I didn’t watch it because I have a fear of heights that makes the mere thought of being stood on something as insignificant as a kick stool makes me want to cry however if my Twitter timeline was anything to go by, flipping loads of you did. I’m talking of course about the Channel 4 documentary, ‘Don’t Look Down’ about local Southampton Spiderman, James Kingston, scaling the highest heights without any safety equipment.
I remember the day he first came to my attention as I distinctly remember announcing to the office that ‘some dick’ had free climbed the crane in Ocean Village, ‘yes’ I said, ‘that massive behemoth that dominates the skyline outside Tesco’, ‘yes, free climbed as in no ropes, no harnesses, no PPE!’ I exclaimed. PPE being ever the watchword in these parts you’ll understand. ‘What a prick’ was my summing up of the situation.
I drove in to work the day after the documentary and found myself queueing in traffic past the Northam gas works which James has also scaled and I could see people around me pointing, gawping at the sheer size of it, and wondering how on earth he came to be at the top.
My stomach was doing somersaults and I was glad when the lights changed and I could drive on because if I’d stayed there any longer I’d probably have been sick. I had a similar reaction when the gas works loomed in to view on my way home as well. It’s funny how things change though.
Driving to work yesterday after hearing some tragic news I was brimming over with tears and emotions and found myself yet again queueing to go past the gas works, only this time I saw it with fresh eyes. Yes it’s still an incredibly irresponsible thing to be doing, and I pray to God that nobody copies him or that anyone attempting to rescue him (God forbid he should need rescuing) comes to any harm but it’s his choice to do it. It’s his choice to make the judgement call that climbing up these structures is more important than thinking about the risk of something going wrong and of those he’d leave behind, however putting that aside for a moment…
I can’t get the image of him standing at the top of the gas works out of my head. The air looks so still around him and in that moment he must have felt invincible. Perhaps it’s because it’s an image that we so rarely see of the busy, noisy, smelly city that I live in that’s got me thinking about it so much. Perhaps it’s because yesterday morning, when life seemed so futile and fragile, I’d have given anything to feel invincible, even for a moment.