Saturday, November 4, 2023


I have now realised that I have a head for heights. This took some time to acknowledge because, while I have not (yet) needed to know my way around a grappling hook, I am fine at heights that others would happily avoid.

In the last week, I have reached the top of the dome at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, known as the Golden Gallery, with my iPhone registering the 528 steps as twenty-five flights of stairs. In February 2020, I climbed a similarly spiralled staircase to reach the top of the clock tower at Southampton Civic Centre, and back in 2015, I walked up and over the O2, formerly the Millennium Dome, which required the use of a harness.

Perhaps it was the lengthy gaps in times between these three events, and taking the stairs is not like climbing a hill – the suspended walkway at the “Up at the O2” attraction uses the same Teflon-coated glass fibre fabric used on the structure itself, which felt like walking on a taut trampoline. The top of the St Paul’s dome is higher than the combined height of the other two structures, but taking a transatlantic flight is higher than all of them, and I’ve so far done six of those without any problems.

However, I have realised a low accompanied every high – I had reason to be annoyed every time. I consider myself to be patient, but my walking pace is slightly faster than average, and if I am physically behind a line of people, I will want to get ahead if I can. Walking up the clock tower and through St. Paul’s, I hoped that people might step aside at the occasional spaces and ledges that existed along the way, as I continued on – the same was true for the way down. Walking up and over the O2 was different, our being attached to a guide rope being useful on windier days but also locking the line into a set order – it did not help that I personally thought the rope wasn’t needed on the way down. 

Worst of all, the Golden Gallery at St. Paul’s is not made for crowds of tourists, with only a couple of feet between stone corners and the guide rails preventing you from rolling down the landmark dome – I said “I am unable to get past” to the people in front of me, at which point I found that English was not their first language. It was not a good time to start feeling constrained by the lack of space, but the adrenaline helped me get down faster than nerves could have done.

Perhaps focussing on the negative when you are doing something outlandish isn’t idea, but it removes any thoughts about that outlandishness – getting the wrong airline food will do that.

No comments:

Post a Comment