In a world where people find themselves in harm’s way through no fault of their own, through an accident of birth causing them to live in a particularly dangerous place, often a place that wasn’t dangerous when they were actually born there, I find it hard to understand why people deliberately put themselves on harm’s way, just for the fun of it. Well, just for the challenge of it, I suppose. But then, it’s not surprising that I don’t understand such people. After all, I was never a fan of roller coasters, even in my youth. Extremely tall and steep slides always seemed very daunting and possibly the height of my daring was going very high on a swing, but only risking jumping off when it had slowed down quite a bit. As for swinging standing up, well, that took a feat of willpower.
You can’t swing standing up on modern swings though. The straight wooden swing seats have been replaced on all children’s playgrounds with thick rubber seats that grip the backside. Thoroughly uncomfortable they are too! I’ve tried them. And they are clearly designed to prevent swinging standing up. We live in a mixed-up age in that respect. On the one hand we have mountain bikes and skate boards and roller blades (all with safety equipment to accompany them - helmets, knee pad, elbow pads) and specialised parks filled with those curved ramps so that you (well, not me but young daredevils) can develop the skill of performing tricks which involve flipping over or changing direction in mid-air. On the other, children’s playgrounds are built to be as risk-free as possible. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; very small children should not fall onto hard surfaces if it can be avoided.
The above rant was provoked by a sort of review of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is touring the UK and Ireland apparently. It seems to be a festival of documentary films of people mountain-biking, solo climbing, precariously skiing in places where there is often very thin ice under the snow and other such extreme outdoor activities. I look at photos of a mountain biker carrying his bike up Dubh Slabs -great rocky outcroppings of granite in the mountains of the Isle of Skye - and then riding down said Slabs at great speed, and I ask myself, why? I have a feeling that if I were to watch some of the films my heart would be in my mouth all the way through. Watching downhill skiing and the ski jump is quite enough excitement for me, thank you very much!
The pursuit of danger does not seem to be limited by gender, which is good from a gender equality point of view, I suppose. At the Olympic Games, it was a young girl who hit the news with her exploits earning her a gold medal for skateboarding. One of Banff films is of a young woman climber, taking scary-looking leaps to reach a fingertip handhold! Another shows a young woman, Nepali climber Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita climbing the 6,440-metre Cholatse in the Everest region with her husband and … wait for it … her small son strapped to her back (the son, not the husband)!
When we venture out for walks around here, and indeed in other countries, we come across mountain-bikers in the most surprising places: on paths with rocks sticking up in such a way that you need to watch your feet, let along your wheels, on very narrow, steep paths, going down very abrupt inclines at a furious rate of knots ( a knot, by the way, is 1.852 kilometres). We also come across paths churned up by mountain bike tyres. I like my hybrid bike which I can use on rough tracks but I am quite staid in my choice of routes!
I suppose life would be very dull and boring if we all liked to get our thrills in exactly the same way. So it goes.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone.