Skydiving

Why jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane? This is usually the reaction you get when saying that you are going to skydive. I was one of those and felt that my talents would be much more appreciated while I am alive – although I started cave diving. So jumping out of planes were not very high on my list of must-do. Not even close to my bucket list, let alone in my bigger bath-tub list.

Given the opportunity to try it for an article in the local dive magazine, I was at first apprehensive. Thoughts of what will my newly acquired husband do when I am there no more, one with the earth, flattened by the high velocity stop. Or like my dad usually say, it’s not the falling which kills you, it’s the sudden stop. But if I were not to do it on this occasion, when?

The drive down to Carletonville was very quiet with me going: yes, no, yes, no, OK yes in my head all the way there. And with me not being a loud panicky person, the editor/driver had no clue what was going on in my head. He was just telling me all his horror stories and the voice that told him to stop doing it about 10 years previously. Now that is something to boost your confidence if ever you needed one.

Not being one to go back on my word, I stuck to my guns and decided that I will do it. What a story it will be. Glen, the instructor at the club was a friend and went through the whole procedure and safety features in a calm and professional manner. He was very reassuring and with this not being his first tandem jump, the butterflies in my stomach started to fly in formation.

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Jumpsuit on and harness tightened to the point of cutting off my blood flow, we walked to the airfield to await our chariot. My brave face is on and the thought of “what am I doing here?” fleetingly went through my mind. The group before us board and we watch the plane disappear from sight into the blue. Then squinting you can see the jumpers and seconds later, the colourful chutes all opening up and the gentle float down to earth begin. Not long after that, the plane lands and it our turn. I am sure that plane dropped the 11 000 feet in 5 seconds flat. Some guys prefer not to take the trip back down, they’d rather jump, that is how fast he gets down. Without warning, those butterflies are out of formation and wreaking havoc in my stomach.

Once on board, there are some light banter from the veterans but the 3 newbies just get more quiet by the minute. Then suddenly we clip onto our instructors and the announcement come that it is 10 seconds to jump. Watching all the other people going gives you a bit more assurance and you have no choice to put all your trust in the instructor.

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5…4…3…2…1…jump!

Being the fun guy that he is, Glen makes a somersault when we got out of the plane – which I only realised afterwards – and now there is no going back. The first thing I notice is the crystal clear blue of the sky where it meets the earth, with the curvature very prominent. It was simply beautiful.

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8 seconds of free fall and whoof, the chute opens without any trouble. Except for the wind and the harness trying to cut my leg off, this is the most exhilarating experience I had in my short existence on earth. Looking down, you can see the houses getting bigger, the mine dumps – Carletonville is a mining town – and then you start seeing the landing area coming into focus. Suddenly you realise that this is not over yet, you have to land safely. Glen shouts instructions into my ear as we get closer, lift up your legs, no higher, OK hold onto the harness, ready…

A safe landing on the bum ensures no strained ankles or broken legs and then it is all over. You could not get the smile off my face for a full 10 minutes afterwards. I would definitely recommend it for anybody. Last year an old school friend of mine’s granny did a jump – think she is a 100 years old, or very close to it. And she did it for fundraising, probably will do it again this year, so there should be no excuse for us “young ones”, take the leap!

 

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A rose by any other name

To blatantly quote the master himself is always good click-bait, or at least most writers hope so.

But this piece is not about abusing masters, it is about smells.

Sometimes a smell can take you down memory lane with a jerk. Trying to place that smell is like catching a fart with a net. You know it is there… I remember the first time I walked into the food factory where I started working, the delicious smell which came out of the bakery. That sweet toffee, slightly salty caramel baked cheesecake smell. Catching a whiff of anything closely resembling Toffee pecan pie always takes me back to those first days in a white coat and gumboots.

The runaway spoon
Pecan pie – photo courtesy of The runaway spoon.com

A Saturday used to be the day dad cut the grass and do some general gardening. This is South Africa where I was born, not so any more. But the smell of cut grass anywhere in the world will remind me of the sunshine burning down on the grass, the smell of green (I am sure that is what the color green smells like) hanging in the air and then the cherry on top the sound of sprinklers going “tjick-tjick” in the afternoon.

Moms perfume.

Good coffee.

Bacon. 150 chemical compounds, amino acids combining with sugars, turning that golden brown with that fatty goodness when fried, all the hydrocarbons, aldehydes, pyridine & pyrazines (containing all things unhealthy). That smokey meatiness just can’t be beaten for a top 10 in my book.

Cow dung always reminds me of growing up on a farm in the Lowveld. We used to step bare foot into the warm dung, squishing through your toes, going from pile to pile. Growing up was fun. Now I live on a dairy farm and I am sure that they can use all the cow dung here to generate Biogas or something. I won’t be stepping into it any more, it is just yucky now.

Cowdung

I recently asked my mum if she could remember if the street in front of the house where I were born, was being tarred when I was about 2? (This was before our big move to the farm.) Because I can distinctly remember the smell and the warning that we must not walk on it. I know that  you are not supposed to remember from when you were that young, but the sharp sticky smell of tar reminds me of those days. Your brain always try to make it smell better than what it really is and the lingering notes in your nose are not always pleasant, but oh so very distinct.

Keep on smelling the roses, and dung and tar. Give mom a hug and tell her she smells nice.

 

 

Favourite dislikes

This topic will be on-going because the more you think about “pet-hates” the more you can name. If there are a few overlaps, please forgive me, but it obviously is a favourite pet hate of mine.

This is in no particular order of importance.

People stopping in the middle of the grocery shop’s door. And you are usually the dumb-ass walking right behind them. With no prior warning, they will pull up trolley and all, right in the middle of the entry way and try to decide where to go first. PLEASE! this is not your first time here (I’m very sure of that, because you are dressed in your best trackies, which is  a local favourite) so decide before the time, or even better, make a grocery list at home. At the very least, keep going at least 10 meters, so the people behind you do not have to make evasive maneuvers around you and into the veggie crates.

Which brings me to the next one – Fruit and veg area layout in stores. A little more thought needs to go into the flow of it. Make more space around the Specials, think at where it overlaps with the rest of the store etc. If you get stuck, just ask any hasty mom, who needs different items all over the store for a few suggestions.

Drivers not parking within the allocated parking spaces. Just saying there are a reason for driving schools.

Active wear. The whole day? Why what is she talking about – Just go watch this video by Van Vuuren Bros. And NO it is not because I am jealous of their bodies (which they think perfect, or on the way to perfect because they are going to gym), my legs look better than most of them! It is just gross.

Celebrity chefs running out of ideas. To be a good TV chef, you need a pretty smile, some cooking skills and a theme, for example: Home cooking, French, French home cooking, Italian, Italian out and about, Italian home cooking… you get my drift. Then you need some or other network to fall for your gimmick. All is going good for 10 seasons, but you realise that the viewers has moved on to the newer and better cooking shows, so you need to “re-invent” your style – much like pop stars going gospel.

And this is when you get the chef going to their “home” country to shoot their “back to the roots” show. Now if you are from Italy, you are slightly screwed, because it is small and how much pasta (not from Italy originally?) or pizza (also not?) recipes can you show? France is a bit bigger with more influences, so at least 2 shows can come out of France. Oh, and don’t forget that there are a lot of things to do as well, so why not spice it up with adventure. Forgive me for not saying all the expletives out loud, but I already changed the channel.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking shows, but sometimes you just get the urge to throw the remote at the TV.

People starting a sentence with the word “obviously” and state a fact. Not all of us are such geniuses that we obviously know all the facts about the sport/food/nature topic you are talking about. Obviously you are not considering your audience.

Last but by not all of my favourite dislikes – for now: People flinging the two little words very casually (or by the lack of anything better to say) into a sentence… you know.

NO, I DID NOT KNOW! English is my second language and I do try my best, you grew up with it, think of something else to say, or just stop the sentence.

I will leave you to ponder these few failures of mankind, I will list a few more at a later stage.

The shades of traveling

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Photo by Alamy

The mix of passengers congregated on an aeroplane could not be more diverse if you were picking them off a list.

Sitting tethered to my cattle class seat I enjoyed looking around at what people do to stay busy or just experiencing this self-inflicted torment for the first time. Wondering who and what is waiting at the end of the flight for them, or even if the flight is the end?

You noticed the elderly couple on their first flight, visiting relatives or maybe a deserved holiday, staring fixedly at the boarding notices in the departure hall, trying to correlate what the ticket states with what is visible on the ever changing board. Double checking gate and flight numbers, making sure the departure time is still as planned.

You think, poor “geriatrics”, maybe they should have asked for assistance during the flight. Next thing you know, they are across from you in their seats, they made it on time to the right flight after all. To your surprise they pull out a handheld electronic device and connect effortlessly with the Wi-fi and on-board entertainment. By the time I stopped kicking myself for traveling without mine – see I am visiting a crime ridden country, so rather safe than sorry – he was already working on his high score!

After lunch with the complimentary wine* sipped slowly, a bottle each I might add, they are settling in for a well-deserved rest, with him trying manly to stray upright, but the neck muscles are just not made for this type of extended suffering, but alas, eventually his head silently affirming his dreams with a nod.

*Why do we tend to think that wine on an aeroplane will taste better than what we buy back home? It is usually sour or if you are lucky, it tastes like nothing, rather go for the double shot of spirits to settle the stomach I say.

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Photo from allviralthings.com

Then you get the couple who would like to give their children everything they did not have when they were toddlers – an overseas holiday. Nothing gets spared, as well as the other passengers. Mom gets into gear and packs for all eventualities, hunger, thirst, runny tummy, sleeplessness, you name it. But wait, this was dad’s idea, so he is forced to spend some one on one time with the little brat(s). Taking turns for the toilet break, walking them when the movie gets boring – every 5 minutes – or keeping the volume down to minimize the discomfort of their fellow passengers. Who by the way have to keep a polite face, pretending that it is the quietest, cutest child they have ever met and understandably they will be fidgety when not in their natural environment…NOT.

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Photo by Getty images

So here is my invention (patent pending, interested parties can contact me directly): Area for parents and children – an air playpen – or Airpen. Kick the obnoxious business class out. Make a customised soundproof area with all the facilities for the traveling child – parents included of course.

Then you get the seasoned traveler, streamlined, all necessities at hand, quiet and efficient. Checked in online, with the boarding pass ready on the mobile. No last minute rush for gifts/booze/trinkets. They are the last to get on the bus – because there is no crush of people on the last bus – luggage stowed and settled by the time newbies like you take to gawk and drool at the first-class passengers, wishing that you did not have to squeeze down to your seat which by the way has been occupied by the ignoramus who does not know anything about personal space or hygiene. And with a lot of gesturing and pointing to the seat number, the volume going up ever so slightly with each exchange, they get up nonchalantly and move one seat (silent scream!). There you are trapped in between hell and a bad B.O.

Getting up, climbing over the ignoramus for your meticulously timed toilet break. You stay seated until after lunch, because there is usually a rush just after take-off and then an hour later you have the ones who realize that you are allowed to take bathroom breaks while flying and have to test this novelty (testing the myth about flushing while seated). But not you, no, you go about half an hour after the meal has been served, perfectly timed to miss the weak of bladder and adventurous.

While you are up, getting some fresher air (away from your B.O buddy) you run into the ladies chatting at the back. They always seem to be in their 50’s or early 60’s, one of them a frequent flyer and the other a newbie. It seems that they always gravitate towards the back of the plane and they just pick up with a conversation as if they have known one another since birth. Catching snippets, listening but not listening, you pick up on health issues, politics, all the planning going into the daughters’ wedding and generally not helping to solve the world’s problems.

Eventually you reach the end of the flight and now you will notice just a slight change in behaviour, caused by what? Reduction in gravity, dehydration? There is a sudden sense of importance which is much worse on short flights than on long hauls by the way. When people board, they are all fluffy and rosy with “please” and “let me help you”, to that all so subtle change when disembarking. Each person tries to get his/her overhead luggage the quickest. Now a little elbow in the face, stepping on toes and no time to wait is at the order of the day. Or is this just the relief to be back on mother earth and they want to get away from the capsule of torture as soon as possible?

After a lot of shoving to get on the bus first, you catch them waiting for their luggage. Energy burned and tempers repressed for the wild notion that being first is what counts. Didn’t the tortoise win the race after all? This is just a slice of fascination you will find on a flight. The shades might be different, but they are there if you look for it.

Back in my country of birth with friends and family to see. I still love my chair in the air and when you fly, you might just see me there.