I'm not good at heights. 

Perhaps it's the curse of an overactive imagination that I can so easily envisage the damage even a relatively short fall onto a hard surface can inflict. Or maybe it's my finely tuned sense of balance and innate understanding of the principles of leverage and fulcrum that leave me breathless at the thought of getting up above it all. Whatever the reason, for many years my main anxiety nightmare consisted of being at the top of a very steep mountain and needing to traverse a narrow strip of rock with sheer drops on either side.

Over the years I've developed coping strategies for my vertigo. Little things like not going anywhere near the edge, for instance. When skiing, which you might think an odd pastime for the vertiginally challenged, I notice that I babble incessantly to whoever is unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me on the ski lift. It takes my mind off the drop, you see. And forcing myself to tackle the black runs is my way of dealing with the fear. I still can't cope with watching someone else peer over a cliff-edge though, and when I was last at Balnakeil, and we all walked to the end of Faraid Head to look at Puffins, I had to wait a few hundred feet away from the cliffs, and call all the dogs to join me, out of sheer terror that one might lose their footing and plummet, yelping in surprise, into the rough, rock-strewn sea far below.

So why, oh why, did I ever think this was a good idea?

six foot by four foot by thirty foot up
Somewhere in the rebuilding plan, it occurred to me that the outside of the house was a bit manky. It was once painted white, with the guttering, soffits and barge boards picked out in a particularly fetching shade of whore's lipstick red. Over time, the white has taken on various shades of green, and the red has started to turn pink and peel. Some of the guttering leaks, too, which doesn't add much to the saleability of the place. So I thought I'd get me some scaffolding and paint the thing. Just as soon as the weather forecast was for more than a day's sun between the downpours.
I've been waiting all 'summer' long for that to happen, and finally got bored. Last week we took delivery of a steel scaffold tower. Yesterday afternoon, in an uncharacteristically dry period, I put it up for the first time.*
And my god it's a long way down when you're up there.

I've put long outriggers on it to stop it falling away from the wall, and secured it to several heavy duty wall eye-bolts drilled into the masonry, but it still sways gently from side to side when you're at the top. The wind whistles around as only a house called 'Windy Plain' could justify. The Red Kites whirl around screaming at you for getting too close to their airspace, and you can see down the valley for miles, with nothing but the hard ground to break your fall. In short, it's a terrifying place to be. Just thinking about going back up there makes my palms sweat.

But the forecast is finally getting better, and there's a lot of painting to be done. So up there I must go. Hopefully it will get better with time. Even more hopefully I'll be around to let you know.
* it will have to be pulled down and moved at least a dozen times to get the whole house done, but this and the opposite side are the only times I'll need the full height, thankfully. 


Ellen said…
When you've finished there, you can cross the pond and paint my house next. And bring the scaffolding.
JamesO said…
If it's less than three storeys high, Ellen, it's a deal.

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