Its almost a joke among people with responsibility over computers that by far the most common solution to even seemingly trivial problems is to switch off, then on again.
I am at that place with my flying, via a cascading kind of amplifying series of events that I am hardly flying at all. When I do, I am so tight and anxious inside me. I’m crashing all over the place, costing me a fortune in uprights plus one painfully dislocated finger.
My plans for this year were to compete in the British Open Series, all three rounds, attend another of Gerolf’s courses and then compete in the Italian Nationals in Monte Cucco. I was keen and excited, those were amazing adventures.
The italians are having their 5th task today while I write, Im even off work during the time I booked for that adventure, but I look back now and see that I have done none of these things, no BOS no Gerolf and no Italian Nationals veramente da niente…
Flying should be fun, if its not,Steve Cook
Steve said this to me one night in the pub and I realised that it’s not fun any more, that its full of anxiety. The childish interpersonal bullshit that results in me being locked out of the social chat among the local pilots creates anxiety that stops me getting myself to launch, so I don’t fly, so if I don’t fly I get crap at flying, so I am breaking uprights left and right leading me to fear landing, leading me to get more anxious and not fly almost at all, what a nightmare.
Steve also told a story the other night about another pilot who drifted out of the sport because he moved somewhere new, somewhere with more sites than our home place but that this pilot did not connect with the local flyers, the insight here was that if you don’t have the support of a group talking and discussing flying you tend to fly less.
Many of my thoughts in these last months have been about giving up, why bother if it’s not fun, and if those around me here seem adept at making my integration with the pilots here and the chat among them difficult, good for them, well done, after all like family, you cant choose those you share the hill with.
LIke many, I had flying dreams as a boy, then I was a swimmer and so in these dreams I would be swimming through the air. When you dream in time you become hazily self-conscious that you are in that gifted state, still resisting consciousness, hoping always not to wake, not to land and the dream to stop.
The wish to fly is deep inside me, it’s not something I can ignore.
Hang Gliding is quite unique, it’s a heavy and awkward on the ground, is big and takes effort to lug around, put on the car, rig and take to launch.
However the instant that last footfall misses the earth and you enter the dream once more, are for a while at least that little boy, steeped in the wonder of flight.
There is simply no alternative for me.
Sometimes you have to step back and look at things from a different perspective, not get bogged down in the here and now, the minutiae, the bollox, but rather look elsewhere.
So forgetting the interpersonal stuff and focusing on the flying reflecting on what is it about that that is unhappiest? It was far and away my landings!
So what could I do to help that…
I took all the money I had saved for my competitions and adventuring abroad and spent it on a new harness. Kind of just like that. Feeling an instinct that I wanted something good to come from that money I talked with Rotor a little, they were very helpful and fast to respond, so I made the order.
I hope it will help define the beginning of a journey to find again some calm self-confidence, help me be at ease getting upright during landings, something to make that part of my flying happier. However at the same time it also symbolises a sort of rebirth as a free feeling pilot once more, it is hope, simply that…
Once its here I plan now to take myself off to see Judy Leden in her school up in Darbyshire where Ill go back to basics and re-learn the art of landing my glider.
Repeated landings again and again is the plan. Symbolically too Judy for me via her book Flying with Condors was my first sight of hang gliding, the seed of this whole thing and so I see this as a sort of connection with the spirit of that moment, a reconnection with the raw sense of wonder that took me into the sport in the first place.
To fly we need to be free inside our minds, it is my strong belief that this is the key to all great pilots, to leave the conscious narrative on the ground and enter a feeling world of senses and interpretation.
We must send our selves to be a bird, to see as they see, feel as they feel in order to solve the puzzle and stay in the air. Like my dreams, caught between the flight and consciousness, fleeting with the air while knowing we are naturally rooted to the ground…
Its ironic in a way that the very thing my Southern Club flying colleagues tried to stop via a vile little letter, my adventure flying course in Austria, ended up helping create genuine and lasting friendship.
I loved that trip, loved everything about it at the time, feeling deeply privileged to be spending much of my time with Zhenya and Gerolf it was a magical time.
Zhenya told me recently something of their plans for next year, a journey along the southern italian alps. So this is my goal, the thing I am working towards now more than any other, to restart my flying in a beautiful place with nice friends in a relaxed free feeling way.
dreaming of adventure
How we cope with a difficult circumstance is defining, it makes us stronger, deepens our resolve. If this time has done anything to me it is that, I do not wish to simply give up, I will never give up.
[16 Sept 2014 – Arrival of the harness]
The harness arrived Tuesday 16th Sept, bubble wrapped and looking good I had been starting to wonder where it was but knew any day it would arrive.
The last days have been good flying ones, I had felt it to be silly to have had this plan to help my flying and then go flying with the old harness anyway, I felt anxious about the whole thing and so went cycling anyway.
I am lighter a little and fitter a lot so I am in much better shape today than I was yesterday – so Ill prepare the harness over the weekend – repack the reserve – get the CofG and angle of dangle sorted and practice how it feels… be ready to make those magical steps till my feet miss the ground in that exquisitely pure moment when at last I will fly once more.
[08 Feb 2015 – First flight back]
It took enormous patience, many visits to the hill with and without my glider, much packing up and going home without a flight but eventually there was a day where everything lined up just as I needed it and inside I was ok… finally free again to fly…
[26 May 2015 – Restarted…]
This whole process of stopping and renewing and then restarting has come to some conclusion, I am finally there, I have no stumbling blocks in my psyche when I think to, get ready for and then go flying.
My new Rotor harness has made everything feel good, I actually saw myself land during a beautiful evening at the Dyke because I ‘wanted‘ to land, it has been so nice to find that once the harness solved my landing issues my desire and enjoyment for flying returned in full force.
This whole process has been a success.