Fear of Heights?

A couple of days ago, it being Friday afternoon Kath and I watched a film called “Fall”. It was nothing to do with autumn in Vermont and the wonderful colours of the foliage, it’s about two young women, both experienced climbers, who decide to climb a disused and soon to be demolished, 2,000-foot-high TV transmitting tower in the desert and miles from anywhere, just for the heck of it.

I won’t spoil it for you by giving away the ending, or even the beginning and middle but at one point I said to Kath, “I don’t know about you, but my hands are clammy watching this.” my palms were indeed sweating. Kath said that hers were too, and not only that but her buttocks were clenching. So yes, it’s a good film.

I have to admit that overall, I did enjoy it, we both did but it’s certainly not for those with a fear of heights. That’s acrophobia, not vertigo which is an Alfred Hitchcock film starring James Stewart. Yes, many years ago I thought that fear of heights was vertigo but it’s not, never has been.

I’ve touched upon this before in this blog and by heck I’m going to touch it again. I never used to be worried by heights; I don’t think I did at any rate. I’m not really worried by them now, not really. I can be in a very tall building and it doesn’t faze me, in 2014 on my very first trip to Poland I was in a hotel on the 29th floor, the view was amazing, going up and down in the lifts was a doddle, no problem.

In 2012 we had the good fortune to spend a month in Australia and New Zealand and when we were in Auckland, we went up the Sky Tower. The windows lean outwards and you can lean forward with your hands on the glass and look down. Not a problem. However, had I been on the outside of the building, and you can go outside suitably harnessed and tethered, it would have been a different story. Being out in the open a long way up is different. It doesn’t scare me; it just makes me a little apprehensive. Oh, alright, it scares me – at a rate proportional to the height.

The first time I noticed this was back in the late 1980s, I was with a previous girlfriend, and we were up in Central London visiting the Bank of England Museum, an excellent place to visit if you are a banknote collecting nerd like me. After our visit to the museum, I suggested that we go to visit the Monument of the Great Fire of London (called “The Monument” in the arrogant way that only London can be) and climb to the top, so we did. I led the way up the spiral stairway eager to get to the top but upon exiting onto the viewing platform something happened, I held on to the handrail then pressed my back against the stone of the column. It’s odd to describe, I wasn’t frightened but I wasn’t quite happy.

The previous time I’d been up high and outside must have been some years before this at the Bridgewater Monument on the Ashridge estate in Hertfordshire and I have no recollections of being scared, worried or even apprehensive. In some respects the Bridgewater Monument and The Monument are very similar, stone columns with a spiral staircase up the middle and a small viewing platform at the top. The Monument is admittedly almost twice the height of the Bridgewater Monument but surely, after a certain height it doesn’t matter how far you fall, does it?

Sorry, flippant. What changed was me at some point I suppose. I got out on The Monument’s viewing platform and decided that it wasn’t the place for me.

But if you want clammy palms and the odd buttock clench, I recommend that you watch “Fall”, watch it from your favourite armchair with both feet firmly on the ground.

Afraid of heights? Look away now…

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