In which I demonstrate the efficacy and necessity of a safety harness.
With friends to erect the Geodesic dome. I thought we could build the top section first, and do lower circles later, but not with these steel units. Each pins to the next hexagon or pentagon with two pins to each side. Mark, whose dome it is, does construction professionally but made the dome as a hobby. He is generous with encouragement, enthusing about our contribution. “Are you happy to climb?” Yes. Yes, I am.
It has been raining, and the segments are slippery. In walking boots, my foot will be still at the join, but not in the middle. The lowest strip has been assembled already, and I climb up with Mark to put the next row on top, aligning the loops to let the pins drop in. I have a belt to hold pins, and a long strip of metal to hammer them in.
The next row is easy enough. Andrew and Tim hand us up the segments, and we pin them in. The following row we have to lift the segments into position. I notice how I compare myself with Mark. It is his dome, and he has erected it several times, and yet I want to be putting as many pins as he. I am pushing myself. At that point, the rain has stopped. The lower segments are dry, and my foot will not slip placed on the middle of the pole. You can get into a rhythm, stepping up the middle, hand holds easily reached.
We have a short break. It is raining again. The poles get slippery, but we hope to continue. Now, we have to hold the segment above the half way point, as that is its centre of gravity. Mark is doing most of the work. I struggle, now in a safety harness, clipping and unclipping it. It gets in the way, holding me below where I need to be. Working together, we can get the loops in line to put the pins in, but it is so frustrating when they are not quite aligned or slip out of the way. Segments just off the ground are wet from the wet grass, and my boot slips.
Down I go. I am hanging a short way above the ground, with a graze, scratch and spectacular bruising on my bicep, shouting.
Mark holds two pins to the scratch, to cool it down. I could hold them myself, but I am just happy to be valued, to have this sign of care for me.
After lunch, I went up again with Mark and Andrew.
-How do you feel about climbing again?
-I would like to do it, but have no particular thing to prove, and am not attached to it.
However, I really want to go up again. Now, the segments are leaning inwards at a sharp angle. We have to bear their weight as we pin them in. Andrew, climbing for the first time, is a lot faster than me. The belt carrying the pins is very heavy. Before we finish the final row, I have to come down, nearly weeping with frustration.
I have learned a lot from this, of how I am. I was comparing myself to a man, who should be far better than me at this task, and pushing myself near to exhaustion: I could barely clamber round the segments before I came down, and was still ashamed to descend before the last row was complete. That shame means that I won’t stop until I am dangling on the end of a rope(!) and also punishes me with misery, where I could reasonably be proud.
The thing I learned about you is you are a really hard worker, said Jude. Some might see that as patronising; I was glad of it. I have been thinking, since, of being so driven, which has caused me to stop. I could, perhaps, notice the achievement.