Friday, 30 January 2015


As you will know by now, I'm a self-confessed scaredy-cat.

Slip roads, space hoppers, rounders, and checking voice mail, all give me the willies, as does the line: It puts the lotion in the basket. And don't get me started on that feathered monstrosity from the Seventies, Emu. But now, following a recent visit to Bounce Below, a disused slate cavern featuring suspended trampoline nets, I have to add trampolines to the shit list.

I should have known better, of course. Anything that describes itself as “offering a degree of physical challenge” is not for me.  But, as we are on a family holiday at the time, and there has already been an awful lot of visiting national monuments, a trip to a subterranean playground seems in order.
We make our way to Llechwedd Slate Caverns, boarding the underground train to the trampolines.
“This is the actual old mining train”, I say, reading the leaflet. “It’s Victorian.” 
“OMG. We’re not in school!” says the nine-year-old, shooting me one of her famous, withering looks. 

Three giant nets, hung at different levels, linked by walkways and slides, greet us on our arrival at the cavern. My son runs into the centre of the net, squealing with joy.  My daughter follows him, as do our friends’ children.
“I’m coming”, I say, stepping forwards.
My foot sinks into the net, as if it were quicksand. A queer melting feeling travels up my legs to my solar plexus.
“It feels weird”, I say, turning to my friend. "Not sure I can move!”
"Think I'm getting used to it!" says my friend, bouncing off gleefully. 

Somehow I make it back to the edge of the net. My son tells me he wants to use the slide to get to the bottom trampoline.  The ‘slide’ is a chute made of rope. The main problem with it is that it appears to be vertical. In fact, if you were to ask anybody to describe the slide's main characteristics, they would say it was a) vertical, b) vertical, and c) FUCKING VERTICAL. I’m guessing it would be a cinch if you were, say, Father Christmas, or a bag of laundry, but that’s it.
"I want to see if any other children your age go down first”, I say.
“He’ll be fine!” says a supervisor, listening in.
Seconds later, I see him on the bottom trampoline, 50ft or so below, with my friend’s husband, waving excitedly.

But as I'm working up the courage to join him, a massive teenager bounds towards me. He jumps up and down like a fucker. Like somebody has given Zebedee crystal meth. The net tips away from me at a sickening angle, like an anomaly opening up in the fabric of space. I crawl on hands and knees to the edge. Meanwhile, the rest of the kids have climbed to the top trampoline. I figure I can make it to the walkway that takes me up a level instead, if I just stick to the edges.

“Is the chute the only way of getting back down again?” I say to the supervisor, when I get there.
“Yip, but it’s easy! C’mon. Get up there!” he laughs.
The supervisor is like some kind of norse god. Admittedly, he is not the type I usually go for, but the thought that he may see me as a palsied old lady, run to seed, is distressing. At the very least, the absolute fucking least, I want him to think I’m capable of mind-blowing sex moves. I clamber up the walkway, sucking in my butt cheeks, wondering whether I have what it takes to become a survivalist.
“It’s AWESOME here!” says my daughter, when I reach the top. 
I bounce a tiny bit and say “Wheeee!” 
(I say bouncing, but what I really mean to say is 'bending my knees to create the illusion of bouncing.') I have already knocked the dream of becoming a survivalist on the head.

Five minutes later, a whistle blows, denoting the end of our session. The others throw themselves down the rope chute like it’s nothing.
“It’s easy”, says the supervisor, when I am The Only One Left. 
“I can’t”, I say, my legs dangling into the chute.
“Cross one arm over your front. Cover your nose with the other hand.”
I literally don’t know what he’s talking about. I am the kind of person who gets confused trying to do the actions for the Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes song. Also, why you need to cover your schnoz is beyond me. I think it may have to do with the possibility of it getting caught in the rope, and coming the fuck off. Eventually I master the actions. But the fact that I now have no way of holding on to anything, except air, deepens the horror of what is already a bastard of a situation. The only way it could get any worse would be if Emu appeared out of nowhere, and whacked me down the chute with his cock. I mean beak.
“I can’t move”, I say. “I just can’t let go."

The supervisor confers with another supervisor. They take so long over it I get a distinct sense that this has literally never happened before. “See mam, I AM special!” I want to shout.
Eventually, they decide to close the entrance to the one-way walkway and let me use it as an emergency exit, which means clambering down the walkway, backwards, bum cheeks first, as onlookers wait patiently behind the cordon. I look like Bridget Jones sliding down the fireman’s pole, broadcasting her ass to the nation, but without the firming Magic Pants.

The kids are waiting on the train with our friends.
“You said you’d do it”, says my son, turning away from me.“You’re a CHICKEN!”
I am pathetic and ridiculous. I have a huge comedy ass. Worse, I have let my children down.
“It was kind of funny though”, says my daughter, piping up suddenly.
"The best bit was when everybody was waiting for you!” says my son, laughing now.
We laugh all the way to the reception area.  Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!

“We can go on the underground Victorian mine tour after lunch, if you want”, I say hopefully, a little later.
The prospect of a gentle educational activity fills me with so much joy I could weep. It’s just as well there’s no Art Gallery.
“There’s a LIVE slate-splitting show!” I add, still emotional.
The kids look at me as if I’m completely mental.
“OMG! No way!” they say in unison.

Emu. Puppet or predator? You decide. 


  1. At least your mortification gave me such a lot of pleasure to read about. Your wit makes up for your geriatric palsy!

  2. I am hugely impressed that you climbed the bloody thing in the first place - no WAY would you have got me up there. Add the fear of my nose coming the fuck off and/or being whacked down the chute by Emu's cock, seriously, I'm in awe of you!

  3. Hi Matron and Sarah. I laugh in the face of geriatric palsy, nose amputation and Emu's genitalia. Ha ha ha!

  4. Oh no! You poor love! I would have so done the same thing as you - gone down the emergency exit. That rope slide thing sounded like the road to hell! That's what they used to be called those vertical slides - hell slides..... X


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