Spoiler Alert: I’m Not Writing This Via a Ouija Board

So how were everyone’s Christmases? I imagine they were pretty good, right? You don’t often get bad Christmases, I find, it’s kind of inherent in the season.

Thank you for all your finger-crossing. You’ll be happy to know that the Twin and I did indeed make it back in time for the holiday season, passing through a storm cloud as we descended first into Vegas and then into the arms of Papa Burns and my older brother, who had driven the 300 miles from San Diego to come pick us up. Aside from the two extra passengers they collected at the half-way point, they had basically pretty much driven for five hours, sat in an airport arrivals lounge for ten minutes and driven for another five hours in the opposite direction. I think this is what they call the Christmas spirit.

The next week went exactly as it has for the past 21 years in the various houses I have lived in: Christmas Eve involved gesticulating sing-alongs, Christmas Day mountains of delicious food and an endurance test of present-unwrapping, and Boxing Day spent mentally preparing myself to go skydiving.

Right, so, yes, Boxing Day this year was unique, and the day after, when I jumped out of an aeroplane at 10,000 feet, even more unique. My older sister had bought my brother and me Groupons to go skydiving in two days time. It’s the kind of thing to which you used to say when you were young, When I’m older I’m going to do that!, but secretly you harboured the creeping suspicion that, no, you weren’t going to do that, grown-ups didn’t skydive, they just spent Saturday afternoons at the post office worrying over their cholesterol levels. I never honestly thought I would actually be doing it.

Apparently though, skydiving is fairly casual these days. I don’t know what I was expecting when we–my brother Tom, my sister Holly, Papa Burns and myself–arrived at the airfield two days later. A hillside dotted with man-shaped craters? A graveyard placed within convenient proximity? I had at least expected a brief training video, but when Tom and I were placed in the room with a TV and a few chairs where I thought it would take place, we were instead confronted by a recording of the company’s lawyer telling us that after we had signed the consent forms (with comforting gems like, ‘Please tick this box to confirm that if you die while skydiving your body will be removed from the premises within 5 days.’) there was no chance we could get away with a lawsuit in case something went wrong.

When the training finally did come, it lasted a good 30 seconds before we were buckled into harnesses and introduced to our jump buddies. I made my best efforts at awkward conversation about the variety of San Diego weather while my instructor made his best efforts to ensure my groin straps were particularly snug. Before long our names were called, and we left the safety of the spectator zone and walked across the grass to our waiting twin-prop aeroplane. In the bright morning sunlight, miniscule under a giant blue-eggshell sky, we stepped resolutely across the grass while my father and sister watched on. The super-tight harness made me feel like a fighter pilot with a wedgie.

Because I was the last on the plane, I was closest to the door and would be the first to jump. The cabin of the plane was tiny, and we were crammed in along its length, knees knocking as the plane stretched back and launched itself into the sky. I was nervous at first, but soon we had unbuckled our seatbelts and were gazing along the Mexican border, chuckling as the instructors exchanged casual banter. A few minutes later I heard my instructor shout something to me across the metre or so that divided us.

“What?” I shouted back.

“I said, come sit on my lap!”

There was a long pause. I looked at the twenty-something year-old man across from me, staring into my eyes with absolute sincerity. I sighed, did a 180 degree turn and lightly planted my rear end into the strangers lap.

I think I’ve set the bar for weirdest sentence I will ever type on this website.

The only redeeming quality of having to spend five minutes sitting on another man’s lap, was seeing my brother, the massive six-foot rugby player blocking out the light in the cabin and trying to avoid my gaze as he balanced delicately on the thighs of the significantly more diminuative man beneath him.

Of course the other redeeming factor occured moments later, when I suddenly realised the door to the plane was open and I was half waddling, half being pushed toward this gaping maw of sunlight and cold air. In my ear I heard my buddy shouting, Remember the training, right? I certainly did not remember the training, but before I could answer he was counting down and rocking back and forth on the threshold of the door.

Tom would tell me later on the ground that he had waited for a wave or a smile before I jumped, but that I just kind of turned away from him and disappeared. So much for fraternity.

Suddenly I was falling. I spent the first ten seconds feeling really uncomfortable, like waiting impatiently for a cold shower to warm up. I was kind of baffled by what was going on and I think my brain was a little overwhelmed by it all. Then I kind of woke up, examined the bizarreness of the situation and burst out into laughter, the same kind of mad, incomprehensible laughter you get on roller coasters and the front row of concerts. My mouth filled up with air and I could feel the wind stretch back my skin. I just screamed and screamed and screamed. Oh, wait, no, not the girlish frightened screaming you are imagining right now in your head, the manly triumphant kind. Don’t think I would have done anything to embarrass myself in front of company, especially not the kind that’s strapped to your back.

As soon as we landed I detached myself from my aerial lapdance with obvious haste and shook my buddy’s hand before we parted ways, never to speak of this incident again.

I don’t know if was the 120 mph descent or the giddiness of the whole experience, but I couldn’t undo the giant smile plastered across my face for the whole day. It was incredible, and if you ever get a chance to do it, I can only recommend you sign up as fast as you can.


I’ve been meaning to post this artist for the last two weeks but revision, dissertation research and applications have kept me too busy even for folk. Finally, though, I am able to present to you the very interesting Dan Mangan from Canada, and his song ‘Basket’. I’m kind of hoping this song catches the frustration some of you might be feeling this time of year and the enthusiastic vengeance you want to wreak on last year’s uncompleted Resolutions. It’s not easy, but Mangan really pulls off the I’m Fed-Up So Listen To Me singing voice somewere in the closing half of the song.

It’s been a great holiday, but now that I am back in the UK with a laptop full of uncompleted essays and application forms, I feel like I need to get into my rhythm again.  Every time I switch to another time zone I have to go through the inevitable acclimatization process, shifting my vowels, conquering jet lag, remembering how to cook. I feel I need another 10,000 foot drop to wake me up again.

Maybe, though, there can be a little less lap-sitting this time.

3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    I liked this song so much that I played it twice, listened to some of his other stuff, and then bought the whole album — all in the space of about ten minutes. Excellent recommendation!

    Hilarious recap of the skydiving story — I have lots of photos for you, those sadly none of them show you sitting on another man’s lap. I’ll just have to rely on the mental image for that one.

  2. Teryn says:

    Hooray! So excited you featured Dan! He’s clever, witty, talented, and very, VERY Canadian.
    Then again, I’m Canadian as well, so I’m probably biased.

  3. Stacey says:

    I cracked up when I read the bit about sitting on the man’s lap. You’re a great writer.


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