Please come and experience of exhilarating fun swinging from tree to tree five meters above the ground!” read from website advertisement.
“Five meters above ground?” Hmph, I swear my five-year-old daughter Elaine jumps that high when she watches Kung Fu Panda and re-enacts the fight scenes on the family bed! I have a concave mattress to prove it.
Swinging from tree to tree? I snorted at the computer screen. Most is a figure of speech, because photos show children wearing helmets and safety harnesses, instead swinging on vines ala Tarzan.
What I was most attracted to was the “2 hours of exhilarating fun”. Yes, Elaine will be occupied for 2 blissful hours while I sit down and enjoy my cappuccino. After all that exhilaration, she’ll probably need some rest, which gives me another 2 hours to do whatever I want. Sounds good, no?
In no time at all, I was on my way to London Reservoir Park with Elaine. It was rather easy to find, but what the guidebooks don’t tell you is that you need to walk another 100m from the nearest car park to the actual venue. Elaine and I enjoyed the walk nonetheless, thanks to the cool afternoon breeze.
When we finally reached the site, we saw an intricate suspension of boards, planks and rope connecting one tree to another. And although we were there on a weekday afternoon, we saw quite a few kids carefully negotiating their way from one tree to the next. My heart skipped a beat when I didn’t see any nets, but then each kid was wearing a harness and secured to a safety line.
Elaine’s eyes widened like saucers. “You mean I get to go up there?” She asked. “Yup!” I said. She promptly gave out several squeals of delight. “Quick! Quick! I wanna go! Now!”
My initial fears that Erin would back out of the course evaporated. “That’s my daughter all right.”
I thought proudly. A friendly instructor got Elaine suited up in a helmet and harness, and she was on her way, climbing up a ladder to her first challenge. Elaine was to move from one tree to the next by walking on suspended planks.
The first hint of trouble came when the instructor asked Elaine to stretch her arms repeatedly to touch the pulley. She’s supposed to be able to push the pulley in order to move from one challenge to the next. But Elaine’s arms were clearly just a tad too short to do so.
The instructor looked straight at me and said, “I’m afraid I’ve got to let her down. She needs to come back when she’s a bit older, say, in six months’ time.”
“But, but…” I stammered, as I saw Elaine’s face fall. To the instructor’s credit, he was really nice about it, and told me he understood how disappointed I was, having taken time off work specially to spend time with my daughter. He also offered to let Elaine down the zip line (what’s more commonly known as the Flying Fox) instead of having her climb down the ladder, so that the trip wouldn’t be a total waste. Finally, he offered to give me a voucher so that Elaine could come back in three months’ time for free.
I appreciated the fact that the instructor had Elaine’s safety in mind, but I was reluctant to let Elaine give up without giving the first challenge a try at least. The instructor agreed; so Elaine got to walk to the first tree, then return to the starting point. Elaine’s face showed slight nervousness but she overcame it by taking one step at a time. And she made it in the end! And when she came down the zip line, she was all smiles again!
When we went to collect the voucher, the instructor praised Elaine for not kicking up a fuss. Indeed, I was very proud that Elaine had taken the news quite calmly, and promised to reward her with an ice cream. Just as I was thinking these happy thoughts, I heard the instructor say, “So Elaine, you have to take more vegetables and take up skipping so that you can be taller and stronger okay?” Erin nodded enthusiastically, and started jumping in agreement. “Oh no!” I thought, “I got to buy her a new mattress!”