Monday, October 29, 2007

You walk into the restaurant, all strung out from the road

Remember when I contemplated what the theme tune of my last 4 months would be? What song would be the one that I associated with my time on the road and what I'd seen and done ? Well, the votes are in, and Metallica's Turn the Page is the hands-down winner. And as with most of the music on my previous list, it's associated with bittersweet times and it was the first song to hit the iPod after I heard the news.

On Sunday, a good person whom I considered a friend passed away and I can't help but think on our mortality. My first thought was "Gods, no!". My second thought was "Shit! If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us". But my third thought - my third thought is the one that makes me feel like a traitor to the entire human race - it was "Yeah, but I wouldn't stop driving if he died in a car accident, now would I?"

Some background - Tonto was an instructor at JSC. He was one of the most conservative skydivers I know, but more than that, he was an amazing human being. He was the first guy to pack it in for the day and sit telling tall tales when the wind got up. He was the first guy to ground students if things looked dodgy. He was around for advice, or just to shoot the breeze. He cared, deeply and passionately about all of his students past or present, and took retention in the sport more seriously than 95% of DZ operators and instructors that I've met. But he chose to swoop.

When I skydive, I have about 1 minute and 10 seconds to sort my shit out. If my main parachute deployment goes wrong, I have 15 - 20 seconds to sort that out or get rid of it and get out the spare. If I get knocked out or just bored and stop paying attention to where I am and what I'm doing, I have a device in my rig that will deploy a parachute for me at about 700 feet. I've got options on every dive, and I've got time to try them. Tonto had around 20 reserve rides to his name, and he walked away from those. But it seems to me that with swooping, if things go wrong, you get between 3 and 5 seconds to fix them. There is no plan-B, there are no alternatives - fix what went wrong, or bounce. Swoopers know this and they accept this, so it's not my place to criticize.

I'm devastated by Tonto's passing, and that's kinda strange really. But I think it comes down to the fact that between him and Ed, when I was totally despairing of people in the skydiving community (and the human race in general), they showed me a different way, a different crowd and kept me in. Sure, these days I try to hang out with the old guys with hundreds of jumps on their rigs and no fancy gadgets, no brand new RW suits, no gear-queer accessories. I don't really fly with the yuppie crowd, probably for the same reason that I don't hang out with them in real life. But I have more fun.

My time in Hell^WAfrica taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that to get by in life, you have to be a little bit selfish and make yourself happy. It taught me that you really can't change the world all by yourself, but you can help individuals, and some days that is enough. It taught me that people aren't necessarily evil, just dumb, but when there's so much dumb around, it amounts to the same thing - they don't mean to be evil, but they are. It taught me that in a lot of ways, I'm not a good person, but there's hope for me yet. It showed me the value of religion but also the harm that organised religion has done and continues to do to the world. I learned that no matter how brilliant you are, without a decent team backing you, you can't do shit. It showed me that NO crime, and I mean NO crime is worse than a crime that makes people suspicious of other innocent people. I learned that people are all that matter, and the shit we have with each other needs to be water under the bridge and moved past!

But most importantly, it taught me that you only get one go at life and you damn sure better make the most of that. I think I've found a religion now, and I plan to look into that when I have the motivation and time, but even so, even if you do get reincarnated (or bumped from the load and have to remanifest as Tonto so artfully put it), you don't get the memories of this life, you don't carry those experiences on. You get one shot at this!

Whether you buy your plot of land in a gunfight outside a hotel in CAR, crossing the N12 highway south of Johannesburg (someone get that man a Darwin award!), strung up from a lamp-post in a 'Largely peaceful election, held in a carnival like campaign atmosphere' [ed: blame the BBC for that stunning turd!] or burn in on a skydive, chances are that you didn't get up that morning planning to die... Except maybe that guy on the N12, I dunno.

So stop fucking about here people! Stop watching your lives go by, get off your arses and make your dreams come true - No-one else is going to do it for you! It's not going to be easy, not by a long shot. It's going to be big and scary and hard. But it's GOT to be better than what we all do every day and wouldn't you rather have 10 years living, truly living, than 20 years existing?

/Lemming reconsiders being a lemming

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here we go for the 100th time!

We left the house on Saturday 20/10/2007 at some ungodly early hour and the weather was perfect; blue skies and a light wind just managing to turn the windmills at the Ford plant.

By the time we turned off of the M20, we were driving under a steel grey sky, watching the hot air balloons drift and as we turned around the corner to Leeds Castle, the trusty iPod in the car dock selected Megadeth's High Speed Dirt for our listening pleasure. How ... fitting.

When we got to the DZ, Cheryl kindly unpacked my parachute for me seeing as I'd done a half arsed job getting it back in the bag the previous Wednesday and I spent a frustrating half hour putting it back in. Then I finally ordered breakfast and sat down to listen to the cargo psych themselves up for their once in a lifetime experiences.

Breakfast was not to be. Well, mostly not to be. Normally, when there's cloud at Headcorn, you sit. And sit. And sit. But on this particular day, for some odd reason, they wanted to put a lift up to cloud base. Cheryl just saw a blur as I hauled ass out of the shed to get my name down for that.

A half hour later, we were sitting in the Islander, waiting for take-off, and it really was my lucky day. They had a student on board doing a static line jump, so I'd convinced the jump master that I really wasn't crazy, but that I really, really wanted to get out at 3,500'. The rest of the load decided to see how much altitude they could get, and it turned out that many of the guys on the load have never been out the door under 5,000' and never want to. Weird!

By 2,500', I was hanging out the hole where you could optionally put a door, watching the scenery roll by. At 3,500' they kicked the student out... I was watching, out the door waiting for the rope to snap tight and fabric to appear. 15 seconds later, I flipped off a quick wave, and stepped out into empty space at 3,400'. 3 seconds after departing the plane, I went back to my arch, having just deployed my parachute, and waited for it to open.

For the first time in my career so far, I had most of the English sky to myself. I only had one other person to share with, so a quick flight back to the DZ and a spiral or two, and I was well out of his way. There may have been some excited yelling, but I can blame the student for that.

The landing was beautiful... Perfect holding just north of the runway, then a 180 degree turn to fly towards the river and a short right hand pattern to bring me skiiing in next to the pit. When my feet touched, I was still moving forward, flying the canopy to the very last second when it ran out of steam, avoiding the bigger chunks of sheep shit as I went.

That's 100 jumps done. I guess I better start working on that 1000.

/Lemming does what lemmings do...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Scan computers? Try Scam computers! allow you to pick a date and a time for your delivery. I picked 'before 10:30 on 18/10' so that I would have time to install it before going to Benin.

At 20:16 on 17/10, I get a mail telling me it is delayed and won't arrive today. So I phoned Scan and found out that it will still be delivered tomorrow. But they can't refund the £15 that they charged me for delivery because the dates that you pick are only an estimate. So I have cancelled the entire order. This now means that they make nothing at all from me, and never will again. For the sake of 15 quid.

And the worst part? They're STILL going to have to pay the courier, because the parcel went out on the van last night.

Absolute bloody genius!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why England will win the Rugby World Cup 2007

As far as I am concerned, it's a done deal. England will win this cup on Saturday night, mostly because South Africa have decided that they want to lose it.

This BBC article explains how the Springbok coach's job is up for grabs and the current coach has to reapply if he wants to keep his job.

Instead of doing the smart thing and waiting until the cup was over, his application has to be in by Friday, the day before the final. I'm just guessing here, but I'm pretty sure he would rather be focussing on more important things... like winning the biggest trophy in the game.