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Abseil in aid of Lord Mayors Appeal (I’ll do anything once)

Dangling in space, and being shouted at from above, manage to release general-issue ill-fitting glove, that is jamming descent mechanism

Arrive at foot of Lloyds of London building and see two ants above me dangling side by side unaccompanied! I had assumed we would go down in tandem i.e. I would be attached to a fit young man. Find Clerk who is unclerkishly unhelpful by saying I’m mad it is not something he would do and good luck.

Unfortunately can’t cry off. They’ve got me on a little list. Sign in and sent for ‘training’. This consists of selecting a helmet that fits or at least sort of fits, being given a pair of gloves – the sort a smelter might use, which definitely don’t fit - and standing in a line with 7 other mad people while a harness is fitted. We are shown how to hold the rope and lean back to put it under tension. Main instruction is not to touch any bit of metal. See why when I see steam rising as instructor throws small shiny things into a bucket of water. Turns out that the small shiny things are what we will use as a descent mechanism. This is not looking good.

In our harnesses and carrying helmet and gloves my cohort, all young and fit except me are escorted to a glass lift. Bad idea this one. Looking at a view is one thing, looking at your route is another especially as the ants turn out to be people creeping down sheer glass.

Arriving on the roof realise that although still and hot at ground level it’s cool and windy here. Nevertheless two people are taking the opportunity to sunbathe. Hate their sangfroid. Cheered up by fact that there is someone in a pinstripe suit, not a good look with a harness by the way, looking somewhat unhappy. We stand in two parallel queues and watch as people in front of us haul up the ropes of those who have gone before (very very heavy as it turns out) and then get themselves attached to said rope, step up onto low parapet, then step over, then disappear.  Some are quiet. Some give a little confidence-draining shriek. One of the instructors is giving running and not very flattering commentary about peoples’ over the top technique. I’ll show him! The man in front of me decides not to go, no confidence left.

My turn.  Nice young man attaches me to rope, says smile for camera and go. I step onto parapet. I’m going to be sick. I step down to little ledge. Can’t be sick now, would be antisocial for those at ground level. My hands are sweating as I lean back. Suddenly all is well. I am in control. The view is great. I smile at young lady dangling above me with camera. The buses are now the ants 300 feet below and it is a beautiful sunny day. Off I set. I’m going to enjoy this. Unfortunately ill- fitting glove gets stuck and jams shiny bit of metal. I can’t move. Instructor above shouts can take my hand out and release from the shiny bit of metal otherwise they will have to haul me up. That would be too humiliating. Dangling in space manage to release glove. Rest on knee and put hand back in. Get a little round of applause.

Set off again. Glad I’m not in a skirt. This self -propulsion is fun but surprisingly hard work – release, slip, close, release, slip, close, release. The glass wall is in fact office windows. Can see everything inside and they can see everything outside. Have to use both hands as would wave or at least make a rude gesture. Get to bottom. Get unclipped, shiny metal thing thrown in bucket, sizzles. Smile in a smug way at those about to go. Take off harness. Find Clerk. Go for drink. Still wish it had been a tandem job with fit young man but glad that I have raised £2300+ and not let the Company down. 

Past Master, Mary collis