I was going to tell you all about Ted, he was much in my mind last week but I wrote the post, with detail, links, pictures and then broadband connection dropped and it wasn’t saved and I thought maybe it was meant to be, but equally, perhaps it was no surprise, that Sunday morning found us at Old Sarum airfield waiting for a friend who is in his fifties to complete his charity skydive for the Liver Trust on one of the clearest days in memory; bright sunshine and apparently up there, in the skies you could see over to the Isle of Wight and across to the Bristol Channel and Wales, which must have been an amazing experience for those who had the courage to allow themselves to (effectively) fall out of the plane and trust to the skills of their instructor as they billowed their way back down to earth in ‘tandem’. I don’t know how many people we watched jump yesterday, but the airfield was buzzing with activity and there was never a dull moment, from Tiger Moth tours to gyro-copters, passing millionaires stopping off for a refuel on the way to….? the coast? France? more exotic places?
Ted Rudd was an extraordinary young man, who was born in New Zealand and there discovered skydiving, earning his keep taking photos of the tourists and getting as many jumps of his own in, before gravitating towards more extreme sports. I used to live next door to his mum and met Ted as a young man in his twenties, he was a lightbulb; friendly, funny and loved people, relished meeting them, enjoyed being in their company and never pre-judged. He travelled the world and became a well known ‘Pro base’ jumper which means he had some expensive and techinical kit, dispensed of the ‘airplane bit’ and jumped off very tall mountains - wiki it, it’s horrifying reading for the cautious among you.
On Saturday we had a bar-b-que for the neighbours and our friends opposite arrived with three ‘extremely’ polite Americans who were on two weeks leave from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Our friends son is currently serving over there and had suggested (as two weeks in a strange country could prove to be anything but restful) that the Americans made contact with his parents and they would show them the sights and look after them. We were all touched by their youthfulness and the profound truth about what they were doing, the huge risk to their lives and how strange it must have been to turn up at our chaotic party where our guests ranged from teachers, retired Generals, an ex. British Airways Pilot, Oil Rig supervisers, artists, writers, accountants, builders, sales managers, students…. They arrived well into the flow of things, but it was sobering to hear about where they had come from.
We bumped into some other friends at the airfield, their daughter who is 18, was jumping to raise money for Project Trust http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=projecttrust-mccall
She is going to teach in Thailand for her gap year and has to raise 5k in total. Having arrived at the airfield at 10 am, she had to wait until 5.10 until it was her turn to ‘jump’, so we all stayed to wait with her. It was worth the wait, she whooped and looped and twirled her way down and beamed for hours afterwards. It is in our nature to push ourselves, to achieve challenges or overcome obstacles and then strive to go further, do better, fly higher - this is what Ted did until one day in June 2011 when he jumped from a mountain in Norway and didn’t make it home, he was thirty five years of age and it saddens me so much.
Or at least it did, until yesterday, when I felt the infinite possibilities of human endurance and the limitless sky which surrounds us all. As I spent my time idly watching the blue yonder I got to sense something of the draw; the adrenalin, the preparation, the mind blowing thrill of it all, that momentary sense of flight, defying nature, speed, air, light, space, the earth spread before you. And I knew that within the drive to seemingly put yourself before death on a regular basis is the essence of what makes the human race move forward, discover medicines, build beautiful buildings and elaphantine carbuncles, explore, invent and discover and indeed, go to war. For those of us who want to stay in one place and live life with caution, rationale and routine, surrounded by our families and content with what we know, that’s fine and perfectly acceptable. For others it isn’t. For some they danger they face and put themselves in harms way for, is for the greater good, for others it’s about personal discovery and that is okay.
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