I must say, it would be fair to think that most of you may well think that sitting behind a microphone is as safe a job as you could possibly have. Yet for some bizarre reason I seem to have found myself in perilous and downright life threatening situations on far too many occasions. At the very beginning of my career I had the nickname ‘the brave and fearless leader’ and ‘the Flashing Blade’ so should anyone challenge you to do something, you didn’t have much choice. One caller in my first year on air said they had a friend in the ‘Dangerous Sports Club’ and he was challenging me to do a bungee jump. So I turned up at a bridge in Sunderland and there they were waiting, this early bungee days. Instead of being tied at your feet you wore a harness, over shoulders attached to my two thighs. I made the downright stupid decision to wear shorts as it was a hot May afternoon. They had a crane that we were tied to that had driven into place, at ten yard intervals three of us were sat on the edge of the bridge and all we had to do was jump off! One of the guys did, and the bungee cord brought him back up until he bounced to a halt. Then he was lowered down into the water where a boat waited to pick him up. Cars were passing and honking, just then I was informed that what we were doing was illegal so I should hurry up. In a panic (as if I was not panicked enough) off I went, now realising on the first bounce that shorts were a dumb idea. The chord had scraped and cup into my legs, both thighs were bleeding and I had another half a dozen bounces to go. I was collected by boat and from the bank I was driven to where my car was parked. I expected exhilaration, but it hurt too much for anything like that.
Now because I did that dozens of other challenges came in, damn it!
The next one was to travel the length of Newcastle in the sewers. I accepted this because I genuinely thought that no Council would ever allow it. Then I get a Call from Newcastle Council asking what date I wanted to do it? Yikes! Once again, like a lamb to slaughter, with my two thighs still healing I was put into a big onesie style overall, given a hard hat and told to ‘Follow Harry”. I was warned that it would be pitch black, and if you were lost in the myriad of tunnels you may never get out. I remember being in the East end of Byker when I went down that metal ladder into the abyss. It was horrific, watching the turds roll by, every nasty smell imaginable, wee, poo, sick, fat, rotting flesh it was an assault on my senses. Cockroaches, rats and the very worst these tiny white flies that go and nest up your nose and in your ears. On getting out four and a half hours later I was sick as a dog, having smelled in and swallowed no end of atrocities. I am not sick often, but when I go (and I did) I launched a glacier sized technicolour yawn! For almost three months the odd tiny white fly kept flying out of my nose!
On arriving back at work I discovered yet another bloody challenge, to go parachuting with a Commando regiment in three weeks time. They had put a hot air balloon in the middle of the Town Moor, and they wanted people sponsored for charity to jump out of the basket at an alarming height. They took me to Brough for training, I had three hours then the following day I was there with seven other jumpers for charity. My charity was the radio stations POP Fund (People, Organisations and Places) and felt Ok about it. That would not last very long, for the basket was winched down for us to get into it. It went up and up, and up and up, then up even more. The trainer from the Commando’s was frankly an overbrave lunatic, his name was ‘Macca’ and he told up that we ‘should’ not need to pull our ripcord as it would open automatically, but ‘if’ it didn’t he said “Well first you’ll probably shit yourself…then pull your reserve and you’ll be fine”. Without a word of encouragement he opened a door in the basket and just jumped out! We were so high I could see my relatives house in Adelaide, Australia. Seconds before Macca’s pal told us to leap out, clouds rolled over the balloon, we were standing, blindsided. It was as if we were in marshmallow. Then he said “Don’t worry about this cloud, its perfectly fine.This is less frightening for you, Number One step out!”. Now Number 1 was a young lass raising money for St.Oswalds Hospice, and she was as white as a sheet. She was guided to the door in the basket, and begged for a little time to get ready. He decided against that, and as soon as she got in place and had her hands holding the straps on her chest, he just nudged her. WHOOOOOOOOOOSH off she went with the most terrifying scream!  “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH”  then there was a jerk, we presumed the chute had opened. Somewhere in the cloud we could hear the girl swearing in the worst way “You fxxxxxx bxxxxxx, I’ll kick your fxxxxxx head in, you total cxxx” about the bloke that shoved her.
We could still hear the expletives almost a minute later as the Number 2 stepped out when he got a thumbs up. I was Number 6 and by then the clouds had cleared and I could see far more than I wanted, we were pretty much on the edge of outer space, and it was freezing. He saw that I was scared so told me stand at the edge… well I knew he would be nudging me, so I kept an eye on him so he couldn’t. By doing that I was off balance and literally fell out. My scream was as loud, and probably more girly than Number 1 had managed. I seemed to fall far further than I thought I would, and was readying to shit myself as instructed, when the chute opened and I was jerked back up in the air. Once I settled and started heading to the ground I felt alright, I could see another jumper landing about a mile below me, so I just enjoyed the incredible view. Until the last thirty feet, as the wind had kicked up and was blowing me towards the trees edging the moor. Beyond that was the road, and I didn’t want to land there, so I tried to turn my direction as instructed and landed about ten feet from a tree, where a dog walkers two animals almost licked me to death!
More challenges were done, stripping naked to open a naturist camp in Northumberland, fighting a Champion Boxer at Wallsend, taking on a female karate expert and scuba diving in Tynemouth (and I can’t swim). So essentially I got photographed naked, got my ass kicked and all but drowned!
Yet the very worst was to come. It seems that the World Championships For Hang Gliding was coming to a hill near the Causey Arch on the way to Stanley. Now I was not challenged, so attended it perfectly happy, thinking all I had to do was interview the stars of the day. Yet the main Championship event was at 2.00pm so why was I there at 11.30am?.
Stupid question, my host, another crazy person called Paul, told me that he was going to ‘take me up for a look’. My heart sank into my trousers. Surely I had proven, whatever it was that I needed to prove, but apparently not! So my mic was taken off me by my radio technician who thought it all hilarious. I was readied, and given about ten minutes instruction what to do. I thought this was not enough, but he insisted that he would be by my side the whole way and would talk to me as we went. The speech was less than convincing. We were on pretty much a sheer cliff face and it was quite windy as he muttered on about updrafts, downdrafts and something called ‘a shunt!’. Before our turn to leap off a mountain (it even sounds messed up) another guy raced to the end with his hang glider and swooped down, then turned to rise when a strong wind turned him around and he crashed head first into the cliff. They raced to get him, his face was a pizza of blood and smashed bone. Incredibly he gave Paul a thumbs up, to say he was OK, but he clearly wasn’t. Then we had to leap off, with my legs behind me, like Superman flying. Miraculously my body did what it had been told, and we dipped down then circled up and up and up. We were soaring past seagulls and crows, I could see my car parked in the Causey Arch car park, and the hordes of spectators, many fairly certain I was going to die. It is all about gentle movements to take you left or right and to be honest it was the first kind of challenge I was beginning to enjoy. After about thirty minutes Paul said “Time to get down now!”. So I said fine, it had been an amazing experience, but my back was hurting. “We need to go into a spin!” he shouted. Whoa…that’s what aeroplanes always do before they crash isn’t it? Still it started to turn as we moved, the large circles got slightly smaller and smaller until it seemed as if we were about twenty feet off the ground. There was a grassy field below us in the valley far below the crag we had sprung from. Paul says “As he get close to the ground just put your legs down and walk!”. Sounded simple enough. Was IMPOSSIBLE to do! We coiled and coiled and I watched his feet pull down below him, as he screamed for me to do the same. I just couldn’t. He landed beautifully, I landed hitting the ground chin first, and ploughing a facial divot about eight yards long in pebbly soil. All of the skin off my chin was gone and I was bleeding badly, with cuts on my cheeks and brow. I was taken to the hospital who cleaned it all up, bandaged me as best they could. I resembled a bloody Jimmy Hill for about four months.
I have had HUNDREDS of these moments of stupidity, and who’s to say there won’t be more! Not me!