Sunday, November 9, 2008

Night missions

Since i moved in London, my life has become busier compared to what it was for the past several years. I can't say that i'm buried under endless amounts of work, far from it, but i do have a certain rhythm that i must set myself to. One would say that life can't always be the way we want, but that's the biggest lie lazy people have come up with to avoid facing their deeper aspirations. Life is made of the decisions we take and he who wants to move a mountain has nothing more to do than to move each stone one at a time.
Therefore, my life in London is a chosen one, a new direction on the improvised trail i prolong daily. This doesn't mean that it satisfies all of my needs, indeed my desires for outdoor adventure and life on the move have never been so strong !

As i find myself waiting to hit the road again as soon as possible, there are a few schemes i have come up with in the meantime to deceive my impulses. One of them is the solo nocturnal parkour adventure, or night mission.

Yesterday night i found myself facing the fortress i had been planning on conquering, an old abandoned factory in the vicinity of a busy street. It was in sight of many cctv cameras, but like many others in London, i suspect they are only monitored if a problem is reported. Anyway, i was going around towards a dark stinky alley leading to the first part of the challenge when i noticed 3 police officers standing there, apparently making sure everything was in order. I turned and innocently walked in the opposite direction. But because i was in a hurry to start the mission, and also since i didn't have anything bad to be found guilty of, i came back into their field of vision, sat down, and pretended to write an sms. As expected, they found my behaviour suspicious and came to question me :

_ Evenin' sir, what are you doing here ?
_ Just wanted to take a leak but thought it wouldn't be wise to do it near you.
_ Haha yeah that's an 80 pound fine !
I laughed back and explained that i needed to finish the sms i was writing.

_ Ok sir, but be careful, there's a lot of bad boys around here, not a great place to stay...

Little did they know that one of them was about to climb the building just behind them.
As they left, i traced them a bit just to make sure they wouldn't come back, and proceeded to begin the first climb.

Along the factory runs a thin yellow gas pipe that strangely is held at about half a meter away from the old brick walls instead of being right against them. I jumped to reach the first section, which climbs vertically to a first small roof, about 5 meters off the ground. Once there, the pipe then turns at a 90 degrees angle and strolls along the wall, over the first seriously scary part, a massive 15 meter drop. At that point, my only safety is the pipe itself, as i must walk along it with my hands against the nearby wall, which offers nothing close to a hand hold in case the pipe breaks under my weight. Before risking my life on it, i jumped on the pipe a few times to make sure it would hold me. It wobbled a lot but seemed strong so i braced myself and walked the scariest 10 meters ever, breathing hesitantly in and out, as if the weight of my full lungs was enough to fracture my life line.
With silent calculated moves, i then hanged and traversed across the next portion of the same length, which offered a hold for my feet, and reached a second roof. I could see people in their homes on the opposite side, too busy with their everyday boring house chores to look up and notice me. As i looked back towards where i came from, i realised that the portion of pipe i had walked on had slightly bent under my weight, it wouldn't be safe to use it as an exit route so i had no choice but to continue forward.

I monkey-walked across the roof and ended up traversing along the pipe again, but at a reasonable height this time. At this point, i could have continued like this to find a way to safe ground around the next corner of the building, but i spotted two metallic drain pipes running together all the way to the top of the factory, over 30 meters high. I had set myself to reach the top so after a few moments of mentally studying my climb, i commenced my ascent. Though i had two of them that i could use, drain pipes are nothing close to gas pipes when it comes to strength. They are not, by far, built with the same quality standards and they tend to dislocate if not handled properly. As i moved a hand towards the first hold, a loud noise burst out of a tiny sealed window next to me, it was a little squirrel running off through a small hole which had scared me probably as much as i had frightened it. Fair enough i thought, and continued the climb.

I soon realise that apart from being wobbly, old, and weak, my drain pipes are also lacking many of the screws linking them to the run-down wall they are seemingly attached to ! I make sure to push myself up along them rather than to pull, as it is precisely a horizontal pull that would risk dislocating them, thus abruptly precipitating me to safer ground at free fall speed.
The last section, which is composed of only one pipe not attached to the wall at all, is the trickiest. I think for a second about coming back down, but figure it might not be any safer, so i squeeze my feet around it and stretch out to grab the top of it. That's when a thought comes to my mind : i remember reading about 2 mountain climbers who had fallen off the mountain cliff they were ascending. As they were falling, they passed close to another group of climbers. One of them later said that they had not screamed during their fall, they had silently let gravity pull them down towards their inevitable deaths.
I thought about it and looked down at the far away ground, would i remain silent if i was to fall right now ? Imagining myself suddenly plunge down scared me a lot.
I've found myself in similar situations many times, feeling death's frozen breath along my spine and promising myself each time : "never again". Far from being a fascination with death, i believe it is a love of life that draws me to do such things, for never do i measure better the essence of life than when i come out safe and sound from one of these moments !

I hold my breath and pull carefully on the pipe as one would handle a new born baby, and reach with my hand the top of the wall ! I bring myself up and breathe out with great relief. I know that going down from the other side will not be of any problem, i can finally relax !

I explored the factory's silent rooftops -populated with an infinity of pigeons that would fly off all at the same time when i approached- and spent a moment looking at the view over nocturnal London. I even found a way inside the building, but having no more than a keychain flashlight to illuminate my way, i decided not to venture too far into the rusting entrails of my fortress and made my way back down to the relative safety of the busy streets, in the direction of home.

I wish to conclude this account by specifying that such missions require for one to have a lot of experience and practice before attempting them. For my part, i have been training Parkour for about 8 years now and still seldom find myself in such heights or on such old and dangerous buildings. It is necessary to be highly attentive and in perfect physical condition in order to limit the risks to no more than simple bad luck. So don't do anything stupid...


Jin said...

Brilliant Thomas, I must say that I really enjoy reading your posts a lot, and it always pushes me to do something further in my own life.
Just keep going with what your doing, great to hear that you are living well, always an inspiration!

Julie Angel said...

Ah Thomas, now I see what you mean, sounds like it would have looked amazing for our new project but our alternative will work well too. Looking forward to it and enjoying the process,
see you soon

Rachacuca said...

"One would say that life can't always be the way we want, but that's the biggest lie lazy people have come up with to avoid facing their deeper aspirations."

That's so you. I miss those insights.
Nice post, bro. That's too damn risk.

Best regards.
Train safely. lol.

B. Rachacuca.

aLdZ said...

Hi, I love reading your accounts on your adventures. I swear I could imagine myself on those pipes! Keep writing &inspiring.

gato said...

ciao thomas,
nice night adventure!!
take a look here;)
always wainting for you to come back to italy!


モバゲー said...
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