Saturday, 19 June 2010

Tombstoning - you gotta admire it

It was probably the memory of watching England vs Algeria last night that meant I woke up this morning with an emotional hangover. Why did I do it, I knew they’d be rubbish and I knew I’d regret it later?
As a non-fan of football, nevertheless I understand it is down to the formation they are playing — something called “draw, draw too.”
So maybe it was this mood that prompted my reaction to an article in the Daily Mail headed, ‘Suicidal teenagers caught “tombstoning” off Dead Man’s Cove’.
The Mail was full of doom and gloom and fulmination, but I couldn’t help thinking it was — at least at one level — fantastic. Even the name is brilliant. Anything with ‘dead man’ in it reeks of danger and Jan and Dean’s 60s hit ‘Dead Man’s Curve’. I did a quick Google and also found Dead Man’s bones, chest, brake, hand and switch. All wonderfully evocative!
Look at the pictures. Here is a 65 foot drop into water close to the cliff edge — with a nice low wall convenient for climbing over. Even thinking about it gives me cold shivers.
Suicidal? Sort of. Dangerous? Certainly. Stupid? Perhaps. But why wouldn’t most of us, especially me, not make the jump? Because we’re too scared, that’s why. And that’s why part of me feels glad for the kids who are doing it — glad they’ve got the guts, glad they can say they’ve done it — especially glad for the three that got their pictures in the Daily Mail.

When the Mail solemnly points out, “A 13-year-old girl seems to freeze in terror before making the dangerous plunge”, I think to myself, “Yeah, but she still made it.” And surely that’s what courage is about? Of course, if I were her dad I’d be horrified, but only because she might have been killed, or worse. But I’m not her dad, so what I actually feel is a bit jealous!
My guess is that jousting was pretty suicidal, dangerous and stupid as well. But I bet there was a crowd of onlookers cheering every move and loving it. And I bet there were girls on the sidelines dreaming they could get to meet the guys afterwards.
And I know it was better than watching England vs Algeria.
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  1. This whole post made me smile.

    You're a dark horse at times John....

  2. I don't know. One part of me says that you are not really being serious; that this is all displaced despair over the prospect of the United States advancing in the 2010 World Cup even as England is left behind. The advent of American Soccer dominance must be a terrible reality to confront for those in the country that invented the game.

    But then I read this, and I wonder.

    "But why wouldn’t most of us, especially me, not make the jump? Because we’re too scared, that’s why."

    Of course you would be scared. You are supposed to be scared. What these children are doing is incredibly dangerous. But what principle do they serve by this act? What point do they make that justifies exposing the life they have been given to crippling injury or death? They seek nothing but their own glory; to say of themselves "I faced death on the cliff and I survived." There is a time and a place to face down fear and act in the face of danger. This is not one of those times nor one of those places. Here we see those who simply cast themselves off a high place to prove they would not be dashed against the stones. But some of them will be dashed against the stones. The broken dead bodies of those who mistimed the jump will be the ultimate vindication of those who did not. It can't really be a meaningful experience unless there is some risk. And the risk is only made manifest in the dead.

    As I said, I prefer to believe that you are simply lost in misery over England's less-than-stellar performance in the World Cup, and see the cliff as some sort of metaphor for the same. Certainly you could not have rejected the age-old parental response "If someone told you to jump off a cliff, would you do that as well?"

    carl jacobs

  3. Personally I think that it would be the responsibility of Plymouth Council to make sure that there is no hidden danger at the foot of that jump (removing submerged rocks, making sure the water is deep enough) -- and they ought to do it surreptitiously, because otherwise the kids will find another, truly dangerous spot.