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Archive for June, 2011

This year (2011) World MS Day was on 25 May and a group of people from Horsham decided it would be a great idea to undertake a skydive to raise funds for the local MS Society.  Among these people were Chris Burns and Maggie, my wife, both of whom suffer from this cruel condition.  This great adventure was set for the day after World MS Day, and was to take place at Old Sarum airfield, near the beautiful city of Salisbury, in Wiltshire.

Unfortunately, after many days of beautiful weather, Thursday 26 May dawned wet and windy.  However, we had to make a start on the journey, for which a coach adapted for disabled people was hired.  We set off, more in hope than expectation, the driver going south along the A24 before turning westwards on the A27.  However it was not long before we received a phone call to say that the weather was totally unsuitable for the event and so we returned.  It was somewhat disappointing.  However, the skydive was re-scheduled for Friday 3 June.

It was agreed that we would all make our own way to the airfield.  This was fine, as it allowed us to give our new wheelchair-accessible vehicle its first real run.  We went by a route I had done a number of times before, along the A281 almost to Guildford, before turning off and going across country to the Hog’s Back (A31) and then getting across to the M3 – not my favourite motorway.  We then took the A303 to get to Old Sarum.  The A303 is an absolute racetrack of a road, on which it is all too easy to clock 90mph and more.  However, I kept her at somewhere between 70 and 80 and we arrived at the airfield just before 11.30, the journey having taken a shade under two hours.  Certainly the Kia seemed to enjoy the run and I was most impressed with the fuel consumption.  After about half an hour the others arrived, having taken a different and rather tortuous route.

After a while we all went into a training room, where we watched a video of what to expect.  It certainly seemed rather exciting.  However, there were certain aspects that made us wonder if it would be possible to actually do the skydive.  These aspects centred round the ability of Maggie and Chris to bend their legs, something with which both have a lot of difficulty, but which would be necessary on leaving the plane and landing.  So, there was a certain amount of anxiety permeating the atmosphere.

However, these guys really know what they are doing and it was not long before they had come up with ways of getting round such problems.  And so it was that midway through the afternoon Maggie and Chris were being trussed up like turkeys in their jumpsuits and having the harnesses fitted round them.  It was not particularly comfortable for either of them, but needs must, particularly in view of the fact that there had been so much sponsorship.  Then it was aboard the plane and away.

For the rest of us it was then a case of waiting until we could catch sight of the parachutes.   This was about a half-hour later when three shutes could be seen gradually descending.  Maggie had been the first to fall out of the plane, followed by Chris and then Kyle.  Strangely enough, though, Maggie was the last to land.  This was caused by their shute getting caught up in some thermals, as a result of which Gordon, the instructor, had to undertake some spiralling manoeuvres.  This of course added to the time it took to complete the descent.  That probably was not exactly to Maggie’s liking but it did afford me the opportunity to take a whole load of photos, which on getting back home I pushed through Photoshop to try and get some reasonable images.

I had read on the UKSkydiving website that the upper weight limit for tandem skydiving was 15 stone (210lbs).  Therefore, that seemed to rule me out of taking part.  However, in talking with Gordon and others it transpires that at Old Sarum the weight limit is 18 stone (252lbs), and as I am very comfortably within that limit, I am seriously considering doing it next year.

Once everyone was back at the UKSkydiving building, it was time for some group photographs and a bit of a chat before we started the journey home.  Maggie was pretty tired; it had been quite an arduous day for her.  So, it was a fairly quiet trip home, but one that, thankfully, was quicker than the journey down thanks the M3 for once being reasonably clear of traffic.

I don’t know how much the others were able to raise, but Maggie will be able to donate some £925 to the local MS Society branch.

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