Baggins and I were at a charity event last night that had a raffle, just like charity events often do. One of the prizes was a free session at an indoor climbing wall. I sat there with my fingers, legs and eyes crossed that they wouldn’t call out ticket 65, 66, 67 OR 68 (yes, we’d splashed out an eye-watering £4, thanks for noticing). I did NOT want to win a bloody wall climbing session, thank you please.
I’d already been there, done that, got the horrible shoes.
A new climbing place had opened up in 2015 near us in Vauxhall called VauxWall (see what they did there?). Trying to be a really cool, sporty wife I thought rather than just asking Baggins whether he wanted to spend another Friday night drinking Prosecco and talking about FEELINGS, I’d book us a climbing session as a surprise. He was chuffed. Ten Gryffindor points to ME.
Problem is on the walk there I did myself the disservice of really bigging myself up. You see, when I was younger my mum used to sign us sisters up to every random activity going in the hope that something would stick.
Violin? NO THANK YOU (my ears still cringe at the memory). Chinese circus skills? Doesn’t sound like it’ll end well. Rock climbing? Interesting, mother. Very interesting.
So as a young disaster I actually did a bit of rock climbing and abseiling with the local Y-M-C-A (that song’ll be in your head all day now, young man). I remembered enjoying it. I remembered being alright at it. So – on the walk to our Activity Date – I told my oh-so-sporty husband “I’m not a bad climber actually. I used to do quite a lot growing up.”
BIGGED MYSELF UP, DIDN’T I?
They make you wear shoes that are a size too small when you climb these indoor walls. Now that’s fine for me. Whenever I got taken on a bowling date as a teen – or if there were even any human males within earshot – I’d order bowling shoes TWO sizes too small ‘cos I was too embarrassed to say “size 8s please” in front of any boys.
So the small shoe game is not new to me my friends, no siree.
But let me tell you – it’s slightly different bowling in shoes that are tight and painful to climbing a WALL in shoes that are tight and painful. For a start, the main activities in bowling are clapping and saying “nearly!” and neither of those involve your feet.
Anyway, my painful bent-over toes were the least of my worries. Everyone at VauxWall was EXCELLENT. They made scaling walls with just the tips of their fingers and toes look like it was the most natural thing in the world and my panic started to set in.
It looked very different to how I remembered it from back in 1997. I think they’d changed it.
But it was me who’d suggested this stupid sporty date so I had to give it a try. And it was on my second or third attempt at one of the main walls that it all went horribly wrong.
I’d climbed as high as I could and got stuck. I couldn’t move my feet; I couldn’t move my hands. I was paralysed with fear and felt so high up. I started to panic. We hadn’t been given a harness. It was just me and the wall.
“Jonny!” I whispered down loudly, not wanting to embarrass either of us in front of all the Proper Climbers.
He chuckled: “What’s wrong?!”
“Then let go and jump down…?”
“Let GO??! Jump DOWN?!” my voice rose from a loud whisper to a middling yell. “I can’t let go I’m too high up!”
I was really starting to panic now. And my palms were sweating (knees weak, arms were heavy). I was glad I hadn’t had any of mom’s spaghetti.
“Pet!” my darling husband could barely get the words out for laughing. “You’re only two foot off the floor!!”
How I expected to look
How I actually looked
I started crying. I kid you not. Two foot off the floor and I started to cry. In fairness, I’m 5ft 8 so I was actually – according to my eyes – 7ft 8 off the floor.
The long-suffering Baggins had to help manoeuvre me off the wall and onto the crash mat as the Proper Climbers looked on with a mixture of amusement and bemusement. I wanted that crash mat to swallow me whole. My sobs were becoming the main activity of the Activity Date.
We didn’t stay much longer after that. Baggins had a little climb around like a monkey while I watched from the safety of the floor (not that safe considering people were dangling around over my head).
Life lesson: only organise an Activity Date if you have the tekkers to back up your boasts.