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Opportunity Knockers

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					Opportunity Knockers !!!
     -‘My God!’ ‘s worst nightmare


As far as lives go, I’ve so far lived quite a sheltered one. I mean, I’ve never been
assaulted or attacked and I’ve never really had any major accidents. Or not life
threatening ones anyway. Fear is therefore quite an abstract thing in my mind – just a
few far distant memories of being lost on shopping trips in ASDA aged 3 and the one
serious car accident I was in when I was 10. I’m not fond of spiders…or heights.
However, as you can probably imagine, I generally find the world to be safe, reliable
place, especially if it’s open to the public- I mean regulations have got so mean
something haven’t they? Not anymore.

There are around 374 steps up to the top of the tower at Durham cathedral and
considering I walk up around 50 to get to the bus stop every day, I didn’t really think
the climb would arduous or to be honest, really anything more than marginally tiring. I
knew we’d be relatively high up but, we’d be protected by a 900-year old stone wall
and as far as I’d heard, the view would be so good we’d hardly notice it.

It was for a combination of all of these reasons that on one foggy, December day
myself and my friend Sophie decided to undertake the climb in the absence of a
teacher, name of Mr Fuller, who, should he have been in, would have taught us for
the next 2 hours. I’ve always loved the Cathedral and so, as usual, we dawdled in
order to observe the beautiful Rose Window and the Tomb of Saint Cuthbert, both of
which are responsible for our cathedral being known to the outside world at all, in
spite of all its splendour. We even examined the famous sanctuary knocker,
wondering just how many criminals had used it in their time of need. Perfectly calmly,
we approached the desk and paid the £3.00 tower contribution necessary for our
passage up to the top. The two elderly stewards were very friendly and asked if we
wanted them to care for our bags as ‘it got very narrow up there’. Thankful to leave
our heavy textbooks behind, we agreed readily, not thinking of the implications of
what they had said and, eager to get to the top, we began to hurry up the stairs.

Reminiscent of a Harry Potter film, part of the hit movie being filmed there, the
staircase was wide and we walked easily side by side. Looking out of the windows,
we realised that we weren’t too high up and even felt confident enough to name the
courtyard below ‘Edward’s View’ after a character in a novel that we were both
currently obsessed with. It seems trivial now when you consider what were about to
face, but we made sure that we could see it as we rose higher and higher up into the
belfry, just to make sure that we could keep everything in perspective, you know.
Finally, after only a small amount of puffing and panting, we were there. The air as
still as I held my breath and stepped out onto the silent landing. There were no
windows. The top wasn’t even supposed to have a roof. As our footsteps creaked my
heart slowed to meet them, their rhythmic beat a requiem to my ears, knelling me
across the old coffins of creaking floorboards towards the door at the other end of the
landing.

               ‘Tower, this way’

You had to be kidding me. We weren’t even half way. I knew why we had left our
bags at reception now- there was barely enough room for our bodies themselves,
never mind our school bags. Cautiously rising, we thanked the Lord that we had not
been blessed with big feet as we were in great danger of missing our footing as it
was and falling would, no doubt, be fatal. Privately, I decided that this was the least
of my worries. This was far higher than I’d ever dreamed possible and, as far as I
knew, the fiery pits of hell were meant to be beneath us, not above. Perhaps God
was intending to throw us from this summit of the 900-year-old heavens that
belonged to the clergy; two fallen angels heading back to the depths of an unknown
master within. Fear had consumed me and the altitude of foreboding had once again
increased inside my body. Naturally, I didn’t voice this opinion, however much I might
have wanted to have been committed right now. Were those footsteps ahead? How
on earth would we let them through? Oh no. Now we really were at the top.

                .‘We’re here!’ I shouted, confidently striding towards the bright light of
day. ‘Thank…’

There were holes in the ‘solid stone walls’ and they were big, only having a wrought
iron bar down the centre to prevent us from falling to our deaths. I was not going out
there. Ever. Sophie could if she wanted. I wasn’t.

I had to- what would have been the point of coming all this way just to stand and look
scared? My heart quite literally in my mouth, I half crawled, half walked outside
behind her. Had I been able to see more than my impending doom, it would have
transpired that the view was utterly awe-inspiring as miles upon miles of both town
and countryside sprawled out against the patchwork landscape below. We were
moving forward and we hadn’t fallen off yet, so this had to be good. Hundreds of
people had jumped here, but we hadn’t. Alone apart from a couple who seemed
comfortable enough to be within the confines of a safe and padded cell, we climbed
onto the roof and looked around. As my confidence grew, I followed the unbelievably
gutsy Sophie to the other side and we tentatively began to take the required photos:
some for our project and some as proof of our nerve to show our friends. Amazingly,
I grew confident (well I could breathe anyway) and I finally began to enjoy myself a
little as I watched my college and the workmen on the green down below. All too
soon however, it was time to leave.

Thankfully, our descent was relatively uneventful, apart from a very tight corner with
a scout pack coming up the very narrow bit of the stairs. We laughed and joked as
we passed ‘Edward’s View’ as it really wasn’t half as high as we’d imagined it to be
first time around. The photos had worked out and Sophie promised me she would
send them to me over MySpace later that evening (sitting looking at them now I can
promise you that she kept to this) and we informed each other of our plans for
Christmas and Birthdays. As we were nearing the bottom, another group of intrepid
explorers rounded the corner.

                ‘Any good?’, joked one as he passed us by.

       ‘Very,’ I replied, smiling in spite of myself. ‘It’s a little bit scary at first mind, if
you’re not too brilliant with heights’

              ‘I’m sure I’ll be fine,’ he smiled as he loped up the stairs and
disappeared from our view.
Fool.

				
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