DAY 103: Like a flying pretzel

12 Dec

WHEN I first came to Australia and clapped eyes on an ibis, skidding over in a puddle and tumbling into a bin, I knew I had found my totem animal.

While awkward, ungainly and a little brown around the tail on land, in flight the ibis is a majestic bird; and so it is that I find myself signing up at the Sydney Trapeze School, which offers a two-hour lesson for the wet-behind-the-ears, for just $60.

Our class today numbers nine girls and one guy. I look down the row and appraise my ranking. I’m here with Stacey and Laura, who are looking too sure of themselves for my liking, but my friend Kate, I’m pleased to note, has turned up in tight jeans and a dead-eyed hangover that looks to be bordering on The Fear. One down, eight to go.

The fresh meat are shown the ropes by a trio of swarthy acrobats with muscle shirts and smirks. They aloofly corral and saddle us up with the safety gear, stopping just short of a branding iron.

I get up the 8m-high wobbly ladder as fast as possible, like Basil Fawlty having a fit. Once atop the platform, you’re efficiently manhandled into position by one porn star-looking dude, while another barks orders from below. It would be an incredibly hot scenario if you weren’t looking so incredibly foolish.

Heave ho.

“Stop sticking your arse out,” I’m told for the millionth time by the man holding my entire weight with one overdeveloped bicep. I lean into space and grope onto the bar. Surely there’s been some mist-ARGH!

“Knee hang!” another acro-spunk screams disorientatingly as I whisk past him. On my first attempt, I get my limbs tangled up in a snarl of ropes so that I’m flying through the air like a human pretzel, before I’m told to call this one a day. I flip myself off the netting, back onto the ground, to polite applause.

Back in the queue of baby birds, those that have already had a go compare tremoring hands. We’re having mixed results in the air. A few have the fluid, practiced movements of gymnasts and take to it naturally; others don’t listen to direction and try and follow their instincts as to when to change position. One girl thrashes and screams in fury each time she screws up, like Maria Sharapova launching a bum serve.

On my second go, I hook my legs over the bar and flip upside down at great speed, screaming “Bollocks!” as I wend my merry way. On the upswing I see the bloke up top grinning down at me, upside down. This is fun.

This move I'm pulling's too sophisticated for most catchers.

An hour and a half in, the ante is upped dramatically when instructor Jesse takes his shirt off and flips himself onto the opposing trapeze. We powder ourselves with chalk while Tom lines us up on safe ground and gets us all to grip his sizeable forearms to make sure we can remember how to use our opposable thumbs.

Everyone’s gone quiet, contemplating their impending catch, or lack of, but determination suddenly seems to run down Kate in rivulets. Even though she is an English, and only accustomed to gymnastics with a vodka in her hand, she plumbs some primal depths of coordination. We watch her ascend the ladder in awe. “She’s going to do it,” ripples down the line.

Sure enough, just as I reach the top of the ladder, Kate is launching herself forth, executing each manoeuvre perfectly before Jesse grabs her arms. They make one arc together, before he hurls her down into the net like Mr Darcy, Heathcliff and Mick Dundee combined.

Kate in full flight.

We all gasp. The bitch! I momentarily forget my fear of heights, watching from the platform, but she totally puts me off my stroke.

“Hup!” the guy holding onto me yells. I contemplate the meaning of “hup” for a second and then jump off the platform. To perform a catch, you need to hook your legs up on first sweep and have your arms stretched out over your head on the second, or the moment’s passed. I’m not as aerodynamic as I’d hoped. “NO CATCH!” comes the humiliating yell.

Back on the ground, I grab Kate, who’s glassy-eyed and actually quivering.

“Probably a good thing I fucked it up,” I whisper. “I think I would have had an [word removed to prevent future regret].”

“Didn’t you hear me scream?” she returns. And pads off aimlessly.

Keeper? Realistically, the acro-spunks would have guffawed about our flailing limbs and dampening sweatpants as soon as we were out of earshot, but nevertheless, we’re all going back for seconds.

One Response to “DAY 103: Like a flying pretzel”


  1. DAY 133: Putting my life in the hands of weak-wristed amateurs « Hey man, now you're really living - January 12, 2011

    […] of getting us atop a platform and screaming GO! like the last place, this school coaches you in everything from working out, to throwing shapes, to take offs, to […]

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