Sunday, 9 March 2014

On trapeze and women's rights...

Challenge #5. Circus skills. On International Women’s Day. With BBC World filming. Sometimes things really do come together in the most amazing of ways. 

Dear dear friend Lucy Van Hove organized 12 women from very different parts of her life, both present and past, to spend a day in Hoxton (super cool atm) learning the tricks of the Big Top. And no surprise that all of Lucy’s friends are fabulous, interesting, funny, clever, passionate women, who aren’t afraid to have a go and laugh and laugh (mostly at ourselves).

That this all took place on International Women’s Day made it all the more poignant. I was trying to explain to Lizzie in the morning that for far, far, far too many women child marriage, FGM, honour killings, isolation and grinding, hope-crushing poverty are a reality. To this she replied, with distain, “so you’re going to the circus?” And it clicked...Yes, Yes I AM. Because I CAN!!!! Remember those last lines in Monica Ali’s fantastic Brick Lane, when Nazeen says, “but you can’t skate in a sari.” and Razia replies “This is England. You can do whatever you like.” I will because I can. We will because we can.  Lucky, lucky us. (and yes, I know that all the above horrors are practised in the UK as well.)  

And the BBC World film crew. Well, still don’t really know why they were there, but as BBC World is only watched in dreary hotel rooms while you wait for something else to come on, I’m not going to worry about it.

And the challenge itself??? An amazing, amazing day. Circus Space is tucked away off Old Street in an old electric company warehouse and looks like the kind of place the girl from FlashDance would have trained. 4 skills to learn: trapeze, tightrope, acrobatics and juggling. My group gets trapeze first...thank goodness, or I would have talked myself out of it. I am scared of heights. Actually, I am terrified of heights. As a child I wouldn’t go up or down stairs that were open at the back OR sides. My mother used to have to carry me down from places long, long, long after I was of the carrying age. I wouldn’t cross or stand on anything you could see through. Elevators were stressful. Chairlifts next to impossible. I have gotten much better as I have gotten older, mainly because I avoid heights...but a challenge isn’t worth doing unless it, well, it challenges. 

So up, up, up that ladder I climb. Half way I stop and call out in a shaky voice “am I almost there?” because I don’t dare look up or down. “Ummmmm,” the very patient Max on the platform responds, “not really.” I keep climbing. I somehow make it onto the platform, which is so terrifying I am shaking, like seriously shaking. “Do you still want to do this?” asks Max. “Yes,” I gasp. Safety wires attached. Spotter on ground shouts “right hand on.” I do that. “Left hand on.” This takes a few tries as I am trembling so hard I can’t actually get my hand to grip the bar...and then I do it and I drop down......AND I AM FLYING....back and forth and back and forth. The spotter is yelling instructions about my legs, but all my concentration and energy is going into smiling...because I feel amazing and I want everyone down there to know I feel amazing. Spotter calls “1,2,3” and I let go and crash down onto the mats. Probably not the most graceful of exits, but I’m down, and alive and I CAN’T BELIEVE IT I DID IT!!!!!!

I doubt I will ever get up on a trapeze again.

Next is tightrope, which I am far too impatient for, but do manage to eventually get about 3/4 way across.  Acrobatics is great, mainly because I get to always be on top. Juggling is a hilarious failure. Such a wonderful day.

We crush into the changing rooms and within minutes we have all whipped off our gym kit and slipped into glam. Some lippy and a quick hairbrush and we are set to take on Hoxton. First stop, gorgeous NightJar for cocktails out of teapots and owl pitchers. Then into Shoreditch for more uber trendy atmosphere and chat and chat and chat and chat....strong and smart, what every woman should have the right to be!

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