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Around The Sun: Trapeze Star

Steve Harrison goes flying on the high trapeze.

When two youngsters asked me to go on the flying trapeze I quickly accepted.

Corrina and I were on the way to Byron Bay with her children, Laura, then 13 going on 30, and 11-year-old James, an adventerous skateboard-man. Byron Bay is a good 12 hour drive from Sydney. We stopped at every skateboard park between the departure and arrival point, taking two days on the journey. Im keen on inline skates so we had a great time enroute.

The kids had been going on and on about this flying trapeze. Sure I would have a go. No problem. Then I saw it. Oooops! This was a full-scale circus trapeze, complete with safety net. My knees turned to jelly. I went off to get a couple of beers.

Laura and James asked if I wanted to tackle the trapeze straight away. Not right now, I told them. I want to spend some time with your mother. Maybe in the morning the trapeze would have shrunk to the child-size version I had expected. It would look less formidable after a good night's sleep.

Next morning it seemed to be even taller. This was the real thing. Men in tights and girls in leotards, swinging, letting go, flying, being caught... This was serious stuff.

The kids were egging me on. Come on, Have a go. Yes, yes, I said, but inside I was saying no, no.

Then it was my turn to fly. Hang on, I said. I'll just get another beer. Alcohol is a wonderful aid. Three or four beers later the idea of flying didn't seem quite so bad. In the bar I had encountered someone Corrina knew. He said he would have a go if I would. One of those testosterone-driven men moments.

So we got into out harnesses then had a quick practice on a bar about 6 feet from the ground. That was more like what I had had in mind. We were both declared fit and read to go. Now we stood at the base of a vertical ladder just one foot wide. I felt like Jack, ready to climb the beanstalk. The ladder seemed to disappear into the clouds. One at a time we were to ascend the ladder then wait on the top, about 20 meters up, on a suspended platform.

There we were hooked onto a safety wire. The catcher would swing out. On command, we then had also to swing out. At the apex of the first swing we had to get our legs over the bar of the swing and hang upside down, hooked on by our legs. On the next swing we were supposed to reach out our arms, arch our backs and let go. The catcher would be there at that precise place in space, ready to catch us. He would then let us drop into the safety nwet.

It sounded OK in theory. The young kids doing it seemed so graceful. The only trouble was that I weighed the same as two (or maybe three) of those kids.

My new-found friend decided to go first. I watched him head upwards into the clouds. Then I climbed after him. I decided not to look down as I negotiated the ladder. We stood together on the suspended platform, which shook violently to the combined trembling of our knees.

Off went my friend. He missed the catcher and fell into the net.

And now it was my turn. I had promised the kids I would do it... I rubbed my hands in the chalk bag then smeared chalk up to my elbows. The swing was handed to me. I looked down. Things below seemed small, unreal, out of scale.

The instructor counted me down, Three, two, one..go!

I jumped. I got my legs over the bar and arched my back. After another count of three I let go.

An arm came from nowhere to grab me. Then I fell into the net. I landed on my back, feeling relieved.

Right, I said. I'm off up there again. It will be perfect this time.

Soon I was climbing the ladder with complete confidence and launching out like a professional. At the end of the day I was given two flying certificates,

Next day we persuaded Corrina to go flying. She is a very excitable person, but she was subdued when we told her we had signed her up for the trapeze. One of the young catchers had caught her eye. A young man in a tight leotard. OK, she agreed, she would have a go if we could arrange for that young man to catch her.

She drank a couple of glasses of red wine, practiced on the low bar, then she was on her way up the ladder. To say that Corrina is a screamer would be an understatement. She always had no reservations about vocalising her excitement. She screamed from the moment she grabbed the bar to the moment when the moment when the gorgeous young man in the skin tight leotard grabbed her.

Corrina certainly had a pair of lungs on her.

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