-lever – albeit supported in the middle by the aforementioned band. Cunningly – as you will see below – this band was chosen so that it can easily be removed by use of a green screen and so the user will appear to be performing unaided!
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
Of all the things I have done in my 48.5 years on this planet, this feels the most like flying – and it feels wonderful. It is worth all the hard work and DOMS involved in preparing for the back lever, just for the amazing feeling of being airborne. I’d highly recommend it to all readers – though they should perhaps seek medical advice (or check their life insurance is up-to-date) before attempting it (I, of course, take no responsibility for any distress – mental or physical – caused to readers from following any of the advice given in this blog). Obviously, it will be even better without the support – but that is going to take a little more work. I can’t believe how stony-faced the typical gymnast looks when performing such manoeuvres – after 24 hours it has still proved almost impossible to wipe the smile off my face. I do worry that traditional gymnastics training either leaves one hopelessly jaded or is wasted on the young. I shall endeavour to retain my child-like (in terms of mental age, at least) enthusiasm – even should I become a world famous gymnast (or failing that, a terrible lesson to you all).