Picture the scene. I am six years old. It’s after school and me and my friend Liam are bored of sliding down the slide in his back garden and have decided, for some unknown reason, that it’s actually much more fun to run up a slide and then jump off the ladder. We’ve already done it a few times now and are getting that mad, rebel-without-a-cause, kick from it which only six year olds could get.
Standing on top of the slide, arms outstretched, I’m a boy in my element. In that moment, death is a concept outside the sphere of my understanding. I am immortal. I am the greatest man who ever lived. I am a god. And then, well then, I fall. Getting my left forearm caught in the ladder on the way down, I snap the middle of it in such a way that upon landing it sticks out at a perfect right angle. Do I cry? Just a bit.
Fast forward four years and I’m walking round Paris with my mum and dad. It’s my debut visit to the city and I’m blown away by how French everything is. Because we’re only in the famous city for a short period of time, we’ve decided to cram in as many of the iconic tourist attractions as humanly possible. First on the agenda, the Arc de Triomphe.
“I am immortal. I am the greatest man who ever lived. I am a god.”
When I first see it, I’m immediately intimidated. In the pictures, it hadn’t looked that big but up close it looks absolutely enormous; a beast of a structure towering over cars and people in the middle of a busy roundabout. My parents are keen to go over to it. They want to get a closer look, maybe go up it in fact. I immediately pull back, desperate to get away from the thing. My whole body becomes riddled with panic. Do I cry? Just a bit.
Later that day when visiting the Eiffel Tower, which is a whole six times taller than the 50m high Arc De Triomphe, my parents watch on perplexed as I cower beneath it like it’s Godzilla and I’m a monster movie extra waiting to be crushed. Turns out I really don’t like looking up at things. Turns out my dislike of heights gets going while I’m still on the ground.
January 2017. I’m clinging to the upper part of a bouldering wall in Bermondsey; painfully aware of both the drop and the numerous eyes staring up at me. It’s not quite clear what I’m doing but because I haven’t moved for a while the onlookers are currently going over the following scenarios in their heads: A) This man has died, B) This man is taking a nap, C) This man is suffering from a debilitating case of nerves like the kook he so clearly he is. The answer’s C.