Portsmouth writer Anna Barzotti has only been up the Spinnaker Tower once before. On her second visit, she’s planning to jump off. In this exclusive for S&C, she explains why.
I have been up the Spinnaker Tower once, when my sister and nephew came for a visit. My mum has the framed picture in her kitchen. I don’t know who took it. What I remember most was the glass floor. I went to walk over it and then froze. It took me about half an hour to complete the journey. Have you seen that glass floor? It is not particularly wide. Or long. Kids were running over it. Adults were calmly stopping in the middle to look down. But it scared the arse off me.
Perhaps I should have remembered that when I registered to take part in a fundraising event to raise money for Rowans Hospice, particularly as I will have to abseil down that Spinnaker Tower. There will be no glass wall beneath my feet. Just air. And perhaps a seagull or a crow, taunting me as I attempt this frankly absurd activity.
How did I get into this? It started off as a little seed of an idea. And then it turned into a nagging voice. Do it, do it, do it. Seemingly out of nowhere. And I gave in to it.
For a long time I have admired the work that Rowan’s Hospice does. When I first moved to Southsea in 2010, my neighbours were a man and woman, both in their 80s and married for many years. The man was very ill with a progressive form of cancer. Sometimes he would have a fall and his wife would call on us (myself and my then partner) to help lift him up into his chair. Before he died, he spent some time at Rowans. When he returned home he looked more chipper than I had ever seen him. He told us how good all the staff had been to him, how kindly they had treated him, and how cared for and well looked after he had felt. This stayed with me.
Perhaps subconsciously I was drawn to this particular charity, who provide palliative care to people who are terminally ill, because of the recent death of my dad. He died on the 21st December last year. I didn’t know he was going to die on that day. In fact, we thought he was going to die in November.
It was in November that I got the call from my sister in the early hours of the morning. My brother and I needed to get to the hospital in Italy as soon as possible as our dad was on his way out. However, when we arrived at the hospital, my dad had returned from the brink of death and wanted a shave. I even have pictures of it. My brother shaving him. My dad swearing at him to get it right, then laughing because that’s what he did. We all thought he was doing really well. He returned home with my mum and slowly started getting back on his feet. He found it hard though: being less mobile then he was used to, feeling kind of useless. That was his take on it anyway.
My dad had always been a physical man; a strong and independent man. He came to the UK in the ’60s as an immigrant. He made a life for himself and became a self-employed tiler by trade. He provided work for a number of British people. He met my mum who was an immigrant from Sicily. They had a family together and then returned back to my dad’s native land in Italy 25 years ago.
But in December, my dad had a fall. He returned to the hospital and his health went quickly into decline. I did not get there in time to say goodbye to him before he took his last breath. That really pissed me off. I miss him something awful.
I think that turning 50 in April also got me thinking about death. I have been on this planet for a whole half a century. So doing the math, it is likely that I have lived more of my life than I have left to live. There lies the trappings of a potential existential crisis: have I lived well enough so far and do I intend to live well enough now and in the future?
I can’t answer that and nor do I want to. Instead I am going to do something which I regard as both meaningful and proper scary.
My starting point to this new outlook on life and death? You’ve guessed it: on the 14th July 2018 at 11.30am, I shall abseil down Spinnaker Tower to raise money for Rowan’s Hospice. And regardless of how freaked out I feel when I get there, I will do it.
Unless I don’t do it.
In which case I will definitely have another existential crisis instead.
You can support Anna in her abseiling challenge and raise money for the Rowan’s by donating or sharing her JustGiving page.