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    Out of this World!
Six am is not my favourite time of day, but six am on a Sunday is definitely my worst! However, I got up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as today was the day to fall from the sky! I've been dying to parachute since I was about sixteen and one thing (money) and another (time) just seem to have got in the way. But, Sunday 4th October 1998 was "D-day" for me to do "something totally mad before I'm 30". Not that 30 bothers me its just crying out to be celebrated by something different.

So passport in hand, no I wasn't going out of the country, just through an army checkpoint! We drove to Netheravon in Wiltshire to the Joint Services Parachute Club, whose facilities we were using. Needless to say we got there very early, but we wanted every possible chance to get the best weather. After exchanging large sums of money with Andy (who runs Skydive Unlimited) for what seemed like little more than thin air, we got on to the serious part... the training. About 45 minutes later we'd practiced our "arch" position (not that we got the hang of it) and I'd been strapped up to Tim (the instructor) Oooh I do love a bit of bondage, I'd do it again just for that!. Then we were all set to start waiting. No one had said anything about the waiting bit before, the jumping out of the plane bit-yes, the landing on the ground bit-yes, but not the waiting bit!

At about 10.30 am the cloud base was at 7,000 feet (I have never spent so long staring at the sky!) and the first lot decided to go for it, rather than miss jumping that day. So we stood and watched them descend from the skies like a cloud of drifting dandelion seeds and waited to see whether it would be possible for us to jump next. At this point the clouds just started to clear and we waited some more... until there was some real blue sky and then I was off, strapped up by Wolfie, hat in hand strolling onto the plane.

Wolfie was my tandem partner, a man of many previous jumps and over 8 hours skydiving experience. Ten of us were packed like sardines into a very small plane and we taxied along the grass, then built up speed and took off. At 6,000 feet we knew we'd definitely get to jump from 12,000 as the cloud was just about clear. At this stage I was thinking "I'm sure I'm supposed to be scared, but I just can't seem to manage anything but pure excitement!". At about 10,000 feet we had to get in our tandem positions which meant a lot of shuffling around and getting very friendly with Wolfie by planting my backside in his lap and snuggling in! Oooh and more bondage as I got tightened up in my harness. We then checked goggles and hats and waited for the magic 12,000 to hit on the alti-meter.

The door was opened and the first two solos fell out followed by two tandem jumpers; then it was us. I sat with my legs over the side again waiting to be scared... but no just sheer exhilaration as I could see the sky and the clouds below. Then we were floating next to the plane then just drifting down at about 130 miles an hour... WOW!

It was quite hard to breathe and freezing cold, but it was utterly wonderful floating along in the blue, blue sky with the sun shining and little fluffy white clouds below. It really didn't feel like maximum velocity as we did 6,000 ft in 45 seconds. Then we got nearer to a cloud and we went through it... now that felt like a totally out of body experience, just fluffy whiteness all around. It was utter magic.

At 6,000 feet it was time for the parachute, so Wolfie pulled the cord and we went from horizontal to nearer vertical, at the same time losing speed, but it wasn't really that perceptible. Now I finally managed to catch my breath, although my hands were so frozen I couldn't feel them. But what a fantastic view, we swung left and then right looking around as we descended gently back down. We saw the plane which had dropped us off landing and some of the others, who were heavier and sank quicker with their parachutes. We tried to see Stonehenge which may have just been visisble, but it was still a bit too cloudy for that.

Then it was time to land. I was expecting the ground to rush up and meet us but it just stayed where it was and we slowly drifted down and landed, both of us on our feet. We wrestled with the chute to get it under control and then walked back to the training centre to get me out of my bondage gear (shame!).

This was the most awesome and utterly mind blowing experience I've had with my clothes on! I thoroughly recommend it to everyone, just the once to see what its like. If you want to have a go contact Andy Parkin of Skydive Unlimited (by the way, you'll also need a spare 200 pounds or so :-)

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