Thursday, 4 October 2012

BELOW!


The highest point in Salisbury, and one of the highest points in Southern England. Those lights are to deter airplanes from clipping it, and I guess the wind meter is to... er... show the speed of the wind? Some brave fellow climbs up the outside on those steel rungs every now and then. That's a job I would have relished a while ago.

Hands up who is afraid of heights?

I have been scared of many things, but only scared of heights a couple of times, when I was just about to fall from great ones. The previous post shows me - many years ago - when I was carving some replacement details on the Theatre Royal here in Bath. Those lumps of stone were hauled up by hand (ok, using a chain-hoist) two lifts at a time.

The technique was to haul each block up through the bars of the scaffold, then let it down on some planks placed beneath it so that the chain-hoist could be repositioned two lifts higher, to take it up further until it reached the top.

For all four lyres, this procedure took all day, and we started early on a cold and frosty morning, when the scaffolding was covered in a thin layer of ice. The original front of the theatre never gets any sun, so this ice stayed all day.

Everyone else was nervously waiting for me to 'volunteer' to be the one who climbed the bare scaffold without boards, because I seemed to be the only member of the team who was not particularly bothered by height, and I was tall enough and strong enough to be able to lift the heavy chain-hoist with one arm (whilst gripping a tube with the other) and clip it onto the scaffold above my head.

On the final and highest lift, I had just gingerly crept my way to the middle of the bare structure with my feet placed sideways on one narrow and slippery tube, when I reached up to steady myself on a short, transverse tube bridging the front and back. As I reached up and grabbed it, it rolled gently away from me and I completely lost balance for a couple of terrifying seconds. Some utter bastard idiot had simply left a loose tube on the scaffold without clipping it, and it almost killed me.

I HATE SCAFFOLDERS - but mainly because they seem to think they can park their bloody lorries anywhere they see fit, even if it does cause a three mile traffic jam for everyone else.

Two days ago, I was at my workshop when a very tall, young man approached me using a pair of crutches. He had - he said - been trying to contact me about some stonework for many months now, but because the approach lane to my place has a single strand of wire across it, he had to turn back, being unable to get beneath or above it. Finally, he had chosen a day when - because I was expecting a delivery - the wire had been taken down.

Eventually, he explained how he had come to be hobbling around on crutches, and it turned out that he was lucky to be alive at all.

I had, in fact, already heard of him because he had made it onto national news by miraculously surviving a fall from four stories of a high building, where he was working as a roofing carpenter.

I think that bouncing off several handrails on the way down had 'helped', but it has left him with 115 steel screws, bio-mesh, bone transplants, etc. etc. holding him together from the waist down, and a two-year recovery period before he can even think about returning to work. His waist size is now 22 inches (he is about six feet six inches tall) because of the amount of bone taken from his already shattered pelvis and stuck onto the femur. He is just about to have the other femur totally replaced.

I am glad I never met him when I was messing about on high places, but then again, he was not born when I gripped onto that loose, icy tube.




32 comments:

  1. The title of this post is the traditional shout of warning to those on the ground, when someone accidentally drops a heavy object which might kill them if it hits them - rather like golfers shouting, "FORE!" when driving off at a group of people ahead.

    I did actually shout this from the Theatre Royal once, when one of my colleagues tied a 2 CWT block (the old crown) badly, and it fell from the very top, breaking two layers of scaffold boards before coming to rest on the third.

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  2. I once trod on a roofing lath, that had been 'joined' in mid air, between two beams. If the roofer who'd done the job had been there, I'd have torn his throat out.

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    1. How are your testicles? (I'm not changing the subject).

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    2. I'm lucky to still have any!

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  3. If you consider what I did for a living in the Army and later on during Humanitarian Ops in Africa, you could hardly suggest I was windy but, when it comes to heights, my knees don't just buckle, they flutter uncontrollably.

    You must have heard the joke about the man with an awful stutter who applied for a job on a building site and was told by the site foreman that for safety reasons, he could only be employed if he was able to say Falling Brick. He went away and practiced and was duly appointed. First day at work he knocked a brick off the scaffolding and shouted 'F-f-f-f-f-F*****g 'Ell, it's hit him!'

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  4. See this:

    http://up2randomthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/afraid-of-heights/

    Another blog I follow. No way you'd get me up there!

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    Replies
    1. It's going down that would bother me more.

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  5. I was afraid of heights before I read this Tom. Now I am a trembling heap.

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    1. Did you mean that you were a heap before you read this and now you tremble?

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  6. As i've aged, i've become more leary. It took me awhile to work out that i'm not afraid of heights so much but rather i've much less confidence in my ability to balance myself and keep from falling.

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    1. Same with everyone who gets older. It might be to do with a sense of mortality, couple with a deteriorating sense of balance.

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  7. Good Lord Tom, what a great post.Could see you up there each step of the way. And the bloke who fell four stories. How do they get the courage to get out of bed each morning after a trail (still not over) like that? I'll not complian about my wee aches all day today I promise.

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    1. too many of my former patients in spinal injuries were falls...or jumps...from high places... invarably people land on their feet...break both ankles (badly) then shatter their lower spine completely as the shock is trasmitted through the body

      you wouldn't and couldnt get me to climb up a ladder higher than 8 feet!

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    2. 8 feet would be enough, but not enough for a chicken.

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    3. Sorry Donna, but John keeps hitting the 'reply' button without reason. Having got a reply function on his own site, he is so keen on using it that he does it on everyone else's for no reason.

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    4. I have told you before.... blogger often does not let me post a comment unless i press the "reply" button
      if you prefer thomas,I wont comment at all....

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    5. Don't get into a hissy fit with me, and don't try to terrify me by threatening to flounce off and never comment again, please.

      Just hit the right button like everyone else can and behave yourself.

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    6. well dont get snippy with me mister when I have already explained why I have to do what I do......
      (turns on heels and swishes away)

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    7. Come back! I didn't mean it! (and half the traffic to my blog comes via yours).

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  8. ps
    see

    http://disasterfilm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/the-happening-construction-workers.html

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    1. Yes, I remember that when you posted it. The racist joke about length of dicks, conveniently told by a black worker, and people throwing themselves off buildings or just stabbing themselves in the neck (I didn't actually watch the clip again). I don't really see what it's got to do with a fear of heights though - it's easy to be 'brave' when you go completely mad. Many medals have been posthumously awarded to people who have cracked on the front line.

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  9. My hand is up, but I can't bear to look at it. It's too high.

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  10. They were using cripple boards in France in my time...and not just in out of the way rural areas!
    My Turkish builder (in France..never touch the artisan francais with a bargepole) was delighted with our British tubular scaffolding and joints and borrowed them many a time for his own business.

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    1. I know what you mean about French Builders - they are almost as bad as Cornish ones. The only trouble with British scaffolding are the British scaffolders - you don't have to be a psychopath to be a scaffolder, but it seems to help.

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  11. Just reading about your exploits makes my legs all wobbly...

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    1. Same effect as when I post up a picture of myself?

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  12. I am afraid of heights. It didn't stop me rock climbing though. I did have one or two terrifying experiences and I don't do it these days.

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    1. Yes - it was 9/10ths up a 200 foot cliff when I had one of my potentially life-changing moments as well. I expect we both had the same weight to strength ratio in those days (I don't know how young you are, but you have to be younger than me) that made exploits like that so tempting.

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  13. "9/10ths up a 200 foot cliff..." Yes. I know that situation well. With me it was the first pitch of Agag's Groove in Glencoe. 90ft up and every time I tried to place a runner it fell out. Sweaty palms, etc. Rock climbing is definitely one of those things one should give up if one has an inkling that one is no good at it.

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