Monday, 30 August 2010

The Human Taboggan

Sometimes my head feels like it gets too full.

When it gets to the stage where I am struggling to think straight I escape. My escape is one I have know since I was about 6 years old. We'd drive past it on the way to Ayrshire from Aberdeenshire. It is an incredibly beautiful landmark and would brake the journey up for about 5 minutes as we'd shoot past at 70 mph on the motorway.

It's called Kinnoull Hill.

Sitting above the motorway, it is covered in tree's that turn the most amazing shades of red and yellow and brown and orange during the autumn. And near the top a tower rises out like part of a castle watch tower guarding the motorway.

The view from the top is beautiful. There is a sleek, dark, wide river that winds its way through gentle sloping hills. And from every angle on this hill all you can see are trees of different shades. The cars glint like shiny beetles driving along the motorway.
courtesy of grampianhotel.

The silence and space and view let me pull these scattered thoughts together. To catch my breath and after a while head back down into the chaos, feeling re-charged and ready to carry on.

It wasn't until I was at uni and a friend told me that it was a notorious suicide spot. Trust me when I say that it's quite hard to explain and reassure people that your not suicidal. Particularly when you've left the flat quiet and in a bad mood. Only to return a couple of hours later relaxed and calm. . .

In my 4th year I was feeling the strain of exams and getting that first job, so I headed for my sanctionary.

It was February and the weather in Edinburgh was its usual grey, dreich self but there was no snow but I was wrapped up nice and warm. As I drove North bits of white made themselves apparent at the side of the road. I wasn't too concerned- I had a warm jumper and thick jacket I'd be fine. I drove on, incident free, and an hour later I pulled into the upper car park.

I took a deep breath and got out my little puddle jumper- a red ford fiesta called Elmo- zipped my jacket up and started my ascent. I didn't really think too much of it given that I had a pair of sturdy trainers and plenty of layers to get me to the top. There was a lot of snow around when I arrived, so it did occur to me that I would have to be s bit more careful and watch my step. But this would be the first time I would do this walk through a winter wonderland and i was looking forward to it.

That was until I was about 500 yards from the car park and I caught sight of another pair of walkers. Attaching spikes to their sturdy walking boots. Not trainer wearing walkers. Definitely sturdy walking boots walkers.



With spikes.

The cold trickling thought that maybe I was ill-prepared for what lay ahead seeped into my head. Like biscuit crumbs in a bed- irritatingly there and no matter how loud you think confident thoughts they just wont go away.

Step after careful step I made very slow progress but I stayed on my feet. Keeping off the main path, for extra grip, I slowly reached the top of Kinnoull Hill with my thighs burning! I'd never worked so hard in any fitness class- as I had to get up that hill.

At the top I stood and took the view in. Wrapped in my many layers and standing in my "sturdy" trainers I made for a seriously ill-equipped walker. But I could feel the contentment begin to settle on my mind.

It had taken so long to get to the top that it wasn't long before the sun was starting to set. I reasoned, sensibly I though, that I had better get a wriggle on, the decent was surely going to take as long- if not longer.

I had to stop every couple of feet to get my breath. In an effort to keep my balance I had my arms outstretched like a scarecrow and had stopped breathing, pulling my stomach muscles in a tightly as possible. It was far more exhausting and demanding than the climb up. Which, during the summer, would be considered a gentle walk!!

I was about 100 yards away from the car park and had Elmo is my sights when it happened. My foot slipped. I did the circular arm swinging that you see swimmers do before they dive in for their Olympic feat. My weight shifted rapidly from my right to my left. For a fraction of a second I thought, very foolishly, that I had recovered it.

Then I breathed. That was enough to throw my precariously held balance off and down I went.


Bum first, onto wet snow. Not the nice kind of soft fluffy stuff that you see in Christmas cards and on American movies but dirty, wet snow.

Between my foot slipping and bum making contact with the ground, my jeans decide to act like a sponge and soak up as much water as they possibly could. That however was the least of my concerns because now my focus was on leaning.

First left, then right. Trying to stay on the main foot path. The main foot path, which was tree free. The trees were a blur as I hurtled down this hill on my bum, using my hands as some sort of primitive steering. The trees petered out and I shot into a clearing. Coming to a stop just before the car park.

courtesy of gettyimages.

I took stock.

Everything was in tact. My bum was exceptionally wet however the silver lining was that no-one was in the car park. It was empty. Not a soul witnessed my speedy and unexpected arrival in the car park. So I stood and walked calmly back to the car. During this 3 minute human tobogganing experience I hadn't utter one squeak. No screams of terror echoing round the Perthshire countryside were heard. And in the end all I could do was marvel at the fact I had not killed myself by sliding 100 mph into a tree.

However now I had a dilemma. An hour to drive home in wet jeans. Given that there was no one in the car park, I got into the car and whipped the wet jeans off,,laying them on the passenger seat (wet side up) and whacked on the heating, praying that they would dry by the time I arrived in Edinburgh.

Now getting out of Perth isn't a straight forward process.

Which is why I am going to leave you hanging with a what happened next!

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