There was a funfair near my grandparents’ house and when we visited them in the summer holidays we always went to it for a treat. On my favourite ride you sat in a rocket and whizzed round at the end of a mechanical arm and when you pulled back the joystick your rocket lifted off high in the air. I loved it because I was in control, not the man in the ticket booth – I made the rocket fly. When it was my turn to drive I’d take it as high as it would go, then imagine it breaking free and soaring up past the seagulls, across the bay towards the Isle of Wight.
I’m surely not the only person who’s ever imagined being able to fly. I wonder what makes it such a favourite dream? Most of us adore that soaring feeling, I suppose. Funfairs exist because no end of people will pay good money to be hurled in the air for the sheer hell of it. And there’s the thought of peering down with a bird’s eye view. The same old world looks new from up there, all dinky and somehow freshly loveable. And then there’s the sense of escape. If anything on earth is bothering us, WHOOOSH, up we go and leave it all far behind.
I remember I was always gutted when the rocket ride ended. Suddenly all the rockets would droop down at once, no matter how hard I pulled back the lever. The ticket man was back in control and I was down to earth with a sickening bump. There was no escape from the end of the holidays.
But once you’ve felt that thrill it never quite leaves you, and when you’re stuck on a bus in the rain it only takes a moment to soar away in your head, up there with the birds into the wide, blue sky.